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Education community reunited at GIS in Education and Research Conference

On the first day of March, a day that hinted spring was coming, the education community gathered at Hart House at the University of Toronto for what had been a biennial event: the GIS in Education and Research Conference. With close to 60 paper presentations, 14 workshops, and a keynote presentation by Dr. Trisalyn Nelson, the return of this in-person event had plenty to offer participants.

The fourth GIS in Education and Research Conference was a two-day event at the beginning of March 2020. Following the pattern of every two years, the fifth conference should have been held in 2022. However, as planning began, the question arose of whether an in-person event was feasible and whether it would be possible to quickly pivot to a virtual conference, if necessary. Although virtual conference technology has improved in recent years, the general feeling of the organizing committee was that this needed to be an in-person event and so it would be best to delay the conference by a year.

Each conference has been slightly different in terms of what it has offered participants but there has been a common framework of workshops, paper sessions, and keynote speakers. At the 2023 conference, for the first time, workshops were offered in French. Another first was a virtual streaming option for the keynote presentation for those who were unable to travel to Toronto for the full conference. Esri Canada’s president, Alex Miller, provided a welcome address thanking everyone for returning to our in-person event and reiterating the importance of education and research to the GIS community.


From the very first conference in 2013, hands-on workshops have been a key part of the experience for attendees. Topics have ranged from introductions to ArcGIS Online, web apps, and ArcGIS Pro, to advanced data science, 3D modelling, and gaming. The 2023 workshops generally fell into one of four themes: using ArcGIS in the K-12 classroom (offered in both English and French), building 3D scenes, advanced analysis, and licensing and planning.

Browse the Workshop Gallery to find story maps, slides, and other materials from the workshops.

Workshop facilitator Mohamed Ahmed explains what models are to participants in the Applied Deep Learning in ArcGIS Pro & Python workshop.

Workshop facilitator Mohamed Ahmed introduced the concept of deep learning models before showing participants how to use a pre-trained deep learning model in ArcGIS Pro.

Paper Sessions

Presenting their research is an important rite of passage for many senior undergraduate and graduate students, yet few students have had the opportunity in the last three years to present their work in-person. Out of nearly 60 papers presented across twelve concurrent paper sessions, more than half were presented by students. Session themes included transportation, natural disasters, public health, urban planning, hydrology, and parks and outdoor recreation.

Explore the paper session proceedings and view slides and other materials shared by presenters.

In addition to paper presentations, the posters of the winner and runner-up in our 2022 Esri Young Scholars Award competition and the local 2022 Esri Canada GIS Scholarship recipients were displayed in the Great Hall and Lower Gallery.


It was a welcome sight to see Hart House’s Great Hall full of people once again for this year’s keynote presentation by Dr. Trisalyn Nelson, the Jack and Laura Dangermond Chair of Geography at the University of California Santa Barbara and a proud Canadian. Dr. Jon Salter, the director of Education and Research at Esri Canada, hosted Dr. Nelson’s presentation, which framed the concept of digital twins and developed a research agenda for exploring their complicated but exciting potential.

Watch (or re-watch) the keynote presentation.

Dr. Nelson held a virtual Q&A session for students at the end of the conference. She provided insights on a range of topics, from the benefits of choosing the right supervisor for graduate studies, to the importance of being able to demonstrate independent research skills when applying for academic jobs, to tips on building a network after three years of little-to-no in-person events. Thanks to Dr. Nelson for generously sharing her time and experience!

We would like to once again thank everyone who participated in the 5th GIS in Education and Research Conference. It was your contributions that made this a special day. We hope to see you all again in 2025!

About the Author

Krista Amolins is a Higher Education Specialist with Esri Canada. Her career in GIS started when she came across the Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering program at the University of New Brunswick and thought it sounded interesting. She earned a PhD in Geomatics Engineering, focusing on lidar data classification, and now she supports teaching and learning with ArcGIS at colleges and universities across Canada. Krista particularly enjoys interacting with the students who receive an Esri Canada GIS Scholarship or apply for the Esri Young Scholars Award each year. She also enjoys playing with apps and doing a bit of coding when she has time.

Profile Photo of Krista Amolins