Google Earth publishes community-created maps from Knight-funded Public Lab archive

Professional-grade maps made with D.I.Y balloon and kite kits that cost about $100

BOSTON, MA-- The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science announced today that community-generated open source maps -- captured from kites and balloons -- have been added to Google Earth. The 45 plus maps are the first aerial maps produced by citizens to be featured on the site, and are highlighted on the Google Lat Long Blog

The Public Laboratory is an expansion of the Grassroots Mapping community. During an initial project mapping the BP oil spill, local residents used helium-filled balloons and digital cameras to generate high-resolution D.I.Y “satellite” maps documenting the extent of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico -- at a time when there was little public information available. Expanding the toolkit beyond aerial mapping, Public Laboratory has been growing into a diverse community, both online and offline, experimenting with new ways to produce information about our surroundings. The lab’s D.I.Y kits cost less than $100 to assemble.

"We're very excited to be able to include some of the balloon and kite imagery from the Public Laboratory in Google Earth.  It provides a unique, high resolution view of interesting places, and highlights the citizen science work of the Public Laboratory community," says Christiaan Adams of Google Earth Outreach.

“The Public Laboratory is demonstrating that low-cost tools, in the hands of everyday people, can help generate information citizens need about their communities,” said John Bracken, Knight Foundation program director for journalism and media innovation.

Especially exciting is a map of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, New York that was created during the winter of 2011 and has been added to the primary layer of Google Earth/Google Maps. The New York chapter of Public Laboratory has begun an ongoing periodic monitoring campaign in partnership with local environmental advocacy group the Gowanus Canal Conservancy (GCC). Designated a Superfund cleanup site by the EPA in 2010 due to pollution from decades of coal tar accumulation in canal sediments, and suffering from 300 million gallons of untreated sewage which are released into the canal yearly, local activists have adapted and improved many of the techniques developed for monitoring the effects of oil contamination in the Gulf of Mexico. That a group of local activists could create a high resolution map of an area they care about -- and that such imagery could replace commercial and government data as a recognized representation of that place -- is a powerful example of the civic science mission of Public Laboratory.

 

About the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science

The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) is a community which develops and applies open-source tools to environmental exploration and investigation. By democratizing inexpensive and accessible “Do-It-Yourself” techniques, Public Laboratory creates a collaborative network of practitioners who actively re-imagine the human relationship with the environment.

The core PLOTS program is focused on “civic science” in which we research open source hardware and software tools and methods to generate knowledge and share data about community environmental health. Our goal is to increase the ability of underserved communities to identify, redress, remediate, and create awareness and accountability around environmental concerns. PLOTS achieves this by providing online and offline training, education and support, and by focusing on locally relevant outcomes that emphasize human capacity and understanding. For more information, please visit publiclaboratory.org.

 

Contacts

Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science: Stewart Long, Director of Data Production; phone: 760.888.5287; email: stewart@publiclaboratory.org

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation: Andrew Sherry, Vice President for Communications, 305.908.2677; email: media@knightfoundation.org 

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.