As the inaugural winner of the Esri Young Scholars Award for Australia, Rodolfo Espada, won an all-expenses paid trip to present his research project at the 2013 Esri International User Conference. We caught up with Rodolfo following his return to Australia, to get the low-down on a memorable week at the world’s biggest GIS conference.
1. Hi Rodolfo, congratulations on becoming the very first Esri Young Scholar for Australia! How do you feel?
Rodolfo: I feel so excited at being the very first Esri Young Scholar for Australia! I never thought even for a single moment that my research project with a simple beginning would reach this far and earn something big. Certainly, I am embracing this Award with honour and great humility and it will be cherished in my entire Spatial Science career. I would like to dedicate this achievement to my family, my supervisors for the academic support, the Australia Awards – Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship Award for the funding, and Brisbane City Council, Energex, and Queensland Fire and Rescue Service for the datasets. Without their unselfish support, this success will not become a reality. And of course, thank you sincerely Esri Australia for believing in my research project.
2. Tell us about the Esri UC – what was it like to attend such a large event with more than 15,000 other GIS professionals?
R: Aside from being excited to travel to the United States, I was truly thrilled to see a GIS event as large as the Esri UC. The event was attended by a large group of people with diverse GIS backgrounds – from beginners to highly specialised; young to not so young; and from developing to highly developed countries. The one thing we all had in common was we were there to share and learn.
The Esri UC never became boring because there were so many diverse things to do, see and learn. It was just a matter of prioritising and selecting which technical workshops or sessions would help improve my research project. From the very beginning of the UC – which was facilitated by Jack Dangermond himself and other Esri staff – the Esri products and analytical tools were just mind-blowing! With the power of maps, you couldn’t leave the plenary hall without the word “WOW” in your mind.
3. Can you describe some of the other Young Scholar entries that were on display?
R: The winning entry from The Netherlands was one of the most interesting entries. Joris Tieleman – a MSc graduate from VU University, Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam – analysed the gentrification patterns of Amsterdam’s cityscape. Using the relative housing prices from 1985-2010, he created a spatially differentiated transformation patterns of the city through animated GIS. Well done, mate!
4. What was your favourite part of the conference?
R: I had so many favourites: attending and learning new analytical tools from the technical workshops and conference sessions, presenting my research project to participants at the Map Gallery, meeting new friends and the Young Scholars from around the world and sharing each other’s research projects, and of course, receiving my award and photograph with Jack Dangermond. That was a truly unique experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity!
5. Your project looks at electricity and other infrastructure which would be at risk of damage during a flood. What motivated you to look at this area?
R: I’m from the Philippines which has fascinating people, culture, landmarks, breath-taking scenic sea/landscapes and diverse flora and fauna from north to south. However, when nature strikes, there is no place to hide and nothing to do but rely on the integrity of critical infrastructures for shelter and the continuous supply of essential services like electricity, water, communication, etc. No country, not even developed countries are spared from this foray.
I was given the opportunity to study in Australia through the Endeavour Postgraduate Award, which was offered through the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research, and Tertiary Education. I focused on Brisbane as my study area and – using the January 2011 flood – I wanted to learn from an Australian perspective how to manage flood risk and vulnerability assessment of critical infrastructure and find out how Queenslanders build a stronger and more climate resilient community and state. I hope that this research project will help Brisbane increase its community resiliency, and that other places in Australia, as well as in the Philippines and other countries consider that flood/climate risk is a global issue.
6. What do you plan to do now? Are there are other areas of research that interest you?
R: Right now I want to complete my PhD here at the University of Southern Queensland. I hope to have it nailed by next semester. What is quite exciting is that in the next couple of weeks I will be looking further at critical infrastructure interdependency modelling – something advanced which I would like to explore using the new analytical tools in ArcGIS. Once my program is finished, I will be looking for a challenging opportunity that will advance my GIS career both technically and professionally.
Aside from flood/climate risk research, I am also interested in doing GIS-based research on landscape/vegetation/biodiversity mapping, watershed analysis, hydrology, and similar applications to forest and environmental resources management. The integration of spatial science, climate adaptation science, and climate change science is also of significant interest to me.
Thanks very much Rodolfo!