April 2019
Welcome to the second edition of our newsletter highlighting innovation and frontier technologies around the globe. At MapX, we believe that nobody should be left behind in the digital revolution. Join us monthly to learn about new global initiatives harnessing technology for the sustainable use of natural resources, citizen science opportunities, upcoming webinars or trainings, and open source solutions. If you have stories you want to share, contact us here.

Thought of the month

UN Environment and the UN Science Policy Business Forum made a global call to action to build a global digital ecosystem for the environment. This call was summarized in an executive series blog by Reuters as well as a detailed article on the SDG platform of the  International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). It is now a pivotal moment in environmental history when the deployment of new technologies offers the possibility to measure and protect our environment. The article further identified three key risks need to be mitigated while building a global digital ecosystem of environmental data, algorithms and insights, as well as the foundation for pursuing such a digital ecosystem to achieve sustainable development and global public goods. 

Case Study

Combining artificial intelligence and citizen science to improve wildlife surveys

A research team testing the capacity of both citizen scientists and machine learning algorithms to help survey the annual wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania found that both methods could produce accurate animal counts, a boon for park managers. Some new data collection technologies, such as camera traps and drone-borne cameras, might also be able to help scientists build training data sets, expanding the niche of automated image data processing. Read the full article here. 

The Waorani people in defense of a forest land against oil block 22
On February 27th 2019, the Waorani launched a historic lawsuit in Ecuador’s city of Puyo. The Waorani’s lawsuit, co-filed with Ecuador’s Ombudsman, aims to keep their ancestral lands free from natural resource extraction and to set a precedent for other indigenous nations to do the same. From high-tech maps and global campaign strategies to multi-nation organizing, the Waorani are spearheading a resistance movement opposing the fossil fuel extractive industry and galvanizing the protection of nearly 7 million acres of indigenous territory - a critical stronghold in the battle against climate change.

Explore about the Waorani Resistance movement using an open-source story map here. Learn more about Digital Democracy and their ground-level participatory, open source mapping tool Mapeo here.

News / Highlights

Successful launch of the "World Environment Situation Room" at UNEA

"World Environment Situation Room" (WESR) vision was successfully launched, including a physical prototype with six simultaneous monitoring dashboard. The geospatial data for WESR will be powered by the MapX open source software developed by UNEP/GRID-Geneva in partnership with the World Bank, UNDP, and the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC). WESR allows users to visualize, interrogate and access data related to various environmental topics, such as biodiversity, climate change, pollution, and disaster riskTo learn more on the themes that WESR will encapsulate, view this story map we created. 

Experts present a new framework for global species monitoring
A team of international environmentalists and data scientists have published a research report that develops a framework to improve the monitoring of species worldwide, after a multi-year collaboration under the Group of Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON). This report identifies "essential variables" for addressing species populations using standardized measures that with the aid of other information —such as that gathered by satellite-based remote sensing—and models integrate the often gap-ridden raw species data to give a clear picture of the distribution and abundance of species.

Recommended practices include better data sharing across national borders and enhanced collaboration between the varied parties involved in relevant data collection, from amateurs to government agencies. To ensure that governments have access and capacity to use cutting-edge spatial data to make key conservation and development decisions, UNDP, UN Environment and the World Conservation Monitoring Center have partnered to build the UN Biodiversity Lab - a platform that provides high quality spatial data needed for national reporting against global biodiversity commitments. 
A new app to map and monitor the world's freshwater supply
A new platform entitled sdg661.app was launched in the margins of the fourth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) by UN Environment, Google Earth Engine and the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission. The app provides geospatial statistics for every country's annual surface water and shows changes from 1984 through 2018 with interactive maps and graphs. Read more here
A global land-cover dynamics map using Sentinel-2 data unveiled
A high-resolution map of land-cover dynamics across Earth's landmasses is generated by processing billions of archive image pixels recorded by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission from 2015-18, along with artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analytics. Developed by GeoVille, an Austrian company specialized in the analysis of satellite data, this land-cover dynamics map gives a complete picture of variations of vegetation over the year, which would be used as a basis to develop services providing insight into land productivity.

Another company Sentinel-2 Global Mosaic, part of the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service, has just commenced its planetary-scale delivery of analysis ready surface reflectance composites in different resolutions. This service expansion has only been made possible by the recent start of the operational provision Sentinel-2 L2A input data since December 2018 by Copernicus. Visit s2gm.eu to order mosaics from your favorite spot on Earth.

