Opening Up Our Science: Citizen Science GIS, a 2017 Esri Special Achievement in GIS Awardee, is committed to science that serves society. We believe in open data, sharing, community-based research and education to benefit the public good and community-based organizations. We are often asked about our Open Reef Belize initiative to drone map the vulnerable islands of Belize with consumer-level, affordable unmanned aerial vehicles (or drones). The project, now celebrating one year of success, has garnered international attention, has helped us learn through trial and error, and has provided a wealth of free and open data about Belize islands through ArcGIS Online. All of our data can be found on ArcGIS Online using the search term: Open Reef. We plan to unveil an Open Reef Belize Open Data in March 2018.

Open Reef team training with organizations in Belize

As community-based researchers, we are often asked about our drone work, our route planning, and how we turn the drone footage into usable data for mapping and science. We always welcome these questions, and encourage a community of scholars, including citizen scientists, to utilize our work for the public good. We hope our work has inspired others. We certainly have been inspired by all of the partners that have made the Open Reef work possible. To support data sharing and best practices learned from our drone fieldwork efforts, we would like to share a detailed field guide. This guide created by Nicholas Altizer, one of our project leads and a graduate student at University of Central Florida Department of Sociology, provides detailed step-by-step instructions and best practices learned by our team while working on Open Reef in Belize.

The guide is provided as a freely available, open document to stimulate greater use of drones in citizen science projects in Belize and around the world. It focuses on flight planning with the DJI Go app, discusses in-flight considerations, shares ideas for image processing using Drone2Map from Esri, shares tools for GIS digitization efforts directly from the imagery in ArcMap, and shows how to share processed drone imagery directly to the public through ArcGIS Online. It shows our entire process from start to finish to support citizen science.

We hope this guide inspires your team to reach new heights (pun intended). As always, our Citizen Science GIS team is willing and able to partner in work around the world and share our best practices for the public good. Our hope is that you share you work for the public good and inspire those around you in your part of the world. Let us know what you are up to by replying in the comments! We would love to highlight your work on our blog and social media channels.

Download the Open Reef Drone Training Guide as a PDF file by clicking on the link below.

Open Reef Drone Training Guide

Together, everything is possible.

With best wishes,

Dr. Timothy L. Hawthorne, Founding Research Director of Citizen Science GIS at University of Central Florida

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