July 2019
Welcome to the fifth 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.

Case Study:
Digital tracking of environmental risks for humanitarian contexts

In December 2018, UN Environment, with support from the UN Refugee Agency, piloted the Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+) in the Mantapala refugee settlement in northern Zambia,  which was built in 2018 for up to 20,000 people around existing farmland. The NEAT+ is an innovative tool which assesses environmental risk in humanitarian contexts. The pilot project identified negative environmental and livelihood impacts in the settlement, and MapX spatial data was used to highlight nearby areas of environmental concern. (Check the project story map) As a next step, the tool will draw increasingly on MapX to gather and visualize data. 

NEAT+ was developed by eight humanitarian and environmental organizations as part of the Joint Initiative, a multi-stakeholder project aimed at improving collaboration between environmental and humanitarian actors. The tool runs on KoBo - a free open source data collection platform - built by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative - that allows data to be collected through phone, tablet or computer. Once the data is recorded, the programme automatically generates a report in Excel, categorizing risk into high, medium and low, and providing information that can help mitigate the risk. Read more about the tool and initiative here

News / Highlights

Source: Microsoft website

OceanMind uses AI and satellites to combat illegal fishing

Launched in July 2018, OceanMind is a new independent not-for-profit organisation with the mission to empower enforcement and compliance in the world’s fisheries. It has developed machine-learning algorithms that predict the type of fishing behavior based on vessel location, and flags suspicious and potentially illegal activity such as fishing too close to the shore. Fisheries experts then verify the alerts flagged by AI and coordinate closely with the relevant authorities, who can then decide whether to investigate further. Through a Microsoft AI for Earth grant, OceanMind is moving its data analytics to the Microsoft Azure cloud, which enables real-time monitoring that will help authorities plan patrols that can catch illegal fishing as it happens. 

Working with firms such as the U.K. supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, OceanMind also helps consumers to find out if the seafood products they buy come from sustainable sources. Learn more about their approaches here.

Source: Space in Africa
Africa is using earth observation to monitor environment security

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES and Africa) is a continental initiative designed to support and enable the implementation of the African Space Policy and Strategy, initiated by the African Union Commission, by way of addressing the needs of African countries in terms of access to and utilisation of Earth Observation (EO) data for the implementation of sustainable development policies on the continent. It supports the management of the environment and natural resources, as well as monitoring of humanitarian operations in Africa. The programme is jointly funded by the European Union to the tune of 30 million Euros. Part of the first phase of GMES and Africa focuses on is Water & Natural Resources, as well as marine and coastal areas. Read more here.

Source: Esri Website

Esri and the National Geographic Society announce new partnership

Building upon decades of collaboration, Esri and the National Geographic Society have announced a strategic partnership that will develop and deploy a suite of solutions for managing protected areas throughout Africa, ArcGIS Solutions for Protected Area Management (PAM). As threats to global biodiversity continue to increase due to factors including: poaching, deforestation and climate change, intelligent systems for managing and protecting natural areas are desperately needed. Through the alignment of Esri’s leading geospatial technology and the National Geographic Society’s expertise in storytelling, PAM will empower protected area managers and communities to more rapidly and effectively respond to threats, minimize human impact on habitat and species and maximize effectiveness of conservation practices in protected areas. Read more here.

A picture on the Missing Maps website shows signal strength data collected using OpenSignal. Source: Missing Maps
Missing Map Project enables volunteers to
aid relief work in disaster-hit areas

Set up by a group of humanitarian organizations, the Missing Maps Project brings disaster-hit areas and communities on the map to assist resource allocation and relief work. It is an open, collaborative project in which one can help to map areas where humanitarian organizations are trying to meet the needs of vulnerable people. The project follows three steps that include: remote volunteers tracing satellite imagery into OpenStreetMap; community volunteers adding local details such as neighborhoods, street names and evacuation centers; and humanitarian organizations using the mapped information to plan risk reduction and disaster response activities to save lives. Read more here.
Urban sprawl in Shanghai. Source: The European Space Agency (ESA)
Mapping our global human footprint
The European Space Agency (ESA) has published its World Settlement Footprint 2015 (WSF-2015) as the first map using mass collections of radar and optical satellite imagery, to provide a global overview of the world’s human settlements. This global map, with its high spatial resolution, is based on a multi-temporal analysis of over 700,000 Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar and Landsat-8 multispectral satellite images, collected during 2014-15. The new WSF-2015 dataset has been integrated on the ESA’s Urban Thematic Exploitation Platform (U-TEP) Visualisation and Analysis Tool, which includes additional data sets such as topographic and social media data, as well as socio-economic statistics, and also gives the user the option of uploading specific geographic information. Learn more about how the tool works and its many functions by joining their monthly webinar here.

