Interview with GIS Bootcamp guest lecturer, Stace Maples

The Initiative for Spatial Literacy is  preparing for another GIS Bootcamp taught by Stace Maples on  March 20th, 2018.  This year’s focus is on the utility of GIS to graduate student research. In advance of the GIS Bootcamp we took some time to get to know Stace. He is a graduate from SMU earning his bachelor’s degree in archaeology. This will be his second time returning to SMU to teach this series of workshops on GIS. See the schedule and register for the 2018 SMU GIS Bootcamp here. 



Since you graduated from SMU in 1997, we just have to ask – What is your favorite memory of SMU?

There are many, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be the Ft. Burgwin Archaeological Field School experience (Pot Creek Pueblo, ’96!). We had a great class of students, and Dr. Mike Adler (aka ‘Madler’), was Director of the Field School, which obviously made the experience even better. We worked harder than anyone else at Ft. Burgwin, from sunup to sundown, excavating and processing artifacts, six days a week, and played harder than anyone else, too. We won the Ft. Burgwin Volleyball Championship, that year.

What is your spirit animal and why?

Hmm. Someone has been talking to my Ft. Burgwin colleagues!? The skunk. We went on a great road trip during the Field School, visiting Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde and other sites. At Mesa Verde, I woke to find a skunk taking refuge from the rain in the vestibule of my tiny solo tent, about 18 inches from my face. I lay there for about 2 hours, unable to sleep for fear of snoring or making a noise for fear of startling him, until someone else in the camp made enough noise to scare him away. There may be other, alleged, reasons that we can leave for tales around a campfire, someday.

If you could make a soundtrack of your life, what songs would you include?

That’s tough. I’m a DJ on Stanford’s radio station, KZSU, so my soundtrack is always evolving. But, in general: I’ve been in love for 23 years, so there would be a few love songs; My kids love 80’s Punk & New Wave, right now, so that’s a big chunk, too; There would be a lot of rebellious music, maybe Dead Kennedys would represent that side well, or Ween. And Willie Nelson, because Texas.

Tell us why GIS is important by using only the Ten Hundred Most Used Words as defined by the Up-Goer Five Text Editor.

Where Matters.

What has been one of the most interesting or most impactful projects where you have used GIS? 

I’ve been working with Dr. Eric Nelson, since I got to Stanford, building a platform to help health care workers respond to cholera outbreaks in under-resourced parts of the world. We’re piloting the platform in some really challenging locations, like Bangladesh and Haiti, to prove that we can use mobile technologies to improve outcomes for patients, responders and decision-makers. The Outbreak Responder is a decision-support and epidemiology platform for use during disease outbreaks which includes a rehydration calculator that automates WHO guidelines for assessing and rehydrating a patient with diarrheal disease and a series of map-based data dashboards that help administrators optimize resource allocation during rapidly evolving outbreaks. You can read about the mobile application and we just published an evaluation of our first trials.

What is the most surprising thing you have discovered using GIS?

That it can, literally, be applied to the study of anything. I see as many workshop attendees from Medicine as I do from Geology, as Environmental Sciences, as Archaeology, as School of Business, as Forestry, as History, as Political Science,… and I can do that all day. The ability to colocate data in geographic space opens up the possibility of fusing almost any datasets you can get your hands on into new types of scholarship. I think Nick Bauch’s “Enchanting the Desert,” published by The Stanford University Press, is a perfect example of this, and the type of real research that can be done, and published, through digital means, and no other. Nick leverages research methods of Geography, Environmental Science, History, Photography, Geodesy and more into an incredible examination of how technology formed our national perception of what is meant by “The Grand Canyon.” []

GIS is a tool that fosters numerous opportunities for more interdisciplinary inquiry which, I think, is probably the most productive approach to any question.

The title of the GIS Bootcamp workshop series is “Everything is Somewhere.” What does that mean?  

“Everything is somewhere, and that somewhere matters.” It’s my slightly cheeky paraphrase of Waldo Tobler’s First Law of Geography: “Everything is related, near things are more related.” That one sentence has such profound implications for the ways we should be examining our world and our relationship with it, and each other. Relationships of proximity, adjacency, containment, shape, central tendency, and so on, have profound influence on our lives and those relationships are accessible only through building spatial thinking skills and toolkits for using those skills. GIS and other geospatial technologies are the instruments that allow us to quantify and interrogate those relationships in more meaningful ways, and hopefully make more persuasive arguments, and more constructive decisions, about them.

As the Geospatial Manager at The Stanford Geospatial Center, Stace Maples provides support and collaboration to the Stanford research community in capturing and making sense of the “where” of their work.  His work mapping the research interests of scholars has taken him from the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard, to Kurdish Northeastern Syria, to the most remote areas of the Mongolian/Chinese border.  An archaeologist by training (SMU, ’97) and a technologist by temperament, he is interested in all aspects of mapping, from the aerial imaging of archaeological sites using kites and balloons, to the development of platforms for the gathering of volunteer geographic information. He has over 20 years of experience using Geographic Information Systems and geotechnology for research and teaching, with expertise in a broad range of geospatial and supporting software and hardware.