UAA Conservation Class

Dr. Annett and Heidi Mehl join Dr. Doug Causey and his Conservation Biology class using Google+ Hangouts.

Get ready

For the mapping exercise you will need a computer-- not a tablet, because you can't use all of the mapping tools when you work on a tablet. You'll need the following on your computer:

1. Google Earth (free download) 

Help with Google Earth

2. Firefox or Chrome (not Explorer or Safari)

Firefox (free download) 

Chrome (free download) 

3. Sign up for a Google Account 

4. Once you have a Google Account, make sure you can sign in to Google Maps and see the My Places button so that you can create a new map. 

Help with Google Maps

Google Geo Tools

What is Google Earth and Google Maps?

The way to think about Google Maps and Google Earth is that they are a combination of two things: 1. Base maps consisting of satellite, aerial, and "street view" imagery, along with mapping layers that provide information about roads, geographic entities, etc.; and 2. A map "mash up" that you create and layer onto the base map but keep in your own Google Account or as a kml (Keyhole Markup Language) file on your computer. 

Google constantly updates the base maps for Google Maps and Google Earth. The rule of thumb is that they use the most current imagery that is of the best resolution (images may have clouds, for example, and in that case an older image from a cloudless day may be used instead). Google Earth Blog You can get the information about where the image came from and when it was taken by looking at the bottom of the images. How to cite Google Earth imagery This notation will change when you zoom in or out, and when you change locations- the base map is a composite of images from many different sources and dates (that's why in Google Earth you will sometimes see images from summer and winter side by side). 

Google Map Maker allows you to correct mistakes that you find in the base map. Using this tool you can input the correction and submit it to Google. Once the Googlers review your corrected map they will update the base map to correct the problem (or to add more detail). This is a very powerful tool for local communities, and Google has a Map Maker Advocate program for people who are heavily engaged in helping communities to create accurate base map information for poorly known regions.

Can you make your own map?

The second part of what Google Maps and Google Earth are all about consists of a set of tools that allow you to create your own map layers and view them on the base map. These will not alter the base map (its not the same as Map Maker discussed above), but are available for viewing online through your Google Maps My Maps, by embedding them in a Google Site (for example, see the class map at the bottom of this page), by saving as a kml file on your computer (which can be easily emailed to collaborators and opened in Google Maps as well as Google Earth), or by submitting it to the Google Earth Gallery.

You can use the tools in Google Earth as a GIS (Geographic Information System). If you have created shp files in a traditional GIS program you can convert them and import them using Google Earth Pro (which can be obtained without charge through a Google Earth Outreach grant to nonprofits and educational institutions). Unlike traditional GIS maps, Google Earth is very "web friendly" and easy to share on the internet. This is one of the reasons why it is often used for public outreach by conservation and human rights organizations. The new Google Earth Engine is an especially powerful tool for researchers, and allows you to choose the particular satellite imagery that you want to use.

Meet Google Earth Outreach

Google Earth Outreach is the philanthropic arm of Google that helps conservation and human rights nonprofits and university researchers develop maps and tours for research, education and advocacy (Dr. Annett is part of the Trainer's Network). They provide grants of Google Earth Pro, Google Earth Engine, and other advanced tools, as well as helping to develop training workshops and the technical resources to help nonprofits and universities around the world with mapping projects.

Some Inspiration and Examples: Google Earth Conservation Map Galleries

Google Earth Gallery Science and Environment
Living Oceans Gallery
Street View of the Amazon River (taken with a special camera mounted on a boat)
Street View of Arctic Village (taken with a special camera mounted on a bike or a tripod)

NASA- Retreat of Alaska’s Columbia Glacier - this gives two images that can be flipped back and forth using a comparison slider and a Google Earth kml download of the images that can be layered onto Google Earth to compare before and after images.

Sample Maps for Class Presentations and Student Projects

Norilisk, Russia

Google Earth tools used: link to open browser within Google Earth, custom map icon, placemark, path, image overlay, snapshot view, street view, grid, create tour, time slider, Panoramio photographs.

I used screen recording in Quicktime player to make the Youtube. Because Google Earth can run slowly if the bandwidth is not sufficient, it is a good idea to capture your tour as a Youtube for presentations. This also allowed me to capture things like opening the browser to show a website and opening Panoramio Photos within the video, which would be more difficult to do in a regular Google Earth tour.

The kml file for the Google Earth map I created is in the attachment section at the bottom of the page so that you can open it in your Google Earth and see the different elements. You may notice that I added paths and placemarks that are invisible, but help with navigation during the tour.

View Norilsk in a larger map


Maio Nishkian, a student at the University of Alaska at Anchorage is developing a Google Earth map for her research project on Salmonids in the Portage valley. Direct link to Google Site


Heidi Mehl, doctoral student in Geography at Kansas State University and EPA STAR fellow. Direct link to Google Site

Class Google Map

We can all work on the same Google Map by inviting everyone as collaborators to a map created in a My Maps account. For today's class we will add information to a Google Map to summarize your class projects. 

Link to class Google Map:

View UAA Conservation Class in a larger ma
Norilsk City Tour.kml
Dr. Cynthia Annett,
Feb 27, 2013, 10:02 AM
Dr. Cynthia Annett,
Feb 27, 2013, 9:09 AM