Scgis scholarship program 2017 application reviewers guidelines

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NEW: Online Resource Page for REVIEWERS (Please do not share, this is a private URL for the SCGIS reviewer community only, below is the public page for applicant support)
NEW Online PUBLIC page for APPLICANTS: Please share broadly
We are giving the international SCGIS chapters and all other application mentors as much liberty as possible in coordinating the application process in their respective areas of interest. To a certain degree, the same applies to the application review. However, in the end, our award decisions will be based on a collection of all applications and mentor reviews coming from around the world, and it will help us tremendously if the initial reviews have a common ground that we will try to outline in these guidelines. This common ground has 2 parts: 1. A scoring system that will help you be as objective as possible and permit the global review to be objective. 2. Your NARRATIVE notes, comments, observations and personal knowledge of the applicant. These notes are often missing or minimal and we cannot emphasize enough the importance of your local knowledge and opinions about the scholar, provided in the form of descriptive opinions and thoughts, are to us. We will know less than nothing about them, about their country and their local circumstances, it’s up to you to explain!!!


If there was a single word to describe what the application & scholarship process looks for, it’s leader. We wish to find and empower individuals who will then give back to conservation and their communities from local to global. We want to give every applicant the best chance to show off their knowledge, certainly, but even more important is giving them the chance to tell their personal stories and show off their values, beliefs, creativity and passion. That’s where the true heart of a leader can be found, in how they think about and approach their own work and their own circumstances, no matter what those may be.

The primary strategy for reviewing an individual application by an individual reviewer is to consider several factors for each applicant. These are:
- Their contribution to the global conservation movement

- Their participation in the local conservation GIS community

- Their capacity to absorb and utilize what they will learn through our program, and as of 2017 there are now TWO levels at which you may evaluate their capacity, a basic/core level, and an advanced level.
These three core factors have been the foundation of our review for many years, with interpretation that was slightly shifting due to the ever-changing context of the application process. Specific guidelines on how each of these factors should be currently interpreted follow below. It will be hard to evaluate the 3 factors above independently of each other, as they are so tightly interknitted, but in the specific guidelines we tried to provide definitions for these factors that would facilitate this separation as much as possible.

The applicants’ financial needs should not be considered at this point in the review; we ask that you evaluate each grantee without regard for funds they are asking for or their financial need. It’s important that the core of the initial review focusses solely on merit.

Score each factor 0-10, with 0 being no contribution or capacity, and 10 being maximum. You may need to read a few applications to get the hang of what's a 10 and what's a 0, and you will likely want to go back and adjust some of your earlier scores after you are done. Since some of us may be doing TWO review rounds this year, you are also welcome to go back and re-read any applications you worked on last year as a way to help you get into practice to tackle this years applications. You might also wish to pay particular attention to past applicants who have returned to a successful year of supporting SCGIS in training, learning or activism, and see if you can better spot what it was you noticed in their original application that indicated a strong potential leader.

Besides the numerical score, we STRONGLY encourage you to use the comments section where you can explain why you gave the score you did, and note any other factors you feel are important but that the suggested scoring system perhaps did not capture. We are relying on you as someone who has a direct knowledge of the local context to distill down and bring up the factors in the application we may fail to notice. Without question your narrative notes are equally, if not more, important in helping us award finalist slots.
In addition, there is a final score where you will simply total up your other 3 scores and then give any overall comments on the applicant. As you will score each question 0-10, the maximum that an applicant can get is 30, and the minimum is 0. Please use the simple form below for your scores, by cutting and pasting it at the top of every file you review, or keeping a separate file with all your reviews in it if you want.


Reviewer's Name:
Applicant Organization:

Applicant's Name:

global conservation score (1-10):

your comments on global conservation score:

local community score (1-10):

your comments on local community score:

capacity to learn and benefit score (1-10):

your comments on capacity score:

your overall score (sum of the 3 scores):

your overall notes:



Since most international chapters will likely have many applications and several reviewers to share the review workload, we ask that the chapters aggregate the individual reviews and present us a general consensus within the chapter, including any discussion notes, on how the applications rank against each other. In some cases, averaging the scores given to an application by different reviewers can be a sufficient aggregation method. However, in some cases, it might be hard to derive the actual standing of each applicant based on the summary of individual numerical scores. If that is the case, please don’t hesitate to create another score sheet for the application that will reflect the chapter consensus view on the application quality. Please send us both individual reviews and the aggregated review.

