Spotlight: Emilie Novaczek

Portugal Cove beach end of the season clean up and animal release at a Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium event

Emilie Novaczek

Ph.D. Candidate, Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland




Emilie’s Bio

Emilie is a student researcher and scientific diver for a catch-and-release mini aquarium in Petty Harbour, NL.  She is also a  Ph.D. Candidate with Memorial University’s Marine Geomatics Research Lab and has a track record of using GIS  for marine research. Among her accomplishments, Emilie has been recognized for her undergraduate research project at the Elizabeth May Chair Research Symposium and at the Dalhousie Sustainable Oceans Conference (CBC News, Aug 19, 2013.)  In 2017, Emilie’s work   on ” High resolution habitat mapping to describe coastal denning habitat of a Canadian species at risk, Atlantic Wolffish (Anarhichas lupus)” was published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.


Emilie diving to collect animals for the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium in Logy Bay

Q. What project(s) have you worked on that you are most proud of?

“A few years ago I was working with the Seaflower Marine Protected Area in San Andres, Colombia. I was studying the impact of tourism & recreation on shallow coral reefs. The project was designed to meet an important data gap for managers: little information existed about how the MPA was being used for non-fishing activities. My research involved participatory mapping with tourism operators and SCUBA surveys of coral health and biodiversity. It was an incredible opportunity to work in the community and on the water. By mapping recreational activity types within the MPA boundaries and impact on reefs, managers were able to efficiently allocate resources (like targeted educational materials/incentives) while fostering a constructive relationship with communities and businesses who use and enjoy the Seaflower.”


Q. Your Atlantic wolffish mapping project using high-resolution multibeam data and seafloor video sounds interesting. How did you get involved in this project? 

“The wolffish is what brought me to Newfoundland! The Atlantic Wolffish is protected by the Canadian Species at Risk Act as a species of special concern, which requires management of the species and its habitat. However, very little information existed about important habitats for population recovery. The project was partnered with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The way that we map marine habitats (with sound!) fascinated me, so the opportunity to map seafloor habitats for conservation of a species at risk was too good to miss!”


At Smith Sound, Emilie is setting up a drop camera to collect video of the seafloor for a marine habitat mapping project

Q. Can you tell me about a typical day in your life as a graduate researcher at Memorial University of Newfoundland? 

“These day I’m working up some seafloor data for the Newfoundland shelf, building and refining predictive models of seafloor substrate. It’s exciting to see patterns emerge from the data and really satisfying to produce a beautiful and useful map at the same time. But my favourite place to be is in the field. For my research, field work mostly consists of collecting seafloor video and sediment samples – it’s pretty cool to be able to take a peek under the waves and maybe see some Atlantic white-sided dolphins or a leatherback turtle along the way. ”

Drop camera


Q. Do you have any women role models? How have they inspired you?

“There are so many incredible women working in spatial ecology and seafloor mapping; Dr. Dawn Wright, chief scientist at ESRI and ocean mapper; Dr. Kerry Howell, a leader in deep sea coral mapping; Dr. Jane Elith, a spatial ecologist who’s R code I use every day; Dr. Anna Metaxas and Dr. Elizabeth de Santo, incredible professors I was lucky to have during my undergraduate; Dr. Carissa Brown, a brilliant spatial ecologist in my department here at MUN; and of course, my mother, a marine phycologist and the original Dr. Novaczek.


Q. What’s your favorite GIS tool or app?

“I use R every day, and the online R community is amazing – day or night there is an answer for any question and advice for any challenge you meet. I also love Dr. Cynthia Brewer’s colour brewer  and I use it for almost every map I make.”


Q. Do you have a favorite GIS convention?

“Yes! The GeoHab Marine Geological and Biological Habitat Mapping conference. Marine habitat mapping is a relatively small field, so each meeting is a little like a family reunion.


Q. How do you spend your free time?

“We are lucky in Newfoundland to have the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium – a catch-and-release aquarium that brings the ocean to eye level and showcases local biodiversity. I volunteer with the aquarium as a scientific diver (for collections and release) and as an aquarium interpreter.”


Q. When not at work, what do you do for fun?

“I spend a lot of time with my dog on the beautiful East Coast Trail and I get out SCUBA diving any time I can. The water is cold, but the diving in Newfoundland is beautiful! Vibrant coralline algae, soft corals, skates, wolffish – there is lots to see!”


Q. What GIS/spatial project did you work on this past year you want everyone to know about?

MUN Geography awareness week Arctic Alive giant floor map

“This year we did some work in the Eastport Marine Protected Area – by mapping benthic communities and biodiversity, we were able to compare the protected habitats to the MPA’s management goals. As Canada moves towards our goal of 10% marine protected by 2020, this kind of research is more important. What we protect, and where we protect is just as important as reaching 10% coverage.”


