From Lake Tanganyika to Google Earth: Using tech to help our communities

Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 6:00 AM


Today we're joined by Dr. Jane Goodall, primatologist and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and Roots & Shoots program. In this post, Dr. Goodall shares her thoughts on how today’s technology can enable more people around the world to make a difference in their communities. Join Dr. Goodall for a celebratory Birthday Hangout on Air today at 11 a.m. PDT/2 p.m. EDT. -Ed.

When I first set foot on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1960 to study chimpanzee behavior, I carried with me notebooks, pencils and a pair of second-hand binoculars. I was, at the time, a young woman with no scientific training, but had a strong passion for learning about animals in Africa. In later years I founded the Jane Goodall Institute, dedicated to preserving the habitat of chimpanzees and other animals worldwide.

The author connects with a member of the Kasakela chimpanzee community in Gombe. 
Photo courtesy of JGI.

Today, the mapping technology available to all of us is completely changing the potential for animal and environmental research. My trip in 1960 would have looked quite different today. You have much more power at your fingertips, and you don't even have to leave your home. Tools like Google Earth let you visit the shores of Lake Tanganyika with just a few keystrokes. And in Gombe, local villagers are using Android smartphones and tablets, in conjunction with Google Maps Engine and Earth Engine, to monitor changes in the forest habitat that affect chimpanzee populations. Technology makes it so easy for people to find and share information and to understand the world around them. And once we understand, we can start to foster positive change.

The Jane Goodall Institute engages local communities from Tanzania, Uganda and across Africa to collect data on forests, wildlife and human activities using Google Android handheld devices. 
Photo courtesy of JGI/Lilian Pintea.

That’s one of the reasons we started the Roots & Shoots program to connect young people with the knowledge and tools they need to solve problems in their communities. The projects undertaken by these young people help them learn important science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills while developing real leadership capabilities. Today, Roots & Shoots is launching a new community mapping tutorial for young people to help them use digital mapping technology to identify and address needs in their community. If you’re an educator, we offer online professional development to help you fit our youth leadership model into your classroom and curriculum. You can sign up for the Roots & Shoots MOOC to learn more.

Roots & Shoots groups from Uganda, Tanzania, and Republic of Congo share their projects.
There are more than 8,000 Roots & Shoots groups in 136 countries. Photos courtesy of JGI.

Today, on my 80th birthday, my wish is for young people around the world to think about the ways you can use technology to learn more about the wonderful world we share. Then, to take action, and inspire others to do the same. You have the power to do so much more than I did in 1960, to spark change I could only imagine back then. And you can do it no matter where in the world you are.

Wander through Angkor’s thousand-year-old temples on Street View

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 6:00 PM


The sunrise at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is one of Southeast Asia’s most iconic and breathtaking vistas. Dawn brings to light the many temples that are thousands of years old, nestled in a web of ancient roads and jungles. Today you’ll be one step closer to that view as we are making more than 100 of these historic sites available online with Street View on Google Maps.

The temples at Angkor each have a unique story—whether it’s the way they were built, the ancient Khmer cities they sit on, or the artwork they contain. To give you the most complete picture, our team used all the tools available to us: Street View cars, Trekkers and tripods to carefully photograph the exteriors and interiors of Angkor’s temples as they stand today.



With more than 90,000 new panoramic images views, we hope Cambodians and others around the world can experience these cultural and archaeological treasures in an entirely new way. Whether it’s revisiting iconic sites such as Bayon Temple in time for the Khmer New Year or studying the Ramayana’s Battle of Lanka bas relief carvings within Angkor Wat, Street View can help you more easily explore Angkor’s rich heritage.


After roaming the temples, you can also experience more of Angkor’s rich historical and artistic heritage through the Google Cultural Institute. From 12th-century sculpture and mid-20th century photography to modern-day renderings of medieval Angkor life, nearly 300 exhibits across the Google Cultural Institute can give you a look at Khmer culture through the ages.

We hope this new imagery will not only let people experience the scale and beauty of Angkor wherever they are, but also demonstrate how technology can change the way cultural treasures are preserved for generations to come.

Become a Pokémon Master with Google Maps

Monday, March 31, 2014 at 9:42 AM


We value employees who are risk-taking and detail-oriented, have deep technical knowledge, and can navigate through tall grass to capture wild creatures. It turns out that these skills have a lot in common with another profession—that of the Pokémon Master. With that in mind, we’ve worked with Pokémon and Nintendo to develop a new training tool to help people hone their Pokémon-capturing abilities using Google Maps.

Dozens of wild Pokémon have taken up residence on streets, amidst forests and atop mountains throughout Google Maps. To find and catch ‘em all, you’ll need to tap into your inner Pokémon Master.



If you think you’re up to the challenge, grab your Poké Ball and the newest version of Google Maps for iPhone or Android. Then tap the search bar, “press start,” and begin your quest.
Leave no stone unturned or city unzoomed as you seek out wild Charizards and Pikachus to add to your Pokédex. Be vigilant—you never know if a wild Steelix will appear in Tokyo, Japan or New York City, USA. And follow Google Maps on Google+, Facebook and Twitter for hints and tips.
Time is of the essence—in the words of Professor Oak, “The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the Pokémon.”