One of the challenges you might be facing is when two candidates rank differently in different areas, but their formal totals come up to the same score. If making a final ranking of the candidates seems non-trivial, send us both applications (with all your thoughts as a reviewer!), and in our combined review we’ll make our best effort to pick the most deserving candidates. We will have the advantage of an additional 2 months of program evolution to draw upon as well as another 100 plus applications to compare to in helping decide which might be a more appropriate candidate, but as stressed before, your thoughts and notes are critical in helping us.

The numerical scores will help rank the applicants in relation to each other within your isolated chapter, but when we evaluate all applications sent to us by all chapters we need to understand WHY you gave a certain score in a certain category, and WHY you decided that this applicant should be given this rank. The ‘whys’ is where you transfer your local knowledge to us, the ‘whys’ is what strengthens your opinion and may play the decisive role in the final review when the applicants will be accepted or rejected.

This is extremely important both for individual reviews and for aggregated chapter reviews.
We ask that, as much as possible, you make an emphasis on the narrative part of your review. Please explain the mechanics of your decision-making, i.e. what parts of the application specifically influenced your opinion towards a higher or lower score. Don’t hesitate to copy-and-paste the respective parts from the application into your review for quick referencing (we do that all the time during the final review).

Make sure to bring up in your notes anything that in your opinion might not be obvious from the application. If through personal experience you know some specifics of the applicant’s work that are not described well in the application, or you know about applicant’s merits that he or she might have been too modest to include in the application – don’t hesitate, tell us. This is your chance to help your chapter applicant get an advantage in the global competition!

As you will see, in many real life cases it may prove difficult to derive a numerical score from balancing various criteria for each factor, but remember, these are recommendations only, and we encourage you to engage your own vision and judgment in how each factor should be scored eventually, as long as you provide notes explaining your decision.

1) Their contribution to the global conservation movement
In short, here we are looking at the quality of their daily conservation work. Don’t be confused by the term ‘global’. We have all heard and used the phrase popular in the nonprofit world: Think globally, act locally. There are many meanings that can be read into this phrase, but some of these meanings imply that ‘global’ and ‘local’ are almost inseparable, and that the strong local action is a fundamental building block for successful global conservation.
So no matter how ‘local’ or ‘global’ their scope of work may seem to be in strict terms, we ask that you evaluate the importance of this work, and the specific impact that the applicant and their organization make. Your knowledge of the local context will guide you in evaluating the importance criteria, and for the impact criteria try to evaluate which applicant strives to make a difference more sincerely, dedicatedly, and devotedly.

Also, we want to remind that we interpret the term conservation very broadly. Typically, this term is associated with conservation of plant and animal species, ecosystems, etc., however, SCGIS embraces and welcomes everyone working on what can be described as a good cause: cultural and historic preservation, social issues, humanitarian problems, sustainable livelihood – just to name a few... Of course, in this world of conflicts, in general the term ‘good cause’ can get opposite meanings when used by different people, but we simply trust your intuition in this. To us, conservation is a core survival effort on behalf of all living beings, cultures and communities.

The application sections “Organization’s Work”, “Role In the Organization”, “History”, and “Unique” will probably be the most helpful in making a scoring decision for this factor.

2) Their contribution to the local community
It is possible that this will be the most complex and multifaceted factor of all.
When an application is submitted through a local chapter, we hope that’s a first step for the applicant to establish a relationship with the chapter if this relationship did not exist before. Regardless of whether or not the application is awarded, ideally, the applicant will become engaged with the chapter activities, and the relationship will grow – but when the applicant is awarded, we humbly hope that the scholarship experience will be a big inspiration for that person to become a driving force with the chapter. So one of the criteria in scoring this factor is how much contribution you think this applicant will make in your chapter development if selected as a scholar. This is where your thoughts and opinion are critically important, as only you can evaluate this, and for us being so remote this is impossible to know in most cases.
Another criterion for scoring this factor is how much their organization or project would be empowered if the candidate were provided with the scholarship opportunity. This is similar to the impact it will make to the chapter development, but is obviously more isolated to just one organization; however, this will be important for scoring the applications submitted from regions without an existing SCGIS chapter. This criterion is probably a bit related to the capacity factor below.

The third criterion in evaluating this is how much the local conservation and/or GIS community outside of their organization will benefit from the candidate’s participation in the scholarship program. This is an estimation of how the potential outreach ‘spills’ outside of the applicant’s organization, but without regard to the potential benefits to a local SCGIS chapter. In this sense, this criterion is related to the global contribution factor above. This is another useful criterion for scoring the local community factor for applicants from regions not directly covered by existing chapters, whether they are applying through a mentor or through a friendly chapter that has embraced a broader vision for their scope of work and welcomes applicants from other regions. Another way to approach scoring such candidates is estimating their potential as leaders and a driving force for their own international chapters in the future.