Interviewed by: Denise Wesley

GDA Petition

Women in GIS member extraordinaire, Crystal Schiffbauer-Bowles, has created a petition on CREDO titled: “Being Spatially Responsible. Improving efficiency through standards and procedures.”

CLICK HERE to support responsible government spatial data policy. Signing only takes a few minutes. And if you feel inclined, please share via Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media or email.

On behalf of WiGIS, thanks for your support!

Here’s that link again:

Real change happens when everyday people like you and I come together and stand up for what we believe in. Together we can reach heaps of people and help create change around this important issue.

Spotlight: Adele Balram – Database Analyst, New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training

Adele Balram, Database Analyst

Adele Balram is a Database Analyst with the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data, and Training. She holds a professional specialization certificate in Population Health Data Analysis from the University of Victoria, Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of New Brunswick and a Master of Public Health from Memorial University in Newfoundland. Adele has several years experience in public health, including working as an epidemiologist on environmental and community health issues across New Brunswick.

What was your first experience with GIS and what attracted you to it?

My first experience with GIS was in 2008, when I was completing my practicum for my Master degree, at the New Brunswick Department of Health. I was asked to examine a cluster of meningitis outbreaks that had occurred in the province. The first thought that came to mind was that I needed to map the cases. However, I had never used GIS software. Eventually, I found a GIS program and taught myself how to use the software and mapped out the meningitis cases.  After the project was completed I was curious to learn more about GIS and its capabilities, which led to my interest in taking formal courses. However, after searching for some time, I could not find an online course that provided me with hands on software experience. Consequently, I stopped my search and did not pursue my interest in GIS for many years.

The subject of GIS did not come up again until I started my position as a Database Analyst with the New Brunswick Institute for Research Data and Training (NB-IRDT).  It was during this time I began working with a colleague who had a Geography background and was looking for research support using spatial methods to investigate/evaluate health outcomes.

Once again, I searched for a course that could provide me with hands on GIS experience that I could take through a distance learning program while working full time. When I found the University of Victoria’s Population Health and Data Analysis program I was excited. This program offered fully online training including two geospatial courses using ArcGIS – one course in Population Health and GIS and another in Spatial Epidemiology and Outbreak Detection.

How has GIS benefitted or influenced your work as a database analyst?

GIS has benefitted and influenced my work as a database analyst. So far, I have used GIS in a few of my projects working for the NB-IRDT. One project was a study that looked at small-area population projections for New Brunswick. GIS software was used for this project to create different boundary files and population counts for the province. We have also used GIS software during a more recent project to calculate the distances from patients’ homes to the hospital nearest to them. This information was used to determine how hospital closures in the province influenced the distance patients drove to the hospital that was now closest to them.


However, the project that I am the proudest of is my work on a recent publication “Urban greenness and mortality in Canada’s largest cities: a national cohort study.” In this study an NDVI layer was created for the country by downloading thousands of image tiles from NASAs aqua satellite at a spatial resolution of 250m as 16 day averages. Using this information, we calculated the annual maximum greenness values averaged over the summer months for each year from 2002 to 2011, and long-term mean values over the 10-year period. This layer was then used to assign green space exposures to individual postal codes in our study.

 What are some career moments or accomplishments you are proud of?

I have many career moments and accomplishments that I am proud of. However, there are two recent accomplishments that standout. First, is the completion of the Population and Health Data Analysis Program (PHDA) at the University of Victoria. This learning was invaluable to my career and GIS experience. The second accomplishment that I am proud of is the recent publication that I co-authored which investigated the relationship between Greenness and Mortality. A lot of time and effort went into this study which was recently published in the Lancet Planetary Health.

NDVI Gatineau Ottawa

I am also very fortunate to be part of a new team that is studying the associations between residential exposures to water and risk of mortality among urban Canadians. Furthermore, the lead investigator of these two studies and I have recently presented a webinar for The Canadian Urban Environmental Health Research Consortium (CANUE) on the two studies above titled “Does living in greener areas and near water affect mortality?”

Who has been your greatest career mentor? How has this person influenced your career?

I have had a few mentors who have influenced my career, however, the most influential GIS mentor that I have had is my collogue Dr. Dan Lawson Crouse. He is a Research Associate at the University of New Brunswick, an Epidemiologist at the NB-IRDT, and holds a PhD in Geography from McGill University. Dr. Crouse has taken the time to assist me with my GIS questions and share new tips and tricks regarding GIS methods. He has also been very supportive and helpful in encouraging me with my career aspirations.

