Tools for visualizing conservation on private land

Posted on November 26th, 2012 in General,Get Involved!,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

Few people will argue that protected areas – parks, nature reserves and other natural areas – are essential for biodiversity conservation. They assist in reducing deforestation, habitat and species loss, and support the livelihoods of over a billion people, while, according to IUCN’s latest report on the state of protected areas, containing 15% of the world’s carbon stock.  The same report shows how organisations and governments are working hard to secure more of it: in the last 20 years global coverage of areas has increased from 8.8% to 12.7% for terrestrial areas, and from 0.9% to 4% for marine areas.

However important formal protected areas are, it’s also undeniable that securing land for conservation via formal proclamation is not going to be enough for us to achieve our biodiversity goals. In South Africa’s Western Cape, for example, most of the province’s biodiversity lies within private ownership, and it is unrealistic that this land might be purchased by the state for conversion to Protected Areas.

For this reason, many national and provincial authorities have taken to “mainstreaming” biodiversity conservation by involving private landowners through stewardship initiatives, biodiversity agreements and other incentive-based or voluntary programmes.

These areas, the conservation efforts on them, and their overall contribution to the biodiversity estate are, however, not always all that well known by the general public. Needless to say, we at MAPA are thrilled to be involved in an initiative to help change this by making private conservation land, and conservation efforts on them, more visible and accessible with the help of free online geo tools.

Together with Conservation at Work, the umbrella body for conservation on private land in the Western Cape, we have put together a few resources specifically geared towards individuals conservancy members, stewardship site managers and other individuals active in conservation on private conservation areas:

  • On the 7th and 8th of February 2013, we will be running one of our popular Google Geo workshops at the University of Cape Town. This (free) workshop will be specifically tailored for the private conservation sector, and will teach highly practical tools for mapping, visualizing and sharing information about conservation efforts on private land. No prior programming or GIS experience is required!  To find out more and apply, visit Applications close 15 December 2012!
  • In conjunction with this opportunity, we are also making available a mapping toolkit.


The “Tools for mapping conservation on private land” website comprises a collection of online mapping resources to help you map your conservation efforts and areas, visualize problems and successes on private land, and communicate these maps and visualizations to colleagues, stakeholders, or the world.

On the site, you can learn how to add your project to MAPA’s registry of African conservation, how to create a shareable map for your projects, how to add your private protected land to Google Maps using Google Map Maker, how to communicate and visualise conservation with free online tools like Google Earth, Google Maps and Fusion Tables, and about upcoming in-person training on Geo Tools.

Whether you run a private game reserve, are an active conservancy member, or run a research project on a stewardship site, we hope you will help these resources helpful! We will be adding more articles and links to the site in the near future – please let us know what you would like to see on this site, and help us help you make conservation on private land more visible and accessible.

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MAPA Newsletter: New Developments and Northerly Drives

In the last three months we’ve been learning more about Zimbabwean conservation, released a brand new user-interface for finding and adding conservation projects , and have started to prepare for an exciting new workshop in Cape Town.  Here is our latest newsletter:

A brand new project user-interface and search page

One of our main jobs is to build a catalogue and map of Africa’s conservation projects. How well we achieve that almost entirely depends on how many conservationists use our website to add their work, which in turn largely depends on how easy it is for them to use it.

After quite a few iterations of just-not-quite-getting it right, we were excited to announce the release of a much cleaner and simpler new user-interface in March.  But don’t take our word for it – try it out yourself! Head over to to search the database for protected areas, critical habitats, and of course, contributed conservation projects from across the continent. Then map your search in Google Earth!

Can’t find your project in the database? Add it! Simply register as a user, login, and fill in your projects’ details. As soon as you choose to make it live, others will be able to find it in the database, and see it on our Google Earth conservation map.

We hope that you’ll enjoy using this new system – as always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and criticisms!