Update: We hope you've enjoyed wading through water and tall grass to catch Pokemon all over the world this April Fools' Day. Good Mews for trainers who want the fun to lastthose who have caught 5 or more Pokemon can still continue their quest to catch 'em all for a little while longer with Google Maps for iPhone and Android.

©Google; Pokemon content © Pokemon/Nintendo/Creatures/GAME FREAK

Helping our communities adapt to climate change

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 11:16 AM


Today the White House announced the Climate Data Initiative, aimed at helping organizations and communities use public data to better understand and prepare for the effects of climate change. Up until now, it’s been difficult for the public to locate detailed, timely data relevant to climate-related risks such as extreme weather events. To help address this challenge, Google is donating cloud computing storage and access to other tools to support institutions that are driving climate change resilience.

First, we’re providing 50 million hours of high-performance computing on the Google Earth Engine geospatial analysis platform. Earth Engine brings together the world’s satellite imagery with tools to help detect changes and map trends on the Earth’s surface. Earth Engine has already been applied to unlock valuable information from the 40+ year treasure trove of Landsat satellite data (USGS/NASA), including an interactive timelapse of the planet from 1984-2012, the first high-resolution global maps of deforestation, and a near real-time deforestation alert system that allows anyone interested in forest monitoring to take part. We hope that with this new donation, researchers will focus on applying Earth Engine to address climate-related risks such as managing agricultural water supplies and modeling the impacts of sea-level rise and storm surge.

We’re also partnering with leading researchers, allowing them to scale their work with Earth Engine and quickly move from the laboratory into people’s hands. Together with academic partners in the western U.S., we’ll produce the first high-resolution, near real-time drought monitoring and mapping products for the entire continental United States—and make them freely available to the public.

Traditional static graphic showing record-breaking drought in California in Feb 2014. Red = Dry; Blue = Wet. Source: the Desert Research Institute, University of Idaho and University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Finally, we’re donating one petabyte (one billion megabytes) of cloud storage to house satellite observations, digital elevation data, and climate/weather model datasets. We encourage the global community to work with us on this project by contributing and curating data, and developing public-benefit applications. We’re already collaborating with researchers at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Bristol U.K. and the government of Australia.

See how Google Maps Engine was used to highlight the vulnerabilities associated with rising sea levels, storm surges, and coastal inundations in the Republic of Vanuatu. The darker blue shows present-day inundation of the Efate lagoon during a high astronomical tide, and the lighter blue shows predicted inundation in 2090 due to sea level rise. Source: Australian Government and the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information.

To find out more, visit the Earth Engine website, view a sample map on the Google Maps Gallery, follow us on Google+ and Twitter, and tune in to White House live stream today at 5:15pm EDT.

Posted by Tyler Erickson, Developer Advocate, Google Earth Engine

Explore America’s most endangered river on Street View

Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 3:00 AM


This guest post is by Chris Williams, Senior Vice President of Conservation at American Rivers. We’ve partnered with American Rivers to share the adventure of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in Google Maps. -Ed.

For 6 million years, the Colorado River has flowed through the heart of the desert southwest, its waters slowly carving out a canyon so vast it can be seen from space—yet so remote it didn’t appear on early maps of the region. It wasn’t until 1869, when John Wesley Powell led a small exploration party on a rafting trip, that the natural wonders of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon came fully into view.

Now with Google Street View, you can ride the whitewater rapids, cruise the sleepy river bends, and discover the side canyons that make the Colorado River a treasured resource.


Start at an iconic spot like Deer Creek Falls or North Canyon, or climb up to the Nankoweap Granaries. Geology fans will enjoy formations like Hermit Shale and Tapeats Sandstone. On your journey, look out for wildlife like big horn sheep and signs of a volcanic dam that naturally occurred centuries ago.

While you admire its grandeur, remember that the river is also at risk. One of the United States’ most important resources, the Colorado River provides drinking water for 36 million people from Denver to Los Angeles, supports a $26 billion recreation industry, and irrigates nearly 4 million acres of land that grow 15 percent of our nation’s crops. But it’s also one of the most endangered, dammed, diverted and plumbed rivers in the world, thanks to a century of management policies and practices that have promoted the use of Colorado River water at an unsustainable rate. By the time it reaches the Gulf of California in Mexico, the river is barely a trickle—a ghost of its once magnificent self. You can see evidence of the river’s decline In Street View, like the high water mark (showing 1950s driftwood on top of the rock), or sedimentation along the river’s edge down by Lake Mead.


We’re proud to partner with Google and Street View to raise awareness of the need to protect and restore the river. It’s time to speak up and protect the wonder of the Grand Canyon and the riches of a healthy Colorado River. Join American Rivers and help us protect and restore this iconic river of the west—for today and for future generations.