October 2017 Mapathon

On Tuesday 10th October, the Missing Maps Cambridge community met for another mapathon! Thank you to The Polar Museum of the Scott Polar Research Institute for hosting us!

This was a packed evening. We were treated to a free after dark tour of The Polar Museum. It was a great experience: the tour was tailored to us. We heard how much of the mapping of the Antarctic was inadvertently caused by a wife searching for her lost husband. We saw a traditional Inuit map, carved of driftwood, and showing the topography of the land. It was similar to those shown here. We were also shown the beautiful hand-drawn maps of explorers, and were able to see how their understanding of the continent changed. Thank you to our guide (Rosie Amos – Education & Outreach Assistant) and The Polar Museum for such a fantastic talk – it was great to be able to understand our current efforts to map vulnerable populations in a much larger historic context. The Polar Museum offers online access to collections information through their online museum catalogue.

We were also able to receive a talk from the Canadian Red Cross – Jaclyn Haggarty kindly Skyped the mapathon. Jacyln is a Programme Officer, in Operations, Emergencies and Recovery. She spoke about the mapping of indigenous communities in northern Canada, and the odd situation where the government of a highly developed country doesn’t know where many of its people are. On principle this is an issue, as it demonstrates a lack of care for indigenous communities. It also has real-life consequences: when there is inevitably flooding and heavy snow, aid and repair is delayed and mishandled. Jaclyn explained some of the ways in which these local communities can and have been involved in the mapping process. It is not only empowering, but also has the effect of improving the data gathered.

Also on the evening, the very talented Tom Dowling was making a video of the event. Give it a watch!

Despite the evening being so packed, we also got some mapping done! We tackled Task #3653 and tasks related to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Experienced JOSM mappers tackled Task #3296 (Ghana: Colleges of Education), which they had previously worked on in the July Mapathon.

Task #3653 is requested by the Red Cross. It is part of a general drive to map flood-affected communities in Bangladesh. This task specifically targets Boalkhali in the Chittagong District. This is what the HOT Tasking Manager says:

The Forecast-based Financing (FbF) project in Bangladesh intends to support the vulnerable people of Panchagarj district exposed to Cyclones. Recently due to cyclone induced inundation and strong winds, communities in Panchagarj have been supported with a cash transfer programme. This early action was activated based on forecast information, in order to support families in a timely manner to conduct mitigation and preparedness actions to minimize risks due to their vulnerability and exposure to cyclones. Exposure data is still a challenge, as existing maps do not show clearly show where the households are located. Having a OSM map of the existing communities will help us to analyze the extend of the affectation for evaluation purposes, but will also help us to upgrade the FbF mechanism for future potential activations. This will allow us to prioritize in a more effective way the most exposed and vulnerable households.

It was rewarding to help to map the effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico. Missing Maps is part of this effort, but interestingly, so are NASA. NASA produced a “Damage Proxy Map”, showing areas of eastern Puerto Rico that were likely damaged by Hurricane Maria. They gave this to responding agencies. From their website:

To assist in disaster response efforts, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech, both in Pasadena, California, obtained and used before-and-after interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) satellite imagery of areas of Eastern Puerto Rico to identify the areas that are likely damaged […] The views indicate the extent of likely damage caused by the hurricane, based on changes to the ground surface detected by radar. The color variations from yellow to red indicate increasingly more significant ground and building surface change. The map is used as guidance to identify potentially damaged areas and may be less reliable over vegetated and flooded areas.

Hurricane Maria landed on Puerto Rico on 20 September. NASA delivered the map to responding agencies on 22 September, just 2 days later. Mapping is taking huge strides with the growth of technology – we can only imagine how projects like Missing Maps will evolve in the future.

Task #3296 is for those experienced with JOSM. The task supports Ghana’s National Council for Tertiary Education, which oversees 40 Colleges for Education. Here, remote mapping helps the Council to improve the infrastructure at the colleges.

We are grateful to 1Spatial and Mott MacDonald for sponsoring the event. We love welcoming new volunteers, no experience is needed. To join us, keep an eye on our EventBrite. Volunteers are kept fuelled with pizza!

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