Mapping success: McMaster geographers dominate global competition

Satellite image of night sky with bright light spots across northern US and southern canadaian border

A group of McMaster Geography and Earth Sciences students has proven it really knows its way around, taking five of nine top places in an international contest that tested competitors’ creative use of geographic information systems, or GIS.

The Esri Global Content Challenge competition drew more than 500 entries from nearly 60 countries around the world in three categories: Land, Ocean and Population. In each category there were cash prizes for the three top finishers, for nine prizes in all.

Students in Patrick DeLuca’s course, Special Topics in GIS, managed to take second and third in Land, second and third in Ocean, and third in Population, dominating the competition, plus one honourable mention.

Competitors were presented a list of authoritative data and, using their backgrounds and imaginations, developed compelling scientific stories using Esri’s Story Map Journal app.

DeLuca explained that McMaster’s entrants drew on their skills and experience from other classes and the new web-mapping and app-development skills they were learning in the fourth-year Special Topics in GIS class.

“I am very proud that the students we teach and mentor here in the School of Earth, Environment & Society are good enough to win international competitions such as this one,” DeLuca said. “These tools and procedures aren’t just for conducting the science, but also for disseminating it to the public, and that is what this contest was about.”

DeLuca said that participating in the competition helps students in their current studies and can give them an advantage in the job market. 

“There is a very rich job market for GIS, and for students who can expand the platform with new tools, apps, and models,” Deluca said.

Here’s a look at McMaster’s winners and their entries:

Land Category:

Second Place: Karl Chastko, Food, Water and 7 Billion People: Improving Water Efficiency in Agriculture

Third Place: Kayla Wong, Soil Carbon Sequestration Potential Based on Soil Properties

Ocean Category:

Third Place: Kevin Yang, Climate Change in Earth's Polar Regions

Population Category:

Second Place: Michael Kirchin, The American People

Third Place: Spencer Elford, Concrete Jungle: Urban Expansion and the Rise of the Megacity

Honourable Mention: Christopher Koido-Bunt, Volcanic Hazard Risk in East and South East Asia
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