Zimbabwe Drive

At the end of March, with the help of our friends at Africa Geographic & Tracks4Africa, we embarked on a two month mission to get Zimbabwean conservation on the map – a drive that saw us connect with over a  hundred of the country’s most prominent and dedicated conservationists. During that time, we got to learn a little more about the projects these men and women work at, which include  environmental advocacy in the Zambezi valley, the research,  conservation and welfare of large carnivores,  on-the ground logistical support for Zimbabwe’s parks authorities and sustainable development through agricultural research and public-private partnerships – to name but a few.


Many of these Zimbabwean initiatives have already been added to our conservation map, and a few more will be live soon. Look out for that, a report back on the drive, and an exciting partnership with the Green Zambezi Alliance, in the six weeks.

Our Zimbabwean education wasn’t all “distance learning”, though! At the beginning of May, we also had the opportunity to travel up to Harare to meet a small group of Zimbabwean conservationists in person for a three day workshop on how to use Google’s mapping tools in their work, and how to use MAPA’s conservation mapping tool for their own benefit. This blog post has more.

Google Map Maker & Google Map Engine at our Cape Town training

Fresh of our mapping workshop at Mapumula in May, we announced another Google Geo Workshop for June, this time in Cape Town,  at UWC’s brand new Life Science building.

What’s particularly exciting about this training is that it will introduce two tools that are only just becoming available to South Africans, and nonprofits.

Google Map Maker, the tool that allows you to add the points of interests you care about to Google Maps, was launched South Africa just over a week ago. We’re so excited that Evans Arabu from the Google Map Maker team will be joining us at this workshop to show environmentalists how to give parks, reserves, landscape features and those obscure study sites nobody has ever heard of, their rightful and correct place on the map!

Another relatively new Google Geo Tool that will feature at the workshop is Google Maps Engine, a revolutionary geospatial tool that allows organisations to manage their data in the cloud and easily make and share maps using Google Earth, Maps and Android phones. Globally, it’s already being successfully utilised by organisations like World Wildlife Fund, Eyes on the Forest and the Living Oceans Society to manage and publish critical environmental data,  and we look forward to giving our workshop participants a first glance at how this technology can be leveraged for their own organisations.
The Overberg district municipality’s wetlands & critical biodiversity areas, mapped using Google Maps Engine (data downloaded from BGIS:, copyright C.A.P.E)

That’s it for this quarter’s newsletter! We look forward to sharing more conservation stories, tools, and of course, maps, with you in the next three months!



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A more complete protected areas map for Zim

Posted on April 5th, 2012 in General,Get Involved! by Alta

Our Zimbabwe drive is now in full swing, and, with the help of Zimbabwe’s conservation practitioners, we’re steadily busy populating the MAPA database with Zimbabwean conservation projects.

Whereas our current focus is all about creating a map of conservation projects, the MAPA Google Earth layer and searchable map comprise a few additional “categories” of conservation effort, including critical habitats and, of course, protected areas.

In the last couple of months, in an attempt to get all parts of our conservation map as complete as possible, we’ve been updating the representation of Zimbabwe’s protected areas. We’ve even added a few slideshows as a special treat, like the beautiful Gonarezhou slideshow we shared with you in last week’s post, and the  slideshow of Matusadona National Park below. To see these slideshows in Google Earth, download and open the MAPA layer, click on the “Click here to see more” button in any of the protected areas bubbles, and look out for the orange camera icon, labeled “slideshow”. If you see that, you’re in luck.

Matusadona National Park (Photos: Peter Levey)

As always, though, the MAPA layer is in the hands of Africa’s conservationists. We’re not the experts on Zimbabwean protected areas….you are! If you have a particular interest in or knowledge of any of these areas, particularly if you run a project close to or in any of these parks, reserves and conservancies, we’d love to hear from you!

We’ve put together a cut-out map of only the Zimbabwean protected areas (click here to download this, and then double click on the downloaded file to open it in Google Earth). Please have a look at the bubbles and boundaries and let us know how we can represent “your” protected area more accurately and aesthetically.  To comment you can either click on the “add comment” or “send correction” links at the bottom of every bubble, or simply send us an email.

We’re thoroughly enjoying finding and putting together the puzzle pieces of Zimbabwe’s conservation story, and we hope that you can help us tell this part of that narrative as accurately as possible. Look out for the first project features next week and if you haven’t added your project yet, we hope you will soon!

