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GISCorps Newsletter


GIS Professionals Volunteering for a Better World

February 2016 
A Message from the Core Committee
Greetings Volunteers and Friends:

We hope that you've had a great start to 2016. Our volunteers have been busy as ever and 32 of them brought five projects to completion in Guatemala, Mexico, Uyghur Homeland in China, Afghanistan, and the Bahamas. Services that they provided included: geocoding, data cleansing, static and online map creation, and crowdsourcing (stories are showcased below).

That brings the total number of projects to 179 with over 942 volunteers deployed to 65 countries. Most recently, three of our volunteers were recruited for a project in Panama in partnership with Engineers without Borders which we hope to report on in our next newsletter and upon completion of that mission.

Additionally, we recently completed two rounds of recruitment for a GISCorps Mission Coordinator position. The recruitment resulted in forming a team of 21 volunteers. These volunteers will be called upon when disasters strike and will help the Core Committee in recruiting and guiding the volunteers more efficiently.

Finally, we would like to ask that you update your record regularly as having access to current information is integral to selecting of the most qualified volunteers.

Thank you once again for your continued support of GISCorps. We are grateful to you and our volunteers for their remarkable service.

With most sincere wishes,
GISCorps Core Committee: Dave Litke, Dianne Haley, Heather Milton, Mark Salling, Allen Ibaugh, Carol Kraemer, Shoreh Elhami

P.S. Please email if you wish to be removed from this list.

Deployment and Partnership News

Missions in Progress

A total of eight missions are currently in progress. Detailed accounts of these projects are posted on our Ongoing Projects Page. 

Featured Projects
Geocoding Policy Holders Locations in Guatemala - MiCRO's Initiative
MiCRO is a specialty re-insurance company, a social enterprise focused on the consequences of natural disasters, bridging the divide between the world's insurance markets. It seeks to improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable against natural hazards like hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and floods. In 2015, MiCRO needed the assistance of a GISCorps volunteer in geocoding the locations of small-holder farmers and micro-entrepreneurs across Guatemala. Sami Snunu, a GIS professional from Calgary, Alberta, Canada was then selected and began by accurately, consistently, and easily assigning geospatial coordinates to MiCRO's individual policyholders. Read more here.

Volunteers Digitized Features after Hurricane Patricia
Hurricane Patricia was the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere in terms of barometric pressure and sustained winds. Patricia also grew faster than any Western Hemisphere storm on record, growing from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in just 24 hours. Once Patricia grew from a tropical storm into a Category 5 hurricane a team of 10 GISCorps volunteers led by Leslie Zolman, a GIS professional from Montana, worked with HOT, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, to map the area where Patricia was predicted to make landfall. Read more here.

Mapping Tool Showcases Research on Incidents in the Uyghur Homeland
The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) has released an online webmap highlighting research from " Legitimizing Repression: China's War on Terror Under Xi Jinping and State Policy in East Turkestan." Based on an analysis of overseas media reports, the March 2015 investigation into incidents of violence and unrest from 2013-2014 counted a total death toll of 656 to 715 lives. The number of fatalities in 2014 is approximately double that of 2013, with a spike from April to July of 2014. Data in the report should not be considered definitive, as the Chinese government tightly controls information in East Turkestan. The numbers nevertheless indicate a deterioration in security conditions since Xi Jinping became Chinese president in early 2013. Read more here.

Afghanistan Earthquake GISCorps Response
A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Afghanistan on October 26, 2015. Within hours, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) activated an online work project to support the local OpenStreetMap (OSM) community by digitizing features from existing imagery. In the following three weeks approximately 400 volunteers around the world contributed over 1 million features to OSM. Read more here.

Crowdsource Project Documents Coastal Changes Due to Hurricane Joaquin
Nine GISCorps volunteers assisted with the USGS iCoast Project after Hurricane Joaquin and a related Nor'easter caused extensive damage along the US east coast from South Carolina to New York in October 2015. This project was similar to the work done by our volunteers post Hurricane Sandy on the coasts of New Jersey and New York. The iCoast web application asks volunteers to identify changes to the coast by comparing and tagging aerial photographs taken before and after storms. This data will help USGS scientists improve the accuracy of USGS coastal change prediction models and vulnerability assessments that support pre-storm planning and post-storm rescue, recovery, and mitigation efforts. Read more here.

Read more about other completed GISCorps projects here.  
Read more about projects in progress here.  

Volunteer Profile 

Name: Sami Snunu

Organization: Nexen Energy ULC, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

GISCorps Missions/Year served: Geocoding Policy Holders Locations in Guatemala - MiCRO's Initiative 2015 & Downloading and Parsing OpenStreetMap data for Syria, 2015

Share your experience about the mission: I was content to share my GIS experience for humanitarian and poverty relief needs. I worked remotely for both missions, and acquired a lot of personal development skills. In addition, I proved that Open Source GIS tools and databases can be used to complete the work and achieve the same results as proprietary software.

Anything else to share: There is an increased need for GIS support by many non-profit organizations. In a world suffering from brutal wars, diseases, and natural hazards, I would encourage every GIS professional to please give some of your skills and experience to help build a better life for the people.
To read more stories visit the Volunteer Profiles Page

Thank you for your continued support of URISA's GISCorps!

In This Issue
Message from the Core Committee
Missions in Progress
Featured Projects
Volunteer Profiles

2016 Charitable Giving


Please include  GISCorps in your charitable giving plans to help keep this volunteer program running for many years to come.


Donations are tax-deductible. 


 is easy  via this online form.   

Get Social with GISCorps! 

Like us on Facebook 

View our profile on LinkedIn 


Follow us on Twitter 


GISCorps Core Committee

Shoreh Elhami

Dianne Haley

Allen Ibaugh

Carol Kraemer

Dave Litke   

Heather Milton

Mark Salling


Contact us: 




Twitter: @giscorps   

Partner Organizations








Disaster Charter   


...and many more

URISA  Education  Calendar

GIS/CAMA Technologies Conference
Feb 22-25, 2016
Savannah, GA

URISA's 2016 GIS and Health Symposium
June 1-3, 2016 Washington, DC

URISA Leadership Academy
August 1-5, 2016
Chicago, Illinois

URISA's 2016 Caribbean GIS Conference
September 5-8

GIS-Pro 2016
Oct 31-Nov 3 
Toronto, Ontario Canada
For more information, visit

Volunteer Database

It is critical to our operations that our volunteer database is as up-to-date as possible, since it is this database that we query to find volunteers suitable for deployment on a mission.

If you have not updated your record recently, please do so by logging in here.

News from Friends of GISCorps 


Nonprofit Organization Program  


Disaster Response and Assistance


ArcGIS Online for Organizations

Shopping for GISCorps' Stuff?

Do you find yourself in need of a new T-shirt, coffee mug, ball cap or tote bag? Do you want to help promote GISCorps' good work? Well, you are in luck! You can now find various GISCorps items at our online shop.