My knowledge of environmental exposures such as air pollution, green space and blue space and their relation to health outcomes was limited before I met Dr. Crouse. However, since I began collaborating with him, he has taken time to train me in this area of research, and has also given me the opportunity to participate in his recent greenspace and blue space studies. After completing my Master’s program, I never thought that I would pursue this area of research.  Nevertheless, I am now engrossed in the study of environmental exposures, and I plan on continuing my education and research in this subject area.

Have you faced any challenges with being a woman in a technical field?

After I graduated from my Master’s program I worked in the government sector and I believed that I would stay there for the rest of my career. I came to realize while working for the government’s health department that women tended to outnumber men, and women occupied many of the managerial and technical positions. However, after a reorganization of government departments I was laid off from my job unexpectedly, and it took a while before I was offered my current position as a Database Analyst at the NB-IRDT.

My current job requires a sound knowledge of statistics and program coding. These types of positions are typically filled by men in the academic environment. I also find that there continues to be push back to accept women into these positions. Many are surprised to learn that I am a woman working in this technical field. However, I am pleased to tell people what I do, and more women should be encouraged to fill these technical positions in the future.

What personal strengths do you feel are key to working in the field of geospatial analytics?

Some of the personal strengths (skills) that I believe are key to working in the field of geospatial analytics are having a strong statistical background, excellent data management and programming skills, patience and having great attention to detail.

What inspires you in your personal and professional life?

What inspires me in my personal life is my family. I live in Fredericton, New Brunswick with my husband and 9-year-old son. They inspire me every day to continue in my field and to advance my technical skill set and career. They have also been very supportive of me continuing my education and I am very grateful for that. What inspires me in my professional life is the drive to be a leading woman in the area of geospatial analytics and eventually pass this experience along to other women who want to do the same

If you had three wishes for the future, what would they be?

My three wishes for the future would be health and happiness for my family and friends. The second would be to attend an excellent Canadian university to complete my PhD in Epidemiology/Health Geography and the third would be to hold an academic position in my field, preferably a Canadian Research Chair in a health discipline.

California State Wage Gap Poster

In California, women are paid 86 cents for every dollar paid to men. That’s on average. This one number doesn’t describe the working conditions for most women in the state. In some counties, women are paid much less than men.

Do you live in California? Click on the map below to find out how your county is fairing.

Click for high-resolution, printable PDF. May be slow to load depending on your internet connection speed.

For more information about the gender wage gap in the United States, please read and visit the sites linked below. If you’d like to do something about it, join our emailing list to find out about future opportunities.

Related Articles:

State Wage Gap Posters

Since Washington Women in GIS and Technology (WWGT) created a Washington State wage gap map this past summer (read about it here), it occurred to WiGIS that women in other states would like a map of their own.

So we set out to provide that.

Currently, we’ve updated state gender wage gap maps for Illinois, Colorado, and Georgia.

Click for high-resolution, printable PDF. May be slow to load depending on your connection speed.
Click for high-resolution, printable PDF. May be slow to load depending on your connection speed.
Click for high-resolution, printable PDF. May be slow to load depending on your connection speed.

Next on the list is California.

If you’d like a wage gap poster for your state, let us know! Email which state you’re interested in to and we’ll set you up.

The Wage Gap

At ESRI’s 2017 User Conference, the Washington Women in GIS and Technology (WWGT) submitted a poster highlighting the wage gap between women and men.

One day before Women’s Equality Day, Women in GIS would like to focus on that poster to:

  1. commemorate women’s accomplishments and,
  2. highlight the work still needed to be done.

We hope to show you we don’t have far to go, but we do need to get there.

WiGIS: Your poster, recently displayed at the 2017 ESRI UC, is titled Washington State Gender Wage Gap in the Work Force. On it, you focus on the state of Washington’s gender wage gap (GWG) and the percentage of women in the work force. But you also included some historic, national data I found fascinating. The graph for the wage gap over time clearly shows we’ve come a long way since 1960. We are definitely closing the gap! We’ve gone from earning 60% of what men earn to 80%. We’re getting there! So, why focus on this issue? Why make this such a big deal?

WWGT: While it is true the gender wage gap (GWG) is narrowing, we have not yet reached pay equity.  In fact, the America Association of University Women (AAUW) estimate that pay equity will not occur until the year 2152.

Women earn less than men in 439 of the 446 major U.S. occupations.

We must do better.  It took over 70 years for women to gain social, political and economic equality with the passing of the 19th amendment and yet we still have work to do.