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The Zimbabwe Drive kicks off!

Posted on March 29th, 2012 in General,Get Involved!,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

In the last two months, we’ve been telling you lots about our collaborative drive to create a map and registry of Zimbabwean conservation projects.  Today we’re very happy to announce that yesterday, a little belatedly, this drive officially kicked off.  It will be running until the 5th of May.

Gonarezhou National Park (Photos: Peter Levey)

In the next six weeks, if you’re a conservationist working in Zimbabwe, we would like to ask you to go to our brand new, easy-to-use, online project portal, register as a user, and add your conservation project(s) to MAPA’s database.  Your project will automatically appear on our publically available Google Earth layer, and searchable online map.

As a little extra encouragement, we’re running a number of other promotions and initiatives as part of this drive. You can find out more about these over at our Zimbabwean focus site, but, just to whet your appetite, here are a few highlights:

  • A free Africa Geographic/Africa Birds & Birding subscription and Tracks4Africa GPS map – just for adding your project!

Every project leader who adds a conservation project (active/completed in Zimbabwe) will receive a free 6-month Africa Geographic/Birds and Birding digital subscription and a Tracks4Africa GPS map for Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Tracks4Africa will also be giving away a free GPS to one randomly selected project.

A big thank you to Africa Geographic and Tracks4Africa for this great sponsorship!

  • Google Geo Tool workshop in Harare!

We will be running a 3-day Google Geo Tool workshop in Harare, from the 3rd-5th of May. At the workshop we will show you how to get the most out of Google Earth, Google Maps, Fusion Tables and other tools for your conservation project.

Learn more and sign up here, if you haven’t already.

  • Google Geo Tool Initiative: maps for your project!

Would you like to see your animal collar tracks animated in Google Earth, create a map of your projects’ activities for your sponsors, share your GIS data with collaborators or create a mini-documentary in Google Earth? Let us know what you would like to do, and we’ll help you do it.

For more information, and to get a few ideas for your own project, head over to our Google Geo tool page.

We can scarcely wait to learn about the real work that goes into Zimbabwean conservation, the issues these conservationists face and the threats they are seeking to address.  In the next six weeks, we’ll be sharing these stories with you as they come in – we’ll be posting to this blog, as well as to our TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook profiles.

If you’d like to learn more about our Zimbabwean conservation focus, head over to the drive’s website.  And if you do any conservation work in Zimbabwe, we hope that you’ll add your project today!


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A new, easy way to add your conservation project!

Posted on March 29th, 2012 in General,Get Involved! by Alta

If you’ve been following us in the last year or so, you’ll know by now that MAPA is collaborating with conservationists to build a registry and map of African conservation projects:  we provide the map and we let your pin your project on it.

How does this work practically? You have to go to a website, register as a user, fill out a form with information about your project, and make your record public. The map updates dynamically from the database and your project will show up on our Google Earth layer, and on our searchable browser-based map. [For a more detailed explanation of this process, read this blog post]

Easy enough? Well, it should have been. But up until know many conservationists have found the online form a little confusing to use and have consequently struggled to add their projects.

We listened to them, and today, just in time for the launch of our Zimbabwean drive, we’re happy to announce that we now have a brand new, user-friendly place when you can add your project: head over to and tell us what you think!

One new feature you’ll see in the new interface  is  green help/instruction boxes that appear as you start entering your information in any given cell – so you should be able to add your project without having to consult instructions. However, if you’d like a little more orientation first, we have put together a new help page (currently residing on the Zimbabwean site, but not only for Zimbabweans!) and have launched a new help forum to guide you along.

If you’ve already added your project using the old system, don’t worry! Just log in as per usual to the new system and you will see your project records and associated information.

We hope that you enjoy this new interface, and if you haven’t already, you’ll add your conservation project soon!


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Google Geo Tool workshop in Zimbabwe!

