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Earth Sciences / EcoExploring / EcoMapping

Why Mapping, why GIS?

The many fields of earth and environmental science are open to new ways of seeing, discovering and applying solutions using the latest digital, information technology.

Across the globe and in each local community, new IT capabilities are employing terrestrial data collections techniques and 'eyes in the sky' to deliver data into mapping platform and applications. We are using software platforms and tools to analyze our world and planet's systems in ways never before available.

Across most every industry, our new digital skills touch how we live and how we sustain our environment and improve the quality of our lives.

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  • In Memoriam: To Congressman George E. Brown from East Los Angeles for his vision and work to launch the Landsat program. Rep. Brown, as a leader on the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, was a key supporter of the Landsat program and its 'open' satellite imagery, science and data that sparked industries and new ways of seeing and applying science to real-world mapping and rising environmental, eco-nomic challenges.

Let's Look at Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to Start

Wikiview @ArcGIS


Consider the fields of:

  • Agriculture
  • Climate, Weather, and the Atmosphere
  • Conservation and Resources
  • Environmental Management
  • Forestry
  • Mining and Safety
  • Oceans and Fisheries
  • Sustainable Development
  • Water Resources

and many more opportunities in almost every field.

The opportunities to change what has been 'business-as-usual' to 'business-with-vision' are multiplying. Traditional economics is becoming an eco-nomics in the process of our new knowledge base and new ways of monitoring and observing change over time.

Take a look at just one 'case study' of how you can 'change the world' by using these new earth mapping tools.

Let's us introduce a friend of ours, a Bioneer, Rebecca Moore.

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GreenPolicy360 highlights Rebecca Moore

Rebecca envisioned setting up Google Outreach -- and she did.

Then Rebecca convinced Google to 'grow' her venture -- and they did.

Here are two history-making ventures that act to change economics of the past to an eco-nomics future.

The Global Fishing Watch and Global Forest Watch, as envisioned and realized, act to enable us, as planet citizens, to improve our world and work toward sustainable economies and resilient, sustainable life systems.

Global Fishing Watch

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Global Forest Watch

Google Outreach continues its impact


Share Your Data

Global Forest Watch in Action

Forest Watch & World Resources Institute

Monitoring the World's Forests

Start with where you are... just as Rebecca did, in her home community, her local forest grove...

Google Earth Outreach Is Out in Front

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Out in Front: A Green Best Practice Concept and Google Earth is Again Reaching Out with New Best Practices

Air Quality Mapping: Environmental Monitoring for Health and Safety

The Environmental Defense Fund and Google Earth Outreach convened a mobile measurement team to assess air pollution at a level of detail that was nearly impossible before.

Seeing pollution mapped this way makes us better advocates for cleaner air and smart development choices.

Cassandra Ely

Project lead at EDF


Venture On with Best Green Ideas

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SJS / GreenPolicy360 Siterunner:
Going green begins with a decision, a decision to go where you want to go, a step at a time at first, choosing to create waves, waves that ripple out to create more waves...
Being green is to be a planet citizen.

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Where Am I?

PlaNet: Google Mapping Program w/ Artificial Intelligence, a New 'MapIt' Era
Google PlaNet Can Look at a Photo, Tell You Where it Was Taken


AI Facebook Mapping, Citizen Mapping, United Nations Mapping

Connecting the World with Better Maps
Facebook’s artificial-intelligence software... capable of mapping more in a week than humanity has mapped in history

The OpenStreetMap project

The UNMap Project

Global Map Site

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New Maps of Global Ecological Land Units

The Global Ecological Land Unit maps are the most detailed look ever at Earth’s ecosystems. Basically, it partitions the planet into squares 50 meters on a side—roughly the size of a couple of football fields. An ecosystem looks at lithology (that’s rocks and dirt), climate, topography, and land cover—from pristine forest to pavement. Each square on the map combines those categories of data, and every pixel can be described in a single sentence—say, warm, wet hills on volcanic rocks with mostly evergreen forests. Underneath: reams of reference. A world’s worth of data.

The US Geological Survey pulled that information from a wide swath of sources—soil surveys, digital elevation models, satellites, weather stations. But the agency didn’t have the computing power to chew it into meaningful maps. So, they partnered with ESRI, the titanic digital mapping company, which marshaled an army of geographers, analysts, and cartographers to knit everything together. Ecologists have always relied on maps made by experts based on their on-the-ground research. They were good, but subjective. Data is better. “It’s a huge confidence boost to the scientists that we are on the right track to understanding things in a comparable way,” says Charlie Frye, ESRI’s chief cartographer. After sharing it with veteran ecologists, Frye says they responded by telling him that this map showed them what they already knew, but at scales they’d never seen before.

