App helps ecologists map vulnerable ecosystems within minutes | 7/27/2018 | Staff
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UNSW scientists have created a mapmaking app that can fast-track large-scale ecosystem analysis from months to minutes, giving conservationists a way to monitor decades of human impact, hotspots of biodiversity and vulnerable ecosystems.

Less than a year after its launch, REMAP – a free online mapmaking tool that allows users to detect environmental change over time using satellite images – has been used in 140 countries and is now applied in a range of contexts. The app is now an integral part of an international effort to map Myanmar's ecosystems.

Dr - Nicholas - Murray - UNSW - School

Dr. Nicholas Murray from UNSW's School of Biological Earth and Environmental Sciences created the app because he saw the potential of harnessing remote sensing data to support land conservation and mapping ecosystem loss. Remote sensing refers to techniques for observing earth from space or air to obtain information about it.

"We wanted to empower people to map just how much the ecosystems around them have been changing," says Dr. Murray.

Motivation - App - People - Maps - Environment

"The fundamental motivation that led to the app was to allow people to create maps of their environment to identify what ecosystem types occur there, and how they've changed over the last 15 to 20 years."

The UNSW scientists built the program to allow quick analyses of Landsat satellite data gathered by NASA and the US Geological Survey. Landsat is a series of satellites imaging the whole Earth every two weeks since the 1970s—it is one of the longest continuous space-based record of global change. The database of images is free, and when pieced together forms an intricately detailed image mosaic of the Earth.

Dr - Murray - Decade - Map - Satellite

Dr. Murray explains that just half a decade ago, building a map from raw satellite data from scratch required extensive work.

"In the past it has been a technical process to produce high-quality maps suitable for tracking environmental change such as deforestation and...
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