In many cases, it will perhaps be difficult to balance these criteria comfortably, but we ask you to not be discouraged by this difficulty. One possible approach is to take the criteria in which the applicant scores the best, and use that for the entire factor score. But overall, we ask that you simply exercise your best judgment in this balancing of the three criteria. One kind of activity to look for in this regard is teaching, not in the academic sense, but in the public sense, like someone who works with schoolchildren, public presentations, or film-making. These are all signs of someone committed to the idea of educating their neighbors, colleagues and peers. Another kind of activity is people who spend time interacting with communities of workers, farmers and fisheries, people they may not have grown up with but are willing to work with and understand in the struggle to survive sustainably in a natural landscape.
For an ideal candidate, almost all application sections will carry hints to the candidate’s involvement in the local community: “Organization’s Work”, “Role”, “History”, “Unique”, and “Plan”, and, of course, there is a specially dedicated section for their essay on the local GIS community involvement.

A specific example to help illustrate is how these 2 criteria can relate to each other is the following scenario of 3 candidates, which helps to highlight how hard it sometimes is to come up with a number and how important your narrative and discussion can be in helping to reflect what is special and interesting about each candidate:

Applicant 1 does cutting edge climate research but does no teaching or publishing. They are advanced in GIS.

Applicant 2 works on endangered cat genetics and collaborates closely with a national endangered cats group for their field work but has never done their own GIS work.

Applicant 3 manages a national park in that same country and supervises a GIS person.
Applicant 1: very innovative research but almost no community involvement so 10 and 1, but dig further and find that they correspond actively with mentors and have simply never had funding to present their work before, and the fact that they are advanced in GIS tells you they are very self-reliant. In this case you might wish to revise your idea of a community to include the global community of climate scientists they work with, and estimate what the impact to that community might be of giving this person their first chance to travel to the USA to present their work at an international conference, could it be the spark that gets other academic donors to begin to step up and help them? Do they have the kind of personality that would lead them to further committed involvement with SCGIS? Many academics don’t stay involved with SCGIS, either because they are students and grad students and move on after their course work, or they are more interested in research than in participating in a community. So in this case it’s hard to come up with a score without a lot of discussion as to your thoughts on their commitment and ability to give back to the conservation community, however it might be defined.

Applicant 2: Here there is a good combination of basic research with a strong applied element built in and a strong connection to a well-defined community. Like applicant #1 it’s not a local community, but it’s clear to see that helping this person will help an important national community of endangered species organizations. The big question here, the big risk, is if GIS is the right tool for them and if it will really matter to their work going forward. Genetics is important but it can be just as important as a purely tabular exercise in statistics with no locational data involved at all. In this case you might need to have a longer discussion with the candidate to find out more about what they know about GIS, what their own research methodology is, and how likely it might be that a solid training in GIS would render a meaningful improvement to their work.

Applicant 3: In this case the global return to conservation would be defined as more generic, in that any time a park can be protected and it’s ecosystems kept intact and functional it’s a good thing, so in this case you might look at how much this manager is already involved in scientific or conservation-based management policies and procedures, and dig into how much of their GIS person’s work they already incorporate. You might also need to bend your review a bit to reflect the outcome for the local SCGIS community of having am important park manager understand more about GIS even if they don’t end up becoming a user themselves. Would it make them more likely to fight for better funding for their own GIS staff, or to expand their GIS work?

3) Their capacity to absorb and utilize what they will learn
If you check the application form you will see for the first time this year, that applicants are required at the very top to select the program they are applying for, Core/basic or Advanced. Since this is our first attempt at this you will certainly need to review their choice and help them decide and correct in case they misunderstood the levels and are applying for the wrong level given their skills. We will do our best to describe these two levels below. Remember the programs are separate ONLY for the first 3 weeks, then both programs unite for 3 mores weeks of courses & conferences under the “COMBINED” heading below.


The “Core” program is the traditional one from Juniper GIS covering topics ranging from the fundamentals of ArcGIS for Desktop to some advanced spatial analysis in conservation and natural resource management. It’s a misnomer to call this a “beginning” class because it covers some standard but often-overlooked aspects of a truly professional GIS skills base, such as working with geodatabases and understanding map projections. In our estimation, self-taught GIS users are often an excellent match for this course, even if some of the GIS tasks they do are at an advanced level. What you need to look at is how WELL-ROUNDED they are in their GIS skills, and self-taught GIS users often fall short in this area. Consult the list of lectures provided by the core course and you’ll see what I mean. As an experience GIS professional one of the judgements you will be making is if their lack of knowledge in certain areas is a significant obstacle for them, which more than justifies the other areas of the class where it might be things they already know. Another factor to consider is how rapidly the software changes and evolves, and we make every effort to upgrade the core course each year to reflect the latest/current release of the ArcGIS Platform.