And what’s good for research is good for conservation...

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River Basins & Watersheds

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Smartphone Apps/Browser add-ons/extensions


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Google Maps from Space

International Space Station Viewing

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Google Maps

Street Views, Voyaging on Google Earth & Earth View

and, of course, the mapping beginnings roll-out ...

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Google Earth Updates, a project with no end in sight

Earth Day - 2017

For the past two years, Google has been working on a new version of one of its most popular tools: Google Earth.

Ready for the new Google Earth "just in time for Earth Day"

Earth "Voyager" video -

The guided tours, which Google calls “Voyager,” aren’t just some hacked together algorithmic mess, they’re led by scientists and documentarians. At launch there are 50 tours available of places like Gombe National Park, a variety of North America’s National Parks, or a tour of Frank Gehry’s buildings. Google also teams up with BBC and Planet Earth, so you can zoom in on different locations from the show and learn more. (Thorin Klosowski)

Google Earth’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button isn’t totally random. Instead Google has curated a database of 20,000 different places around the world that are worth exploring... a new feature is a 3D button that lets you view a place from any angle. And NASA is working with Google Earth. (Sarah Perez)

Google Earth VR

Google Earth VR - Virtual Reality -

Google Earth‘s VR variant is getting a new feature that allows you to search for any place where you want to go, in addition to receiving support for Oculus and its Touch Controllers, Google announced on Tuesday. The new search function, when activated, prompts a VR keyboard that you can manipulate with your respective headset’s controllers. Once you’ve found a destination, you’ll be able to warp there instantly. With Google Earth VR now having full Oculus support, the same version that’s on Steam for HTC Vive users will now work with the Oculus Rift headset, and the app is also available in the Oculus store. (Daniel Fuller)

In late 2016 Google launched a VR version of its Google Earth software for the HTC Vive and to this day it remains one of the best experiences in the industry.

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Google Earth Pro is now available to download free/February 2015 -

Google Earth

Google Earth Outreach

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Earth Outreach


Microsoft Bing / Virtual Earth

Bing Maps Platform (previously Microsoft Virtual Earth) -


Mapquest (US) -



Web-enabled LandSat Data

NASA World Wind --

"World Wind lets you zoom from satellite altitude into any place on Earth. Leveraging Landsat satellite imagery and Radar Topography data, World Wind lets you experience Earth terrain in visually rich 3D..."

NASA Earth Observatory Global Maps

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More Maps & Apps Online

Virtual Globe - via Wikipedia


  • Bhuvan is an India-specific virtual globe.
  • CitySurf Globe, fast adaptation and transfer secured data due to special data storage structure, dynamic spatial data editing on 3D client monitor, data stored in Oracle SDO or PostGIS, flexible authorization models for different user groups (LDAP and Active Directory support) also excellent quality and fast 2D map rendering.
  • Earth3D, a program that visualizes the Earth in a real-time 3D view. It uses data from NASA, USGS, the CIA and the city of Osnabrück. Earth3D is free software (GPL).
  • EarthBrowser, an Adobe Flash/AIR-based virtual globe with real-time weather forecasts, earthquakes, volcanoes, and webcams.
  • Google Earth, satellite & aerial photos/datasets (including commercial DigitalGlobe images) with international road dataset (first popular virtual globe along with NASA World Wind).
  • MapJack covers areas in Canada, France, Latvia, Macau, Malaysia, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, and the United States.
  • Marble, part of the KDE, with data provided by OpenStreetMap, as well as NASA Blue Marble: Next Generation and others. Marble is Free and open-source software (LGPL).
  • NASA World Wind, USGS topographic maps and several satellite and aerial image datasets, the first popular virtual globe along with Google Earth. World Wind is open-source software (NOSA).
  • OpenWebGlobe, a virtual globe SDK written in JavaScript using WebGL. OpenWebGlobe is free and open-source software (MIT).
  • QGIS, desktop GIS system.

List of geographic information systems software / Via Wikipedia

'Virtual Globe' software information / Via Wikipedia

Consider (from Wikipedia) how data can be collected for mapping, for GIS, for applications and platforms:

Example of hardware for mapping (GPS and laser rangefinder) and data collection (rugged computer). The current trend for geographical information system (GIS) is that accurate mapping and data analysis are completed while in the field. Depicted hardware (field-map technology) is used mainly for forest inventories, monitoring and mapping. Data capture—entering information into the system—consumes much of the time of GIS practitioners. There are a variety of methods used to enter data into a GIS where it is stored in a digital format.