Posted on March 19th, 2012 in General,Get Involved!,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

One of the main goals of the MAPA Project is to make conservation more visible. For this reason we marry our project very tightly to both using and teaching tools that can help conservationists visualise and communicate their work, be it to policy makers, the general public, or peers. It is in this spirit that we occasionally put on Google Geo Tool workshops – events where we teach conservationists how to use Google Earth, Google Maps and Fusion Tables to visualise, map and communicate their work.

Google Geo Tool workshop in Harare, 3-5 May 2012

We’re excited to announce that we’ll be running one of these workshops in Harare, from the 3rd to the 5th of May 2012.  You don’t need to be a GIS boffin or tech wiz to attend, only comfortable with using your computer – our workshops are designed for conservation practitioners of all levels of qualifications and assume no programming or GIS skills.

At the training we will introduce you to using Google Earth, Google Maps and Fusion Tables for supporting decision making, increasing public awareness, and creating maps for your conservation project or organisation. We hope to also use this event to tell you more about how you can use the MAPA Project’s conservation map, to showcase Zimbabwean conservation projects (your work!) and most importantly, to meet you!

You can apply to attend here.

Google Geo Tool Initiative: Let us help you visualise your work!

As part of our special focus on Zimbabwe, we will go a step further than just teaching you how to use Google Earth, Maps and Fusion Tables – we’ll actually use these tools to create or help create material specifically for your project. For the next six week, if you’re a Zimbabwean conservationist or working in Zimbabwe, you can tell us what map or visualisation you need and we will either help you to create it or point you in the right direction.

We’ve put together a few examples on our Zimbabwe conservation site specifically to help guide you through the types of projects we can put together for you.  Rembember that we will teach you how to create projects at the workshop, and that there are a wealth of online tutorials available to walk you step by step through creating your own project.  For each of the example project on our site, we’ve pointed you to one or more of these tutorials in case you’d like to have a stab at creating a similar project with your own data.

We’ll bring you more news on the Zimbabwe conservation registry drive, including how and where to add your projects, very soon. Until then, we look forward to receiving your applications for the workshop and hearing about your conservation projects!

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Our latest newsletter: Zooming in on Zim

Posted on March 2nd, 2012 in General,Get Involved!,Google Geo Tools,Newsletters,Workshops by Alta

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know that for the last little while, we here at MAPA have had Gonarezhou on our minds. And Mana pools, Kariba dam, Victoria Falls, Matobo Hills….in fact, we’ve been getting downright zesty about Zim. We’re pleased to let you know that this affliction is only going to get worse! Don’t worry; we are still thinking about other conservation projects and places too! Here is our latest newsletter:

The Great Zimbabwe registry

Last week we officially announced the Zimbabwe drive, due to start on the 19th of March.  What is this drive exactly? Simply put, MAPA will be collaborating with Zimbabwean conservationists to build a registry and map of Zimbabwean conservation projects. We’ll also be highlighting issues of concern, organisations who work in Zimbabwe and hope to bring you many great Zimbabwean maps. Visit the drive’s website to find out more, or subscribe to the mailing list if you’d like to get weekly updates via email.

Google Geo: Zimbo style

Last year we put on a number of very popular Google Geo Tool workshops with conservationists from all over Africa. We love doing these workshops, both because we get to equip conservationists with practical skills to communicate their work, and because they allow us to get to know the people behind the work – which can lead down all sorts of exciting roads.

At our last workshop, for example, we were pleasantly surprised to meet the ladies from the Dambari Wildlife Trust, who travelled all the way down from Bulawayo to attend the training in Johannesburg. We started talking; one thing lead to another, and three months later, the Zimbabwe drive was born!

Nicky and Verity

Verity Bowman (far left) and Nicola Pegg (left) from the Dambari Wildlife Trust hard at work at the EWT workshop

It comes as no great surprise then, that our focus on Zimbabwe will include not only a Google Geo workshop or two, but a six-week long initiative where we will help you create your own Google EarthGoogle Maps and Fusion Tables mapping projects.

We’re kicking off the Google Geo part of the drive by starting small:  On the 19th and 20th of March we’ll be running a very personalised workshop in Cape Town, at the University of the Western Cape’s swanky new facilities. The workshop is for anyone in conservation or natural science who works in Zimbabwe, or with Zimbabwean data.