Core Course Curriculum:

The primary course will be Working with ArcGIS for Natural Resources, supplemented by a field GPS Training course and material from 3 other courses per the detailed list below (can also be seen at: ) Students will receive certificates for these courses that qualify for GISP certification - .This is the same material that has been used successfully for SCGIS training for many years and has been taught to thousands of students.

Working with ArcGIS for Natural Resources, Designed for GIS users with natural resource interests, this class includes timber management and wildlife scenarios. Exercises use data about timber sales, fuels, vegetation, streams and bird habitat. This class is appropriate for new GIS users and experienced GIS users new to the ArcGIS platform. It teaches the core functionality of ArcGIS and introduces advanced topics. It includes the following GIS concepts, tools & functions:

  • Using ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcToolbox

  • Working with layers, data frames, & maps

  • Editing data & managing edit sessions

  • Creating layouts in ArcMap

  • Creating graphs and reports

  • Creating & using layer symbology in ArcMap

  • Labeling features, working with annotation

  • Projecting data between coordinate systems

  • Working with Routes and XY events

  • Managing and editing tables

  • Selecting and querying features

  • Using Excel in ArcGIS

  • Spatial analysis tools

  • Georeferencing images
  • Working with metadata

  • Working with the Geoprocessing environment

Using ArcGIS Spatial Analyst, This course introduces participants to the Spatial Analyst extension by working through several projects.  The first project illustrates basic raster functionality by locating the best site for a solar installation.  The second project demonstrates more advanced analysis and validation by determining fire hazard zones.  A third project explores the process of analyzing water tables and the impact of irrigation, providing an opportunity to look at the Hydrology sample provided for ArcGIS.  The final projects combine the skills learned in earlier projects to locate sites for elephant conservation zones in Kenya and to do a cost path analysis to find the shortest path between an elephant herd and a reserve area.  Students will also learn the basics of ModelBuilder and will use this for some of the projects.

  • Understanding raster GIS

  • Interpolating surfaces from different types of data

  • Using DEM elevation files

  • Using Map Algebra for spatial analysis

  • Using the Raster Calculator

  • Cost distance analysis 

  • Analysis properties & commands

  • Distance, Viewshed & Proximity Grids

  • Using GRID commands

  • Hydrology in ArcGIS

  • Using the ModelBuilder

  • Site suitability analysis 

Working with Geodatabases & Linear Referencing, This course is most appropriate for audiences that work with natural resource data, particularly streams. This course introduces users to the Geodatabase, a new data format that provides enhanced tools for data creation, data modeling, and data validation. Participants will learn how to design, create and manage geodatabases. The class concentrates on the Geodatabase structure and tools, including topology, linear referencing (routes), subtypes and domains, for creating and editing data while maintaining data integrity, and providing a solid foundation for future development into the Spatial Database Engine (SDE). The projects in this class also demonstrate many of the new advanced editing tools available in ArcGIS. The final project will work with stream data from a National Forest, converting a stream coverage into routed streams. After the routes have been created, we’ll find fish observation locations along the stream based on river kilometers and find where roads segments might impact fish habitat.

  • Geodatabase concepts and basics

  • Converting data to the Geodatabase format

  • Understanding Spatial References in the Geodatabase

  • Validating attributes with Domains/Subtypes

  • Validating features with Topology

  • Editing with the Geodatabase

  • Working with routes

  • Linking to external databases

Advanced ArcGIS:  Productivity, Geoprocessing and Analysis, This course is for experienced GIS users looking to increase their productivity, better understand how to use Geoprocessing tools and improve their analysis skills.  Participants will be introduced to features not covered in earlier courses.  Through an in-depth analysis project you will be introduced to geoprocessing tools, better work routines, advanced editing tools and improved analysis workflow using ModelBuilder and Python.  You will also learn to customize ArcGIS using free programs.

  • Event themes/”tabular-spatial” data

  • Working with projections

  • Using layer files and templates

  • Working with labels

  • Geodatabase annotation

  • Geoprocessing & analysis

  • Introduction to Modelbuilder

  • Introduction to Python scripts

  • Working with edit tools

  • Basic customization

Conservation Science Enhancements:

Still being developed, there will be a series of guest lectures and workshops from reknown conservation science and climate change scientists from the University of California Faculty, covering topics like Climate Resilience planning and Watershed Conservation.