Scientific Corner 

Creating xBD: A Dataset for Assessing Building Damage
from Satellite Imagery

Ritwik Gupta, Bryce Goodman, Nirav Patel, Ricky Hosfelt, Sandra Sajeev,
Eric Heim, Jigar Doshi, Keane Lucas, Howie Choset, Matthew Gaston
The IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) Workshops, 2019, pp. 10-17
Disaster types and disasters represented in xBD over the world. 
In order to motivate machine studying, Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute and CrowdAI, U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint AI Center (JAIC) and Defense Innovation Unit have open-sourced a labelled knowledge set of a large number of disasters in the past decade. The preliminary report called Creating xBD: A Dataset for Assessing Building Damage from Satellite Imagery covers the effects of disasters globally. xBD will be the largest scale dataset for the advancement of change detection and building damage assessment for humanitarian assistance and disaster recovery research, contains approximately 700,000 images of buildings in different kind of disasters together with earthquakes, wildfires, floods, and volcanic eruptions.

Logistics, resource planning, and damage estimation are difficult tasks after a disaster, and putting first responders into post-disaster situations is dangerous and costly. Using passive methods, such as analysis on satellite imagery, to perform damage assessment saves manpower, lowers risk, and expedites an otherwise dangerous process. xBD provides pre- and post-event multi-band satellite imagery from a variety of disaster events with building polygons, classification labels for damage types, ordinal labels of damage level, and corresponding satellite metadata. Furthermore, the dataset contains bounding boxes and labels for environmental factors such as fire, water, and smoke. 

Free Webinar

Undertaking Oil-Contaminated Site Assessment

This Executive Webinar introduces the goals and procedures for oil-contaminated site assessments (CSA), identifying and describing the properties and weathering of oil in different environments, the types and sources of contamination, and potential impacts to the environment and socio-economic setting. Also covered are the key steps in planning and conducting contaminated site assessments including the sample analysis and interpretation, the principles of risk assessment as a basis for guiding remediation planning. The webinar will discuss best international practice and common weaknesses and short-comings of CSAs. Country examples, including from oil-contaminated site assessments undertaken in Iraq, will be presented. 

Time: July 30, from 13:30 to 15:00 CEST (GMT +2)

Register Now

Earth Observations for Disaster Risk Assessment & Resilience 

A major factor in regional risk assessment is evaluating the vulnerability of lives and property to disasters. Environmental information about disasters, their spatial impact, and their temporal evolution can play an important role as well. This webinar series will focus on Earth observation (EO) data useful for disaster risk assessment. The series will cover natural hazards including tropical cyclones, flooding, wildfires, and heat stress. The training will also include access of socioeconomic and disaster damage data. Sessions 3 & 4 will cover case studies and operational applications of EO for disaster risk assessment.

Date Range: August 6, 2019. August 8, 2019. August 13, 2019. August 15, 2019.
Times: 10:00-12:00 EDT (UTC-4) and 15:00-17:00 EDT (UTC-4)
Registration Closes: Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Register Now


Applications open for UN-SPIDER Bonn International Conference
With a specific focus on Africa, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), through its UN-SPIDER Bonn office, and the University of Bonn’s Centre for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (ZFL) are organizing the UN-SPIDER Bonn International Conference “Space-based Solutions for Disaster Management in Africa: Challenges, Applications, Partnerships” from 6 to 8 November 2019 in Bonn, Germany. The event aims to share opportunities for strengthening local disaster management capacities in Africa using space-based information. Co-organized by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the event is intended for staff from national, regional, and international public and private organizations and institutions.

Date and Venue:            6-8 November, 2019, UN Campus, Bonn, Germany

Registration Deadline: 30 August, 2019 (applicants seeking funding)
                                         18 October, 2019 (self-funded applicants)
Register Now
Smart GEO Expo 2019, Aug 7-9,
Seoul, Republic of Korea
The Smart GEO Expo has become an annual event since 2008, that aims to promote spatial information industry development and support overseas expansion of domestic companies. The Expo includes an exhibition program where host, organizers, and many other geospatial information-related companies and agencies take part in: International Meeting for the Advancement of the Geospatial Information Cooperation for expansion of exchange and information sharing with foreign guests; and domestic as well as international conferences.
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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