Although we will still teach you to use Google Earth, Maps, Fusion Tables and how to get the most out of MAPA’s conservation map (just like at our regular workshops), this workshop will be highly focused on participants’ own data. In fact, we’d like to be so focused on your work that we’re restricting the workshop to just 10 participants. There are a few spots left, so if you’re interested in attending, let us know soonest by emailing mapaworkshops[at]gmail[dot]com. We’ll follow up on a case-by-case basis.

For those of you who are worried about making it down to Cape Town from Zim – don’t worry, there is (at least) one workshop in Zimbabwe on the cards at the end of the drive, in early May. We’ll tell you more about that, as well as how you can get the most out of the Google Geo Tool initiative, in the next fortnight.

Africa Geographic and Tracs4Africa partner up with us for the Zimbabwe drive

The MAPA Project tells the world about African conservation projects and where they happen and so it seems only right that we should be teaming up with the continent’s premier conservation story-teller and master navigator.

As part of the Zimbabwe drive, Africa Geographic has kindly agreed to hand out a free 6-month digital subscription to their magazine (either Africa Geographic magazine or Africa Birds & Birding) to every organisation that adds a project. On top of that, Tracks4Africa will make sure you get a copy of their GPS maps for Zimbabwe and Zambia, and will also give away a handheld GPS to one randomly-selected participant.

You can learn more about these, and other great incentives over at the Zimbabwe drive website.  A big thank you to Africa Geographic and Tracks4Africa for your generosity!

Registering Rhino Projects

This year, MAPA will be going about populating our conservation map in a number of ways. We’ll be focusing more on countries (Zimbabwe being the current focus, obviously), but also on topics and taxa that span the continent.

As far as conservation topics go, they don’t come much hotter than the current Rhino poaching crisis, and we will be doing our bit by turning our attention to creating a near-complete registry of African Rhino projects, in the very near future.

As an appetiser, we recently put out a “first call” to Rhino conservationists and researchers. There’s much more in the pipeline, so stay tuned!

Remember that you can add your project at any time, whatever your conservation topic or country of residence! If you’re confused about how to get started, here’s a little help.

We’re not only mapping projects!

You may have noticed that we never refer to ourselves by our “full” original name anymore. Whereas we were once mapping Africa’s Protected Areas, we’ve now slightly outgrown our name. However, we do still represent protected areas and other critical habitats on our maps, and we still need your help to get it right!  To learn more about how we threw our name away and how we went about putting protected areas on the map, read our two part blog series here:[part 1][part 2].

Action-packed Autumn

We’ve got some exciting developments lined up for the next three months: We’ll be bringing you revamped project-input screens, new training materials, more Google Geo Tool workshop news, plenty of Zimbabwean conservation maps and hopefully, a more complete African conservation map!  For updates and news, follow us on TwitterGoogle+ or Facebook.

We’ll see you at the end of May.  Until then, a big, big thank you to all our friends, supporters and collaborators. This project wouldn’t exist without you!


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The Zimbabwe Conservation Registry drive gains momentum

Posted on February 24th, 2012 in Featured Conservation,General,Get Involved!,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

What if there was an easy way you could easily find out what work other conservationists in your field were involved in? What they were doing to address the same problems you have? Who were funding them? Who they were collaborating with? What if your project could be visible to others in your field? A public that could contribute? Grant-making bodies that could fund your work?

For the past two years, we here at MAPA have been building just such a tool with our online project registry and map. It’s been showing great potential and we’ve had wonderful encouragement from conservationists from all over Africa, but we also know that it will ultimately only really be useful if enough African conservationists are represented on it. But Africa is a big place! And so we’re tackling this enormous task one country at a time!

A few weeks ago, we told you about our Zimbabwe Conservation Registry drive, an initiative that will see the MAPA Project working with conservationists in Zimbabwe to achieve just such a registry and map for this country of Miombo woodlands, mighty waterways and majestic wildlife.

