University of Calgary wins ESRI Canada’s Award of Excellence for two decades of GIS innovation

April 03, 2009 -- Calgary, AB – The University of Calgary received an Award of Excellence at the ESRI Regional User Conference in Calgary, Alberta earlier today. Tim Walker, Prairies Regional Manager for ESRI Canada presented the award to recognize the University’s long standing commitment to GIS technology that has resulted in hundreds of leading-edge research endeavors and improved operational efficiency on campus.

“It is an honour to recognize the University of Calgary for their dedication to GIS technology that has developed and expanded over two decades,” said Tim Walker, Prairies Regional Manager for ESRI Canada. “The University has not only leveraged the technology to significantly improve internal operations, they have also made impressive contributions in many areas of environmental research.”

Since 1989, the University has been integrating ESRI technology into both Undergraduate and Masters level curriculum across disciplines, enabling students to carry out environmentally significant research projects. In partnership with NSERC, the provincial government and a large number of industrial sponsors, students and professors have had the opportunity to participate in the Foothills Research Institute Grizzly Bear Research Project (GBRP) where the behaviour of at-risk bears is analyzed using GPS collars and satellite remote sensing. Multiple layers of data, including preferred environments, danger zones, and bear habits are integrated into ArcGIS to formulate decisions regarding the preservation of the grizzly bear’s remaining habitat.

“Before the research in the GBRP was completed, all we really knew about grizzly bear habitat in Alberta was that they occurred on the west side of an imaginary line running parallel to the mountains,” said Dr. Greg McDermid, co-PI of the GBRP and Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography. “We now have detailed, spatially-explicit maps of grizzly bear habitat across the species’ entire provincial range, which helps resource managers and forms an important part of Alberta’s new Land Use Framework. We couldn’t have done it without GIS.”

GIS technology is also leveraged internally to improve operations on campus. LIDAR data was combined with ArcGIS to build 3D maps of the campus infrastructure for planning, mapping and analysis. The 3D maps include highly accurate building heights along with detailed terrain models which are used to predict surface water drainage during periods of heavy precipitation. This information played a vital role in the planning of new construction currently taking place on campus.

“Access to data derived from the 3D maps will result in many on-campus improvements such as better water conservation practices and optimized maintenance routes for activities like snow removal and grounds upkeep.” said Tom McCaffrey, GIS Coordinator, University of Calgary. “The ability to process many layers of multi-temporal and geospatial data in ArcGIS produces quick results that lead to informed decision-making.”

Looking forward, the University plans to leverage ArcGIS to build interactive network maps that will be placed throughout the campus, enabling students to effectively navigate and plan their routes between classes.

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is ranked one of Canada’s top seven research universities, combining the best of long-established university traditions with the city of Calgary’s vibrant energy and diversity. More than 27,600 students are currently enrolled in undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs and the school has graduated 130,000 alumni over its 42-year history, including the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper. The university’s four academic priorities are prevalent in all the university’s work. The four pillars include leading innovation in energy and the environment; understanding human behaviour, institutions and cultures; advancing health and wellness and creating technologies and managing information for the knowledge society. U of C has 2,761 academic staff actively engaged in research, scholarship and teaching in Canada and around the world, and more than 3,000 staff, making it one of the four largest employers in Calgary. The university produces an economic impact of $1 billion in the Calgary area alone. For more information, please visit:

About ESRI Canada
Established in 1984, ESRI Canada is a Canadian owned company specializing in geographic information systems (GIS) solutions. ESRI Canada distributes the world's leading GIS software including solutions from ESRI Inc., Miner and Miner, I.S.M. International Systemap Corp. and Azteca. In order to provide organizations with complete industry-specific solutions ESRI Canada has established an extensive business partner program that includes more than 130 Canadian organizations. ESRI Canada also provides professional services including consulting, training, technical support, and enterprise GIS implementation. ESRI Canada is a leader in providing world-class enterprise GIS solutions for many industries including public works, land management, utilities, defence, public safety, business demographics, education, natural resources and transportation. ESRI Canada has sixteen regional offices across the country, with headquarters in Toronto, Ontario. For more information, please visit or call 1-800-447-9778.

Media Contact:
Amanda Graff
Marketing and Communications Specialist
ESRI Canada
T: 416-441-6035 Ext 6308
E: Email Contact


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