The GWG affects the women’s age to retire, opportunities for career advancement, opportunities in STEM careers, and ability to pay for school, child care or living expenses.  Educating people about the factors that influence the GWG and inspiring them to get involved are the first steps to making a difference and therefore we created this poster.

WiGIS: On your poster, you suggest several ways to get involved and specifically call out the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Pay Act. As I understand it, the Fair Pay Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2009, but the Paycheck Fairness Act is still under consideration by congress. Is that the case? How are these two different and what specifically can we do to help?

WWGT:  The Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) was first introduced in 1997 and has been reintroduced many times.  It was approved by the House of Representatives in January 2009, but failed in the Senate.  It was most recently introduced to the Senate in April 2017. The PFA strengthens portions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to make it easier for workers to share wage information, allow workers to sue for punitive damages in cases of wage discrimination, and start training programs around wage negotiation for women.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was signed into law by President Obama, but there is a new Fair Pay Act of 2017 (FPA) which was introduced to the House in April 2017.  The Lilly Ledbetter version changes the statute of limitations for filing a pay discrimination lawsuit to the time of the initial discriminatory wage decision instead of resetting at the most recent paycheck. The 2017FPA amends the FLSA of 1938 to prohibit discrimination in payment of wages because of sex, race, or national origin, and for other purposes.  Most notably, the FPA would require comparable pay for comparable work.  For example, female-dominated professions such as emergency services operators should be paid comparable wages to their male-dominated counterparts, in this case fire dispatchers.

If you agree with these bills, call or write your senators and representatives and encourage them to pass these important acts.

  1. Find your Representative
  2. Contact your Senator

WiGIS: I love the history graphic on the bottom of your poster. It doesn’t have much to do with the GWG, however, so what inspired its inclusion on this poster?

WWGT: The timeline details significant milestones related to Women in STEM careers compared to related U.S. historic events.  Our group felt it was important to include this information as it highlights how long Women have been leaders in STEM career fields and yet are still striving for pay equity.  The timeline shows how long it took women to get the right to vote, civil rights, the opportunity to work in any career and obtain equal pay (we are getting closer).  These women demonstrate the strength and courage required to do what they loved.  Highlighting their accomplishments inspire future generations to reach for their dreams.  It is our job as women in STEM careers to not only educate girls and women on STEM careers and opportunities but also provide support and mentoring. This is the purpose of our Washington Women in GIS and Technology (WWGT) group.

WWGT at ESRI UC 2017. From left to right: Robyn Pepin (Aspect Consulting), Tonya Kauhi (GeoEngineers), Jack Dangermond (Esri), Jaclyn Layton (Metro Parks Tacoma), Jennifer Radcliff (Port of Tacoma) and Melissa Hayashida (Metro Parks Tacoma)

Many thanks to Tonya Kauhi for answering our questions and spearheading this poster.

WiGIS at GeoConX

Women in GIS will be attending ESRI’s GeoConX in beautiful Chicago, Illinois. Jessica Griffin will be hosting a short session in the Grand Ballroom at the Chicago Hilton from 12:45pm to 1:15pm on Wednesday, September 6, 2017.

Please join her and bring a friend!

Short Survey!

Thousands of women around the world are aspiring to be, or are, GIS professionals. Women in GIS (WiGIS), a soon-to-be nonprofit organization, serves as a safe place for women from all geospatial fields to come together. Two of its primary goals include:
  • Working to overcome job discrimination, lower pay, professional isolation, and other common barriers women might face, and
  • Fostering relationships and resource-sharing among members and institutions.
We are researching which membership benefits and services would be most valuable to you…. a potential paying member. Your participation in this survey will help inform WiGIS organizers as to what you would like to get out of membership at this organization should you choose to join.

The survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete, and all of your individual responses will be kept confidential. Thank you for your participation. Your feedback is very important to us!

Geospatial Data Act of 2017

The Geospatial Data Act of 2017 (GDA 2017) is a proposed piece of legislation currently being considered by congress. If passed into law, it may negatively impact professionals in the geospatial field by limiting their ability to provide mapping/geospatial services for state or federal agencies.  Links to the actual Act and position papers from the Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA), the American Association of Geographers (AAG) and the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) are listed below.

Geospatial Data Act of 2017 (S.1253)
House Version (H.R.3522)

GITA Position Paper

AAG Position Paper

URISA Position Paper

 WiGIS intends to collaborate with fellow geospatial organizations and groups such as the Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS) to compose a letter contesting some of the language in the bill.

If you have any questions, concerns or comments regarding the WiGIS participation in this effort, please email by August 18th, 2017.