Technology, conservation and armchair travel

NASA is at the World Parks Congress promoting a new book and Google is swimming around Sydney Harbor taking pictures.  It seems that these are just two examples of technology driven initiatives to connect people with nature.

NASA’s new book is made explicitly to commemorate the World Parks Congress with satellite images of some of the world’s protected areas.  Naturally, the images are stunning.  The book, appropriately titled “Sanctuary,” aims to deliver a new perspective on parks and also highlight the uses of satellite imaging in conservation efforts.  It makes sense.  The stark contrast between developed and protected areas stresses just how much we convert the land unless it is explicitly within park boundaries.  Maybe these images are enough to inspire support for conservation.  The image of Earth from space sparked the green revolution, after all.

Google has maintained a steady presence at the congress, possibly just to remind you that Google is everywhere, but also to promote the benefits of technology and mapping.  Their new underwater streetview aims to connect people stuck at home with fantastical places around the world, such as the Great Barrier Reef.  The goal is to increase awareness of fragile marine ecosystems, but the project hopes to also help researchers to monitor changes to coral reefs and other systems.

Partnering with SkyTruth and Oceana, Google is also involved with Global Fishing Watch, a new technology being used to monitor illegal fishing.  Using satellite images, the project tracks fishing fleets around the world and can determine whether or not vessels are operating within marine protected areas, giving the fishing industry more transparency.

Finally, The Map of Life, supported by Google Earth, is an ambitious project that maps almost a million species to their current geographies.  For the World Parks Congress, they are announcing a new resource for monitoring species and measuring the effectiveness of protected areas in species conservation.

Whether for science, aesthetics or just because they can, some exciting things are happening in the world of mapping that can be of great benefit to conservationists, and if you’re still reading this I urge you to stop immediately and go read this instead.

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