Student Projects: This is a very important part of the core course. Scholars are requested to bring any current or planned projects and data with them, and to provide an outline of the project, any problems, data needs, questions and expected outcomes in advance. Then the instructors can start working with scholars on these projects. If you are new to GIS and do not have a project, ask your organization what they need. The more you can tell us about your needs, the better we can focus the course for you. The goal is that at the end of this time scholars will have a completed or well-started project so they can really have something solid as a result. You will also use this project in the ArcGIS Online course, so you need to start thinking about what data would kept private and what data you could share online.


This is still being developed and will consist of more advanced & specialized courses taught by esri staff trainers and GIS experts. It will also include some one-on-one consulting and project support work from esri experts. The current tentative schedule of activities is:

2 days Image Analysis Class

2 days Python Programming

1 day R Programming

1 day of working with open standards, open API's and open data

1-2 days Esri Advanced Statistical Analysis Class,

1 day of Esri Animal Movement Analysis Class,

1 day of Esri Landscape Layers review, searching on ArcGIS

1 day of Esri Survey123 Field Sample Class

1 day of Esri ArcGIS Online Organizations Management

1 Day Hands On workshopping at the Esri Applications Development Lab

1 Day workshop with Geoplanner & Green Infrastructure Applications Team
2-3 Day Developer Studio for one:one consulting and project support


BOTH the core & advanced tracks will then combine on the 4th week for classes in online GIS, webmapping, and presentation skills, so these courses are appropriate to include in your evaluation for EITHER program selection by your applicant:

Web GIS This is a 2 day class in creating and publishing GIS data online, including how to access and use the SCGIS ArcGIS Online account, how to create and modify a webmap, & how to create a storymap.

ArcGIS Pro This is a 1-day class in analyzing and publishing GIS data using ArcGIS Pro, a new simple application that makes most of the mapping, analysis, visualization and web publishing tasks much simpler.

Presentation Skills Workshop: This is a 1-day workshop in how to present a GIS talk to a public audience, including how to present the GIS project work you did, how to tell your conservation story
Redlands Forum Presentation & Fundraiser This is an evening fundraiser organized by Esri and the University of Redlands where you will each have a chance to present your story to an audience of students, community members, and potential donors.


Regardless of the level, when evaluating each student, you need to estimate their technical capacity to absorb, retain, and apply the GIS knowledge they will gain. Another aspect of this evaluation is whether or not they have or have had OTHER learning opportunities, or if this course is the ONLY chance at training they may ever get, in other words, which applicants are the most needy for this scholarship opportunity? The things to look at when evaluating these issues include the following:

- Their current GIS skill level: what is the balance between their existing GIS knowledge and the knowledge they would gain through participating in the scholarship program? Who among your applicants will benefit the most from the training?
- Applicability of these new or improved GIS skills in their work: do they really need more GIS classes to be successful in their specific work, or do they already have enough capacity for what they do?

- Ability to learn and apply the knowledge: will the applicant be a good student, and will he or she utilize the new knowledge successfully? Of course, this part is hard to predict, but try to look at the specific sections of the application where they describe their training needs: how focused and structured is their approach to evaluating their own needs? Applicants who show a lot of initiative in finding their own online GIS training are often excellent candidates for the course even if some of the material they learned is similar to the course, because that quality of being resourceful and creative is an important one in any potential leader. Another criterion here is their plan for future work: how thoughtful and meaningful is the plan, and what is the role of GIS there? Additionally, the section “Role In The Organization” might help you evaluate how appropriately they are positioned in the organization to incorporate the new GIS knowledge in everyday work.

- Access to other additional training opportunities: Have they ever been able to travel before to obtain GIS training? This might tell you that they occasionally have access to resources allowing them to get training so SCGIS isn’t their only chance and they are not as needy as some others. HOWEVER note that this is different from folks who have participated before in any SCGIS-sponsored local workshops. If that is their only prior GIS experience then it tells you SCGIS is their only pathway to get training. On the other hand, by taking a local SCGIS workshop they will have already had some of the core program training. On the other other hand, the core training changes every year so if their SCGIS course was 4-5 years ago there may not be much in common anymore with the current class, and none of these points includes the new “Advanced” option!
Similar to the local contribution factor, it may be challenging to balance these different criteria to derive your final score, but, again, simply exercise your best judgment and let us know the mechanics of your judgement in the notes.


As you know, we ask the applicants to provide airfare estimates. In the past, we sometimes received applications from the same region that indicated airfare costs that were alarmingly too different. Without knowing the local realities of booking air tickets, it is hard for us to make a good award judgment and to plan our budget meaningfully. It’s not always possible for us to verify the provided estimates reliably, so we would greatly appreciate your opinion on how reasonable the applicant’s airfare estimates are.

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