Thanks to encouragement from the many Zimbabwean conservationists we’ve been in contact with since then, and a generous partnership with Africa Geographic and Tracks4Africa, we can now officially announce that this drive will take place between the 19th of March and the 30th of April 2012. We can scarcely wait!

So what will the Zimbabwe registry drive entail?

The main thing we’ll ask participating individuals and organisations to do is to add an online “project profile” for each of their projects.  If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that anyone can do this do this already. However we’ve been working on more user-friendly input screens to make adding projects even easier and will be making these available just before the start of the drive, together with updated help materials and increased support.

During the drive, we’ll also be supporting conservationists with more ways to make Zimbabwean conservation more visible. Generally, we’ll be updating protected areas and critical habitats on our conservation map. Specifically, we’ll be offering workshops to teach conservationists how to use the MAPA tool for their own organisations, as well as how to use tools like Google Earth, Google Maps and Fusion Tables to highlight and communicate their own data, and the issues they care about. We’ll be going one step further and even help them create these visualisations.

But we don’t want to give too much away! More news on these initiatives soon!

Gifts from Africa Geographic and Tracks4Africa

To make it a little more appealing to go to the trouble of adding a project, our partners at Tracks4Africa and Africa Geographic are offering a few nice incentives to every organisation which loads a project:

  • Every organisation which loads one or more projects will be able to download the latest Garmin compatible GPS map for Zimbabwe & Zambia for free, from Tracks4Africa. It’s a routable map, with 38,000km of roads and over 5,000 points of interest.
  • MAPA, T4A and Africa Geographic will also be doing their best to publicise this effort and give your projects some exposure.

Interested? Follow along!

We’ll be talking a lot more  about the Zimbabwe drive in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in following along, or participating, here are some ways that you can keep abreast of developments:

  • We’ll be sending out a more-or-less weekly email with updates, news and information to our Zimbabwean mailing list. Sign up here, if you’d like to join it! You’ll receive more or less one email a week until the end of April.
  • We’ll be using our social media platforms to make new announcements too and undertake to use these platforms to highlight your efforts by re-tweeting, re-posting and re-sharing – so follow us on TwitterGoogle+ or Facebook.

A big thank you to all the Zimbabwean conservationists who have already weighted in to make this initiative possible.  A special thank you to our friends at the Dambari Wildlife trust, and our partners at Africa Geographic and Tracks4Africa. We certainly couldn’t do any of this without you!


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Help create a registry of Rhino Projects

Posted on February 17th, 2012 in General,Get Involved!,Google Geo Tools by Alta

The MAPA Project exists in large part to help conservationists make the work they do, the wildlife they protect, and the problems that they care about, more visible.

As far as problems are concerned, few would argue that rhino poaching occupies a very central place on the conservation agenda at the moment.

With seemingly insatiable demand for rhino horn in Asia, rhino deaths at the hands of poachers rose sharply in 2011, and soared in 2012. But see for yourself: we created an interactive Fusion Table map of SANParks’ tally, which they released earlier this week. Click on the polygons to explore the situation in each of South Africa’s nine provinces, and in the Kruger National Park.

Rhino poaching is a difficult problem, but there can be no denying that a lot of organisations are doing wonderful work, tackling it from many different angles.  Some run awareness campaigns in Asia, others lobby governments, and others yet help kit out and support anti-poaching rangers.

While it’s great that so many organisations are throwing their weight behind the issue, the general public is often lost when it comes to knowing exactly where to direct their money, and attention. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way that they could find out exactly who was doing what, and where they were doing it?

We think that we can create exactly such a resource…with your help.

How? The MAPA Project upload website allows anyone in conservation to register and add information about their project online (see this video for help).

All you have to do is to add your project here, and whatever you add will appear both on our Google Earth conservation layer and searchable Google map. Not only will anyone looking for information on rhinos be able to find you on the map, but you can also create a custom map of the information that you care about by downloading your search results to Google Earth.

But our map is not the only way we help conservationists make their work visible.

Did you know that (without having to be a programmer) you can create a similar map  from your own data, using a free tool called Fusion Tables? (Here’s a tutorial if you would like to try).