Scientific Corner 

Determination of validation points using high-resolution imagery. The map in the center displays the location of the 101 randomly sampled validation points used to construct the confusion matrices, as well as the region of the basin used to determine thresholds in adjusted Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. The surrounding Google Earth screen shots illustrate the use of high-resolution imagery as ground truth for validation points

Impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on land use and trans-boundary freshwater resources

Published December 5, 2016 in PNAS
(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA)
 by Marc François Müller, Jim Yoon, Steven M. Gorelick, Nicolas Avisse, Amaury Tilmant

Evaluating impacts of conflict and migration on land use and trans-boundary water resources in an active war zone remains a challenge. This study uses satellite imagery of war-torn Syria to demonstrate how conflict and migration caused sudden reductions in Syrian agricultural land use and water use. One unexpected effect of the conflict was increased flow in the Yarmouk River to Jordan, which nonetheless remains one of the world's most water-poor nations. The study illustrates that conflict and human displacement can significantly alter a basin's water balance with dramatic effects on the trans-boundary partitioning of water resources. Read the full article here.


MOOC: Biodiversity Finance
This free, seven-week MOOC will provide you with the tools to assess the policy, institutional, and economic context for biodiversity finance; conduct a financial needs assessment to achieve a country’s biodiversity goals; and develop a biodiversity finance plan that identifies the most suitable finance solutions. This course will teach you how to develop financially sound and politically feasible biodiversity finance plans. It is aimed at conservation planning and biodiversity finance practitioners and policymakers, but is open to anyone.

Course period: 15 April 2019 - 31 May 2019
Languages: English | French | Spanish | Russian
Partners: UNDP, UNDP Biodiversity Finance Initiative, NBSAP Forum, CBD, OECD
Enroll Now
NASA Webinar: Investing Time Series of Satellite Imagery

Evaluation of satellite imagery for an area over time can be used to identify trends and changes. This type of time series analysis can be used to assess forest disturbance, land cover changes, vegetation health, and agriculture monitoring and expansion. NASA Earth observations can provide long-term records from Landsat, and frequent imagery from sensors including MODIS.

This training will focus on two tools, AppEEARS from the LPDAAC and LandTrendr via Google Earth Engine (GEE). AppEEARS enables users to integrate point or polygon ground-based data with satellite imagery. The GEE implementation of LandTrendr enables users to analyze land cover dynamics, including short-term disturbances and long-term trends. Both sessions will feature a lecture, followed by time for hands-on exercises and questions.

Date Range: 15-17 April, 2019 
Times: 10:00-12:00 and 18:00-20:00 EDT (UTC-4)
Language: English
Enroll Now

RawMatCop short Course — registration is still open

Earth Observation (EO) data and services from Copernicus provides a multi-scale coverage of the Earth’s surface and can support smarter exploration, more efficient and cost-effective primary production and boost environmental impact monitoring across the raw materials life cycle.

The RawMatCop Academy 2019, Copernicus for RawMaterials, offers a hands-on approach and will show you how to unlock the power of Copernicus for your company, organization or research along the entire life cycle of raw materials. The course is a part of the RawMatCop programme, a cooperation between EIT RawMaterials and Copernicus, which aims to demonstrate new applications at the intersection between Earth observation data and the raw materials sector, and will combine a mix of expert lectures and hands-on group work using case studies to demonstrate Copernicus applications.

Deadline for applications: 19 April 2019
Course period: 17-20 June, 2019
Language: English
Number of Participants: 30
Location: Università di Bologna, Department of civil, chemical, environmental and Materials Engineering (DICAM), Via Umberto Terracini 28, 40131 Bologna, Italy
Fees: Free (all transportation, accommodation and subsistence costs will be covered by EIT RawMaterials)

Enroll Now


Geo for Good Summit 2019 is now accepting applications
In 2019, Google is unifying the Earth Engine User Summit and Earth Outreach’s Geo for Good User Summit for its first ever combined Geo for Good Summit. This Summit will bring together the Earth Engine and Earth Outreach communities to one larger event where scientists, nonprofits and change-makers can learn from each other and potentially collaborate on projects for positive impact for our planet and its inhabitants. Attendance is free, while the number of seats is limited. Interested candidates will need to apply, with the competitive application process starting now until May 3, 2019.

Date: 16-19 September, 2019
Location: Google, Sunnyvale, CA, USA
Apply Now
What is MapX?

Data has become the world’s most valuable and powerful resource. MapX supports the sustainable use of natural resources by increasing access to the best available geospatial data, technology, and monitoring tools. Backed by the impartiality and integrity of the UN, MapX is the first non-commercial platform that can power a variety of applications and websites with the best available environmental data as part of a global public good. MapX was developed by UN Environment and GRID-Geneva in partnership with the World Bank and UNDP.

We look forward to bringing you the best updates of 2019!

UN Environment
Contact Us
Newsletter writer: Yalun Jin
Please send your news alert for us to feature: mapx@un.org

Copyright © 2019 UN Environment Crisis Management Branch, All rights reserved.

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