Existing data printed on paper or PET film maps can be digitized or scanned to produce digital data. A digitizer produces vector data as an operator traces points, lines, and polygon boundaries from a map. Scanning a map results in raster data that could be further processed to produce vector data.

Survey data can be directly entered into a GIS from digital data collection systems on survey instruments using a technique called coordinate geometry (COGO). Positions from a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) like Global Positioning System can also be collected and then imported into a GIS. A current trend in data collection gives users the ability to utilize field computers with the ability to edit live data using wireless connections or disconnected editing sessions. This has been enhanced by the availability of low-cost mapping-grade GPS units with decimeter accuracy in real time. This eliminates the need to post process, import, and update the data in the office after fieldwork has been collected. This includes the ability to incorporate positions collected using a laser rangefinder. New technologies also allow users to create maps as well as analysis directly in the field, making projects more efficient and mapping more accurate.

Remotely sensed data also plays an important role in data collection and consist of sensors attached to a platform. Sensors include cameras, digital scanners and lidar, while platforms usually consist of aircraft and satellites. In England in the mid 1990s, hybrid kite/balloons called Helikites first pioneered the use of compact airborne digital cameras as airborne Geo-Information Systems. Aircraft measurement software, accurate to 0.4 mm was used to link the photographs and measure the ground. Helikites are inexpensive and gather more accurate data than aircraft. Helikites can be used over roads, railways and towns where UAVs are banned.

Recently with the development of miniature UAVs, aerial data collection is becoming possible with them. For example, the Aeryon Scout was used to map a 50-acre area with a Ground sample distance of 1 inch (2.54 cm) in only 12 minutes.

The majority of digital data currently comes from photo interpretation of aerial photographs. Soft-copy workstations are used to digitize features directly from stereo pairs of digital photographs. These systems allow data to be captured in two and three dimensions, with elevations measured directly from a stereo pair using principles of photogrammetry. Analog aerial photos must be scanned before being entered into a soft-copy system, for high-quality digital cameras this step is skipped.

Satellite remote sensing provides another important source of spatial data. Here satellites use different sensor packages to passively measure the reflectance from parts of the electromagnetic spectrum or radio waves that were sent out from an active sensor such as radar. Remote sensing collects raster data that can be further processed using different bands to identify objects and classes of interest, such as land cover.

When data is captured, the user should consider if the data should be captured with either a relative accuracy or absolute accuracy, since this could not only influence how information will be interpreted but also the cost of data capture.

After entering data into a GIS, the data usually requires editing, to remove errors, or further processing. For vector data it must be made "topologically correct" before it can be used for some advanced analysis. For example, in a road network, lines must connect with nodes at an intersection. Errors such as undershoots and overshoots must also be removed. For scanned maps, blemishes on the source map may need to be removed from the resulting raster. For example, a fleck of dirt might connect two lines that should not be connected.

You can manage only what you can measure Dr David Crisp, OCO-2, June 2014 m.jpg

More Mapping References

Monitoring Earth and Delivering Data Sets from Space

Join In ! Be a Planet Citizen, Planet Scientist

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More Maps to Guide You


U.S. Nearmap Aerial Imagery

'World Atlas (iOS)

Ultimate Maps Downloader

Maps Open Source

Open Street Map



Global Mapper

GPS TrackMaker

TopoQuest - US/Canada

More Maps with Perspective

Change the Way You Look at Our World

Authagraph - “The AuthaGraph World Map provides an advanced precise perspective of our planet.”

AG_top.gif - Not a "Mercator Projection"!MTU5MDI2ODA.NDI3MDExNw*MzE2NDg0MDg(NTg0MzcyMQ~!CONTIGUOUS_US*MTAwMjQwNzU.MjUwMjM1MTc(MTc1)MA~!IN*NTI2NDA1MQ.Nzg2MzQyMQ)MQ~!CN*OTkyMTY5Nw.NzMxNDcwNQ(MjI1)Mg
How Do You See Africa?
How Do You See the World?

US National Parks Maps: A Personal Project.

Begun in 2013 by Colorado park ranger Matt Holly, the site currently (as of 2017) hosts “1,198 free high-resolution national park maps to view, save, and download.”

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Earth Biosphere Mapping

Global Biodiversity

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Index Mundi --

United Nations / National sites -- Environmental Data --

World Bank/Country Data --

Environmental Performance Index (EPI) --

Environmental Law --

OECD (see Environmental Data) --

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