Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Citizen Science on Google Maps


Recently Google Maps Mania looked at two pairwise surveys that use Google Maps Street View to explore people's Perceptions of Place. Both of the pairwise surveys mentioned in the post are great examples of crowd-sourced or citizen science.

Citizen science is a very effective method by which scientists can exploit the power of the crowd to collect and analyse data. Zooniverse has been pioneering the use of citizen science on-line for a number of years now and have developed a number of citizen science projects. Two of these, Old Weather and Cyclone Center, have used the Google Maps API to help crowd-source the gathering of data from historical weather records.

Two more examples of the Google Maps API being used in citizen science projects are OakMapper and the Big Norwich Bat Project.


In California OakMapper is using the Google Maps API to monitor Sudden Oak Death. Sudden Oak Death is a disease that is killing oak and other trees, which is having a particularly devastating effect on trees in California.

The OakMapper Google Map shows the location of officially confirmed Sudden Oak Death occurrences in the state. The map also functions as a portal for anyone to submit the location of suspected instances of Sudden Oak Death. The official cases are displayed in red on the map and community submissions are displayed with yellow map markers.


In the UK the Big Norwich Bat Project utilized the power of citizen science to monitor the health of the town's bat population. This year the Big Norwich Bat Project used Google Maps to allow interested volunteers to sign-up to be involved in the town's bat survey.

The map divided the town into a number of 1 km squares. To claim a location users simply had to click on a square to volunteer for the survey in that area. Already claimed squares were displayed in red to clearly indicate to potential volunteers which areas were still free to claim.
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