BLM Alaska Geographic Information System Specialist Jennifer Jenkins received the Esri Special Achievement in geographic information systems (GIS) award this summer for creating mobile-friendly online dashboards that provide near real-time information about wildfires in Alaska and maps that deliver more in-depth information than before in the Alaska Wildland Fire Information Map Series.
Esri is an international supplier of GIS software, web GIS, and geodatabase management applications, including the popular ArcGIS Online (AGOL) platform that helps users make sense of geospatial data about a specific location on the Earth’s surface.
Prompted by informal hallway conversations at BLM Alaska Fire Service (BLM AFS), Jenkins’ work was one of about 300 projects selected from more than 100,000 nominations worldwide.
She combined Alaska-specific wildland fire data with the built-in functionality of AGOL to create some of the well-known public-facing tools used for wildland fire location and information.
The Alaska Wildland Fire Information Series was first developed in 2018 and internally tested until it was publicly launched in 2019. The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center Wildfire Dashboard – which she described as a living situation report that updates every 15 minutes versus the existing PDF report that’s generated at 6 a.m. daily – launched in 2020.
“Jenn is always working to provide better tools to deliver and use information for all the users, which is why these map series continue to evolve and grow,” said BLM AFS Manager Kent Slaughter. “She’s helped all of us see and explain information in different ways while simultaneously moving us from maps that only worked on a computer to maps accessible from any device. This is a well-deserved award as her work is relied upon by the public and fire managers across the state.”
The web maps and dashboards Jenkins created use data like status, dates, sizes, and a summary for Alaska wildland fires entered by dispatchers at the various state and federal dispatch centers. This information is consolidated through the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center (AICC). The same information appears in the 6 a.m. AICC daily situation report, and both mapping programs.
“Jennifer has been a leader in BLM in the development of dashboards and map series in addition to being one of the go-to people for managing maps, data, and users in (ArcGIS Online) for BLM Alaska,” said Cathy Hillis, the geospatial manager at the BLM Alaska State Office. “We are so lucky to have Jenn as part of the team.”
With a background in biology and natural resources, one of the reasons Jenkins made the jump to the wildland fire community in 2014 was because it would allow her to see the immediate results of her work, whether it’s producing maps in support of wildfire suppression efforts or to help inform Alaska land managers’ decisions.
“Because inaction is not an option, we work with the ‘best available’ information and tools we have,” Jenkins said. “Everything I work on is in a continual state of development and I rely on the feedback from users to keep moving forward.”
More about Jennifer Jenkins:
Jenkins has a master’s degree in biology from the University of South Dakota and studied freeze tolerance in chorus frogs. She worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service while earning her master’s in natural resource management at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. She started as temporary Biological Science Technician, and through the Student Career Experience Program, got more permanent positions while expressing an interest in learning GIS. She attributes much of her success in GIS to the mentoring she received while working at the FWS. This led to a GIS position at the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative before moving into her job at BLM Alaska Fire Service in 2014.