September 7, 2016

Open Reef Mapping Society

The Open Reef Mapping Society aims to map all islands of the Belize Barrier Reef and share all of the data in the open domain for free to stimulate citizen science and discovery.  Join us on our journey and share with #openreef.

View Chapter 1 “Beauty from Above” presented by the Open Reef Mapping Society in Belize through Esri Storymaps.  Click on the image below to view the story.


Watch Open Reef’s short trailer video below and share with your friends all over the world using #openreef and #citizensciencegis.

Why? Creative discoveries and memorable educational opportunities only happen through collaboration and through open-source data shared across international borders. Most of society will be unable to visit such wonders in their lifetimes…but we can take them there virtually.

What? We’re challenging people all over the world to create new discoveries for one of the world’s greatest wonders: the Mesoamerican Reef! We are embarking on the world’s first systematic effort to map every island on the world’s second largest barrier reef system, and we’re giving the data away for free to everyone!

How? Researchers, the public, and youth will create an online mapping site with free, openly available high resolution drone imagery, videos and geographic data for the Mesoamerican Reef in Belize.

New discoveries: We will enhance scientific discovery and wonder in the reef system by:
1) Exploring climate change issues such as sea level rise, coastal erosion, ecosystem health and conservation.
2) Understanding population dynamics and disaster management planning for the reef’s human population and buildings.
3) Creating education and outreach efforts in the reef through citizen science and online mapping and science lesson plans.
4) Developing a virtual, emotional connection to the environment for conservation and planning efforts.

All data collected will be completely free, open-source and accessible to scientists and the public. Currently, the best open-source imagery of the Mesoamerican Reef is found on Google Maps and Google Earth. Such imagery is limited in that it lacks the detail to actually see specific characteristics of islands in the reef system. We have produced and will continue to produce higher quality imagery to highlight the wonders of the Mesoamerican Reef for greater scientific discovery through research, education, and outreach.

Scientific, economic, and educational benefits: This high resolution imagery will serve as a baseline that the public can use to determine a number of environmental characteristics and changes, including sea level rise, coastal erosion, storm damage, and island diversity (in terms of development, health, and habitat). From this imagery, we will be able to determine mangrove and palmetto cover, seagrass and sand cover, and coral health. These data can be used to inform and guide sustainable management initiatives of marine resources. Stakeholders in the tourism industry will have access to these images, which will develop a sense of emotional attachment and visual wonder in the reef from new tourists and explorers.

Worldwide educational outreach potential: We offer incredible opportunities for STEM education, for students around the world, and particularly for students who are unable to afford to visit the reef or unable to visit due to disability. The open-source data will allow teachers all over the world to access free imagery, videos and maps to show their students. Students everywhere will be able to virtually experience tropical ecosystems and learn about their biological, ecological, and economic importance. When students are able to connect what they learn in their textbooks to reality, they will undoubtedly be more interested and engaged.

“Together through open source imagery and mapping everything is possible!”