Skip to main content

Skills Ontario 2024: Students map Oakville’s Emerald Ash Borer issue

The annual Skills Ontario GIS competition is an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in real-world problem-solving using ArcGIS. 2024’s competition focused on the management of Oakville's ash trees affected by the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).

At this year’s Skills Ontario GIS competition, students worked for six hours as GIS Analysts for the Town of Oakville. In teams of two, their role was to support the Trees, Parks, and Woodlands department with their ArcGIS expertise in mapping and spatial analysis. At the end of the day, each team presented their findings in a story map to the judges and fellow participants.

An image showing two students working on computers.

A team of 2024 participants working through the question using ArcGIS Online.

New and returning participants 

We were happy to welcome back students from past competitions and to meet new participants. Almost half of the students this year had competed at least once before. 

Students from seven different school boards in Ontario participated. They included Toronto District School Board (TDSB) with two teams, Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) with two teams, York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB), York Region District School Board (YRDSB), District School Board of Niagara (DSBN), District School Board Ontario North East (DSBONE), and Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB). 

An image showing two teen girls smiling in front of the Skills Ontario GIS competition banner at the May 7th event.

First time participants Kate Parker and Cara Martin from DSBONE were very excited at the event. “We wanted to participate in the GIS Skills Competition, because it is something that we are interested in, and it relates to our future career aspirations as an Environmental Technician and GIS Technician.” 

Students gain valuable experience

Throughout the day, students test their ArcGIS skills, but they can also discover if this type of work is something they want to do in the future. Being a GIS Analyst may not be for everyone. However, students use many skillsets beyond the analytical ones, like presentation, organization and writing skills. This experience can influence the type of work and higher education path these students move on to.

An image showing judges discussing something that is on one of the students’ computer screens.

Judges assess students’ work throughout the day.

Results of 2024

Congratulations to Sophia G and Vivian L, the YCDSB team that took first place at this year’s competition. This was the second year in a row that Vivian competed and won the top prize. The judges were impressed by the team’s analysis and ability to answer the questions asked during the presentation.

A close second were Catherine J and Adam B, a team from DPCDSB. Catherine participated in 2023 on her own. We were happy to see her again as last year’s experience didn’t scare her away. Congratulations to both of you on a great job!

Third place went to Neil K and Aditya M from the YRDSB team. It was great to see this team return and improve in the ranking this year. Maybe there will be gold in the future! Congratulations to both of you for your perseverance. You did very well!

An image showing a swipe map created by the YRDSB team that was included in their final story map. Trees vs ash trees in Oakville.

From Neil K and Aditya M’s story map: Understanding the tree population in Oakville using ArcGIS. Pictured here is a swipe map showing all existing trees vs all existing ash trees.


Throughout the day, our volunteer judges/GIS Ambassadors assess the students’ work by asking questions and evaluating maps created by the teams. They also give advice to students during the presentations. It’s a long day for them and we appreciate their hard work and dedication.

Thank you to our judges for volunteering their time and GIS expertise to support this annual event. The 2024 judges were:

  • Justin Kraemer, GIS Coordinator, County of Bruce
  • Melissa Allin, GIS Specialist, City of Brampton
  • Lindsey Carter, GIS Analyst, City of Brampton
  • Andres Olaya, Forestry Information Analyst, Town of Oakville

An image showing four adults standing in front of the Skills Ontario GIS banner.

The judges were knowledgeable GIS professionals who took time out of their workday to support this important event. From left to right: Andres Olaya, Lindsey Carter, Melissa Allin and Justin Kraemer.

Congratulations to all the participants and we look forward to next year’s competition. We thank all the teachers who inspired and supported the students in their journey to the competition. This great work would not be possible without you.

If you are an educator interested in giving your students an opportunity to develop their critical thinking, data analysis and map-making skills, get them involved in 2025! Students can try out some of the past questions to prepare for next year’s competition.



About the Author

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Specialist in the Esri Canada Education and Research group. She has over 15 years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela focuses on producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum-specific resources, and conducting and creating custom workshops for educators. She manages the GIS Ambassador Program and is the Technical Chair for the annual Skills Ontario GIS competition. Angela also writes monthly posts for the Esri Canada Education and Research blog, highlighting K-12 educators and partners, new ArcGIS resources and GIS-related events.

Profile Photo of Angela Alexander