March 14, 2008

The public will have the opportunity to meet renowned experts in geographic information systems (GIS), learn about the technology and provide input on Kentucky’s geospatial future during a conference titled, “Mapping and Monitoring Land Resource Change: Bridging the Geospatial Divide.” The conference is May 20-21 at the University of Kentucky.

The two-day conference will feature nationally and internationally renowned speakers in GIS and remote sensing technology. They will discuss various topics relating to mapping and monitoring landscape change including new technologies, benefits, physical and cultural landscape changes and the role of land use and cover change in decision making. Experts will also discuss strategies for investing in this technology. Kentuckians, who have used the technology, will also present their success stories.

“The conference, and in particular the listening sessions, is an outstanding opportunity for people to learn about and give direction to what should be happening in terms of geospatial technology for Kentucky in the future,” said Brian Lee, UK assistant professor of landscape architecture.

Lee said to his knowledge, this is first conference of its kind to directly engage the public for comments on broad scale landscape change and identify data and technology for mapping and monitoring Kentucky’s landscape.

Interest in GIS and remote sensing technologies has exploded thanks to the popularity of applications such as Google Earth and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, said Demetrio Zourarakis, remote sensing/GIS analyst with the Commonwealth Office of Technology, Division of Geographic Information.

Zourarakis said Kentucky is at the forefront of this movement. The technology has benefited everyone from agricultural producers, who use precision agriculture tools to increase crop yields, to state and local government officials, who use the technology in planning and zoning and land use and land cover for characterizing watersheds.

“We are looking forward to this,” Zourarakis said. “We have received commitments and support from a lot of people that we thought would bring unique contributions to the event.”

This conference has been of a vision of Zourarakis, Lee and Carol Hanley, director of education and communications for UK’s Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment, as well as a dedicated advisory committee. All have unique interests in this topic and have been working for the past two years to make the conference a reality. The conference is sponsored in part by the U.S. Geological Survey, Lexington-based PhotoScience and the University of Kentucky Research Office.

While the conference mostly focuses on geospatial issues in Kentucky, it will also have a regional flare as various regional experts will present how their states are using the technology.

Another unique aspect of the conference is the participants will be able to discuss and make suggestions about Kentucky’s geospatial future.

“The listening sessions during the second day of the conference are intended to generate ideas from the public about ways the state can move forward with these technologies in areas such as natural resources, education and infrastructure,” Lee said. “I also hope the conference helps the state develop more extensive collaborations with other states and remain a national leader in geographic information systems.”

Preliminary results from the listening sessions will be presented at the Kentucky Geographic Information Systems Conference in July.

The registration fee for the conference is $125 for professionals and the public and $75 for students. Registration forms are available online at http://tfce.uky.edu/gis_conference.htm.

Completed forms can be mailed to The Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment, Tobacco Research Building 200B, 1401 University Drive, Lexington, KY 40546-0236. Prospective conference attendees may also register by contacting Kandris Goodwinat the Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment at 859-257-3780. A block of rooms has been reserved for participants needing overnight accommodations at the Holiday Inn Express, located at 100 Export Street in Lexington. To reserve a room, contact the hotel at 859-389-6800.

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