Over the last couple of years, we’ve increasingly used free Geo tools like Google Earth, Google Maps and Fusion Tables to create and help create data stories for our own project, and for other conservationists that we work with….and we’d like you to get the most out of these tools too!

If you have a story, animation or  mapping project that you would like to include in the MAPA Google Earth layer, a report  or your website,  it can probably be done quite quickly using these online tools.   If you prefer to explore and learn on your own, head over to the Google Earth Outreach site to get started. Otherwise, tell us what you want to do and we’ll help, or at least point you in the right direction.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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MAPA 101: MAPA Conservation Map Basics

Posted on February 10th, 2012 in General,Get Involved! by Alta

Update 27/03/2012: We’ve changed this post to reflect our new home for adding projects:

One question we get asked more often than we would like is how one can see the MAPA layer in Google Earth.  If our map is going to be useful to you, it’s pretty important that you know how to see it,  so we thought that it was high time we explained how to do that:

The Short answer: what to do to see the MAPA layer in Google Earth (or in your browser):

Step 1: Make sure that you have Google Earth downloaded & installed (version 6.0 or higher).

Step 2: Click this link to download the MAPA layer as a KML file on your machine.  There are a few other places you could have downloaded it from: Our website (top right hand corner), The Google Earth GalleryThe Google Earth Outreach Showcase or from our browser-based map (top right hand corner).

Step 3: Double click on that file to launch it in Google Earth. It will appear in your “Temporary Places” folder in your “Places” panel and you will see the icons appear on your screen, as shown in the screenshot below.

Remember that you can also see a searchable version of the MAPA conservation map in your browser. Visit to get started.

The Longer Explanation:

One of the main reasons Google Earth can be used to tell such powerful spatial stories is that anyone can add information, be it a simple point or a more complex imported GIS dataset, to the “default” view they get when  they download and install Google Earth.

The fact that anyone can annotate Google Earth and then share that information means that anyone with an important message and informed perspective can communicate their understanding and information, and guide others interested  and affected through this contextualised view of the world.

Whereas anyone can create, save and share content in Google Earth, some organisations and individuals  have leveraged this technology in more advanced ways to create powerful visualisations and informative maps (like ours, we hope!), that have been released to and shared with the world.

However, with few exceptions, these layers are not available in Google Earth by default. Instead, the most common way these maps are shared is by making them available as KML or KMZ files that can be downloaded from organisations’ websites and repositories like the Google Earth Gallery and the Google Earth Outreach Showcase.

There’s nothing really mystical about KML or KMZ files — without getting into the detail, they’re the formats of files that are saved out of, or created for opening in Google Earth. In the simplest sense, our map is just one such KML file that you can download and add to your “Places”, on top of the “default” view of Google Earth.

If you’re still unsure about how to go about  adding KML and KMZ files to Google Earth, here’s a video tutorial to guide you through it.

How does the map work?

Now that you can see the map in Google Earth, here’s a quick explanation of how the map itself is put together (also explained simplistically in the diagram below):

The map  actually consists of two parts: there’s the layer you see in Google Earth, or the searchable version of that in your browser,  and then there’s the online database from which that map  is dynamically generated.

When you download our KML file, you don’t download the actual points and polygons, but a much smaller file that contains just a link to the database. Whenever you open that downloaded file in Google Earth, the link will retrieve the latest data from the database to generate the map.

Once you’ve downloaded the KML file, you won’t have to do it again. The link will always generate the map from the database,  which means that the latest version of it will always be showing on your machine.

Where does my project fit in?

As you may have guessed, when you add a project, you don’t add it directly to the map, but rather to the database that generates the map. All this entails, on your end, is going to a website, registering as a user, and adding your project information by essentially filling in a form.

Once you’re happy with your project, you can just tick the “show live” box on your project and it will automatically on the map. You’ll always have access to your project and you can change and remove anything that you’ve added at any time. Here’s some material to help you along.

We hope this post helps you understand how you can use the MAPA Conservation Map, and participate in it’s development!



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