Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda

Posted on August 26th, 2011 in General by Administrator

Peter Levey has been geo-referencing our library of photos for some time now and has been running a great project behind the scenes at MAPA Project. Every week he has been adding a slide show to one of the parks in the Google Earth layer.

Kidepo Valley National Park is in north east Uganda, right on the South Sudan border. Not many people visit it – it is a long way from anywhere and some people say the security situation is not great.   That’s a great pity and neither problem put off  MAPA volunteers Mark Eveleigh, Eric Nathan, Tarryn Mitchell and Deon de Jongh.  They just saddled up and drove there, and found herds of buffalo thousands strong, and lions that watched from the edge of the campfire light for hours on end.

Download the whole MAPA layer for Google Earth here and navigate to Kidepo, or download this small file and just Kidepo Valley National Park will open up on Google Earth.  When you expand the park bubble, remember to click on “Click here to see more detail….” to see the slideshow!

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How to put your project on the map

Posted on August 25th, 2011 in General,Get Involved! by Alta

As we’re counting down the days to the release of our searchable browser-based map, we’re  getting more and more excited about playing a smaller and smaller part in telling the story of conservation in Africa.  We’ve always intended the map to be a pinboard of conservation pinned by conservation practitioners and it’s not really our place to tell your stories – our job is to make it easy for you to do that.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting a variety of articles and videos to help you do just that. We’ll show you how to add content and contribute to the map, how to add affiliated organisations, species information pages, publications, popular articles, datasets ,  kml/kmz files, and YouTube videos.  We’ll teach you how to categorise your project properly, how to extract information from the searchable map and how to create your own custom maps from that.

But first things first.  This week we show you how to add your project(s) to the MAPA Google Earth map (and the forthcoming searchable browser-based map).  The YouTube video (below) is five minutes long, and will instruct you how to register as a user,  add a project title, paragraph, a picture or two, your contact information and your web details.

We’d love to know how we can make it easier for you to add your project.  Let us know what you do and don’t like about this video, the current process for adding a project, and tell us what help material you would like to see.  We’re all ears!


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Google Earth Unplugged

Posted on August 17th, 2011 in General,Google Geo Tool Blog Series,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

Using Google Earth offline in presentations and publications

Three weeks ago, we promised you a series of blog posts to follow-up some of the most common questions and topics of interest we received feedback on after our workshops. Whilst we’re usually trying to encourage people to use online tools to visualise their information, we appreciate that you might not always have the luxury of an internet connection or even Google Earth when presenting to your audience. So, in today’s post we cover a few tips, tricks and tutorials for using Google Earth when you’re disconnected.


The simplest way to share an image from Google Earth (or Maps) is to use screenshots and paste that into your publication or presentation. The picture below, for example, is a screenshot of a SANBI PowerPoint presentation, in which the presenter was communicating a specific area of concern to managers and researchers. For great example of how to use Google Earth and Maps images in a publication, have a look at these (open-access) Plos One publications by  Holland et al. (2010) (fig. 2) or  Aanensen et al.(2009).

Whereas, in most cases, using Google Earth Imagery in this manner is perfectly acceptable, we strongly suggest that you use the Google Earth Permissions tool for guidance on the proper use and citation of Google Earth & Maps imagery.

Using Google Earth Offline

Using a screenshot of a Google Earth Image certainly tells a story, but sometimes you’ll lose impact and context by working statically. The good news is that you can actually present in Google Earth without an internet connection, provided that you’ve stored the imagery you need in you cache at some point before your presentation.

“Caching” happens automatically when you’re connected –  when you fly into places in Google Earth, the imagery that you see is stored in your machine’s cache so that it will load faster. You can adjust the size of your cache, and thus the amount of imagery that you can show, by going into Tools>>Options>>Cache on the top toolbar in Google Earth.

For tips & tricks on presenting in Google Earth offline, and more information on what your cache is and how to you it, check out this tutorial on the Google Earth blog, or this Google Earth Help forum thread.

If you plan on showing custom icons, popping balloons or showing image overlays on Google Earth whilst you’re offline, remember that images referenced off the internet won’t show. Instead you’ll have to create your material in Google Earth with images from or saved to your computer, and then save this as a kmz file (if you’re going to present off someone else’s computer). To learn more about how to create self-contained kmz-files, and the pros and cons of doing that, see this Google Earth Outreach tutorial.

Whereas good practices of presenting in Google Earth is not really within the scope of this post, we’d thought we’d include a good example of how you might go about it. The video below shows highlights of  Google Earth Outreach‘s Rebecca Moore and two other nonprofits present to an audience using Google Earth (view the full video here).

