UC Merced Connect: Ex-ranger maps out Rim fire

September 8, 2013 

— Paul Doherty, the first Yosemite National Park ranger to complete a doctoral degree at UC Merced, now works as a public safety technology specialist for a company that provides GIS mapping for a variety of applications.

While the Rim fire continued to burn in and around Yosemite, Doherty and his team created a layered map showing up-to-the-minute details of the fire, including its size and range, hot spots, progression and more.

They pulled together data from a wide range of agencies, including the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Red Cross to make the map that went viral this week as people watched one of California's largest wildfires rage on.

The map created by the company, Esri, was featured online at The Atlantic, Time and CNET.

"Once we had a story board of our ideas, we constructed the three web maps very quickly," said Doherty, who graduated in the spring. "Then we just needed a simple application to tie them all together to tell the story — that is why it is called a story map."

With his background as a Yosemite park ranger, years of experience using geographic information systems and his work in the Spatial Analysis and Remote Sensing graduate lab at UC Merced, Doherty is a natural for the Disaster Response Program at Esri.

"Our lab spent a lot of time developing plans to solve problems and use geography to better understand the answers.

"These were usually long-term research projects, but the brainstorming process we used there, along with the training in Spatial Analysis really prepared me for this position," Doherty said.

He said that during his time at UC Merced, he made "so many" maps, mostly related to his coursework in environmental systems through the School of Engineering.

His research focused on how GIS can be used for search-and-rescue operations in Yosemite, and he made maps showing where people get lost or injured, using GIS to solve problems related to finding and rescuing them.

South African leader to receive Spendlove Prize

Jonathan D. Jansen, vice chancellor and rector of the University of the Free State and South Africa's first black dean, has been named the 2013 recipient of the Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance.

The Spendlove Prize was established through a generous gift to the university from Sherrie Spendlove in honor of her parents, lifelong Merced residents Alice and Clifford Spendlove.

The annual prize honors an individual who exemplifies the delivery of social justice, diplomacy and tolerance in his or her work.

"It is fitting that our first international recipient of the Spendlove Prize should come from South Africa, a country that has lessons to teach in moving through devastating divisions and social injustice to seek unity and peaceful coexistence," Sherrie Spendlove said. "Professor Jonathan Jansen, one of South Africa's leading academics and intellectuals, stresses the transformative power of education both as a way out of poverty and as a means to mutual understanding and empathy."

Jansen is widely known for his policy of "reconciliation over revenge" in the manner of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. He serves as president of the South African Institute of Race Relations.

His book "Knowledge in the Blood" offers an intimate look at the effects of social and political change after apartheid. He discusses the important role education played in confronting the past as well the limits in dealing with conflict in a world where clear-cut notions of victims and perpetrators are blurred.

The campus will award the prize to Jansen during an evening ceremony Oct. 28 on campus.

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the University Communications staff. To contact them, email communications@ucmerced.edu.

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