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Gillian Harvey: Winner of a best student presentation award at the CAG 2015 Annual Meeting

This year's Canadian Association of Geographers Annual Meeting was held at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C., at the beginning of June. Once again, Esri Canada was one of the sponsors, providing two awards for student presentations. One of the winners was Gillian Harvey, an MSc student at the University of Victoria studying species-habitat modeling.

Gillian Harvey has always been passionate about marine resource management. As an undergraduate student at the University of Victoria, majoring in Environmental Studies and Geography, she became interested in how GIS can be used to analyze marine ecosystems. One of the projects she completed involved a suitability analysis to determine potential locations for wave energy conversion farms along the coast of British Columbia.

Gillian Harvey, MSc student at the University of Victoria and winner of a Best Student Presentation award at the CAG 2015 Annual Meeting.

Now an MSc student and a member of the Spatial Pattern Analysis and Research Lab located in the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria, Gillian focuses on coastal conservation in her research. She believes that, "as threats to marine mammals from human activities rise, it is imperative that management decisions are made using spatially explicit information on marine mammal species." Her goal is to contribute to the amount of spatial information that is available about these species.

Gillian is also a student researcher for Raincoast Conservation Foundation (RCF), an evidence based, conservation science organization that works to protect the lands, waters and wildlife of coastal B.C. The paper that she presented at the CAG 2015 Annual Meeting, and for which she won a Best Student Presentation award, was co-authored by Dr. Paul Paquet and Dr. Caroline Fox from RCF and Dr. Trisalyn Nelson from the University of Victoria. It was titled, "Towards improved methods for modeling marine mammal distributions and densities to support coastal conservation." Gillian and her co-authors are using species sighting data from Raincoast Conservation Foundation, along with remotely sensed environmental variables from NOAA and other governmental and non-profit organizations — such as DataBC and the BC Marine Conservation Analysis program — to predict spatially continuous distributions of marine mammal presence and density in a study area including Queen Charlotte Sound.

Environmental variables used to model marine mammal distributions and densities.

Gillian hopes to contribute to coastal conservation and marine spatial planning in B.C. in her future career. She sees herself using GIS and innovative methods to help address the competing needs of humans and wildlife and to promote the sustainable use of marine space and resources.

Have you used your GIS skills and knowledge in conservation projects or to model animal distributions? Share your stories with us!

"GIS tools can be used in multidisciplinary contexts, bridging the gap between many disparate types of data and allowing for more complex analyses… I believe that GIS tools are vital for generating realistic solutions to challenging environmental issues." Gillian Harvey MSc student, University of Victoria

About the Author

Krista Amolins is a Higher Education Developer and Analyst in the Esri Canada Education and Research group. Her responsibilities include developing resources for use by students and faculty at colleges and universities, focusing particularly on LiDAR, JavaScript and Android app development; collaborating on projects with researchers at select universities; and coordinating the Esri Canada scholarship programs. She has a PhD in Geomatics Engineering from the University of New Brunswick and also holds the Esri ArcGIS Desktop Associate Certification.

Profile Photo of Krista Amolins