No internet, no Google Earth

In some cases you may simply not have the option of using Google Earth or the internet, or you may not be too sure of how available and reliable these resources will be to you or your audience. In these situations, you may want to create an offline movie, which you can then present to your audience as a standalone, or as part of a PowerPoint Presentation. Whilst there are probably many roads to Rome, here is one way your could go about it:

Step 1: Create your material in Google Earth – use snapshot view to bookmark your imagery and make sure you set your placemarkers so you can easily navigate your way around your presentation.

Step 2: Create a Google Earth tour of the material you plan to present. Play it a few times to cache the imagery properly.

Step 3: If you have Google Earth Pro (download a free trial, or apply for a free licence if you’re a nonprofit or an educational institution), you can use the movie maker option to create an offline movie (see this tutorial in the Google Earth user guide to learn how)


You can use screen-capture software like CamStudio (free), Camtasia (30 day free trial) or SnagIt (30 day free trial) to record your screen whilst playing your tour. Although there is great help material available to help you get started (CamStudioCamtasia and SnagIt), these software packages are all pretty intuitive.  Just make sure you check out the Google Earth Permissions page before you record your movie – there are some cases where the use of screen-capture videos won’t be appropriate.

Step 4: Edit you movie if you like.  Camtasia, for example has really nice editing features, but you could also use something like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie to do this.  Remember that QuickTime videos won’t play in PowerPoint (click here for compatible formats), but you can always play your video as a standalone during your presentation, or convert it into a compatible format.

Step 5: Insert your video into your PowerPoint presentation (if you choose not to do a standalone presentation).

Once you’ve created your movie, you could always upload it to YouTube (like we did in the example below), and then send the link to interested parties, or submit it as supplementary material to your paper when publishing.  Remember that you can also upload your Google Earth material, or if you prefer, your YouTube video, to your MAPA Project bubble.  But that’s getting away from offline use of material…

Google Earth (truly) unplugged

A final option to consider is Google Earth Enterprise Portable.  This solution allows  you to customize your Google Earth globe with your organisation’s spatial data, and carry it around with you when you’re not connected to the internet.  It’s not, however, a free solution, and at the moment there is no grant program for it.  Still, if you work in an area where you need a lot of freedom from the internet, but could use Google Earth’s functionality in your work, this may be the best option for you.

We’d love to hear about how you use Google Earth offline, whether you found this post useful, or of some points we didn’t cover in this post. We’ll pick up on this series in two weeks time when we write about GPS collar data and GPS tracks.

Update: Due to our quarterly newsletter being published in the week of the next slot in the series, the “GPS tracks and collar data” post will be published week of 12 September.


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A searchable catalogue of conservation in Africa

Posted on August 5th, 2011 in General,Get Involved!,New Content by Alta

Back in the days when MAPA still stood for “Mapping Africa’s Protected Areas”, we simply wanted to create a place where Africa’s major national parks could be visible. So, with some help, we created a map on Google Earth were you could go and find that information, view videos for parks, read articles and blogs and learn about some of the work going on in the area. We added critical habitats, like biodiversity hotspots and endemic bird areas into the mix, and finally added projects as well, because we believed that the real conservation lies not in areas, but in actions.

That left us with a bit of a problem. There was no way we could find and maintain information on conservation actions in Africa – and it wouldn’t be the right thing to do by conservationists anyway. So right at the outset, we decided to let conservation practitioners tell their own stories and add their own projects.

Pretty soon we realised that if we were to succeed in providing a platform that conservationists used to build a library of conservation actions, we would have the opportunity to do something really special with the map.  Making conservation visible was a valuable thing to do, but what if  that information was accessible too? What if conservation practitioners could easily find what other conservation practitioners were doing, if conservation scientists could find which conservation actions, threats, targets and tools were being addressed, and where?  What if funders and journalists could find out about the people they were interested in funding and writing about, and if interested citizens could see what projects were being done in their communities?

To do get to that point, two things needed to happen: conservation projects needed proper categorisation, and the catalogue needed to become searchable.  We’ve been telling you for some time about the former (we’ll keep improving that in the coming months), but today we’re very excited to announce that a searchable browser-based map is being pre-released to a small group of test users.

The information on the map is exactly the same as that on the Google Earth layer, but, unlike the Google Earth map,   is searchable and browser-based (so you don’t need to have Google Earth installed). Another feature that we’re very excited about is the ability to download results (as a CSV file) and the ability to create custom layers using the KML generator (just like the Skeppies, African Conservation Trust and ADU layers that we published in the last month). We’ll tell you more about these features when we release the map publically.

Before we can do that, though, we need all the input we can get! Would you like to help us refine the map into a useful tool for conservation? Just click here to register – we could always use another opinion!

Whilst we’re very excited about releasing a searchable map of conservation in Africa, the tool will only ever be as good as the underlying information. The map can’t be complete without your project – if you haven’t pinned it on the map yet, why not give it a go?  It’s free, and although you can add videos, articles and kml files and various other categories of information, all you need to get it on is a paragraph and a picture.  So help build a map of conservation in Africa, and add your project today!

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