GISCafe Special Report: ESRI User Conference Plenary Session


In the afternoon session, Dr. David Cowen of the University of South Carolina was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Three students from the Waterville Elementary School in Waterville, Washington and their teacher, Diane Petersen, spoke about their analysis of the horny toad population in their community, and other GIS projects they had worked on. The audience gave them a standing ovation for their inspiring presentation.

Keynote: Dr. Jane Goodall, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and U.N. Messenger of Peace

After this keynote, I heard people comment that this was the best keynote they’d ever heard at a conference. I would tend to agree with them, although ESRI has chosen extremely inspiring, dedicated people to give the address in past years.

Jane Goodall is an exceptional woman by all counts. She is an icon of environmental protection, her work with the chimpanzees in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania has spanned 40 years and gained international attention.

She began her talk by saying “hello” in chimpanzee. She noted that “the most important thing we’ve learned about chimpanzees is how like us they are. In biology chimps are more like us than any other living creature.” If you could match blood types, you could have a blood transfusion with a chimp. Their anatomy is the same. Their gestures are the same and they have similar emotions and strong bonds between mothers and offspring. They have the ability to make tools – they can make a tool out of a stripped twig to fish for termites.

The chimps help us understand our place in nature, said Goodall. In 1960, when she first went to Africa to do the research on the chimpanzees, there were more than 1 million chimpanzees; now all that’s left in Africa are 150,000. Goodall cited logging and habitat dysfunction as the reasons why so many chimpanzees have vanished from Africa.

Liliean Pintea was a graduate student when he came to Gombe to work on his Ph.D, and he has never left. He uses Tracking Analyst to track chimpanzees. He did a demonstration of how he could track the number of males in a group and how far they would wander. He said that satellite images are our eyes to track what will happen with deforestation next in the Gombe.

Goodall’s work has extended beyond the chimpanzees to the people of the villages in Africa. She has formed TACARE, a group that helps villagers improve their lives. She also formed the Roots and Shoots program for young people worldwide.

“Everyone makes a difference every day,” she concluded. “That’s what gives me energy to travel 300 days per year.”

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