UWL’s first mapathon

Community invited to help map to aid natural disaster relief

Three recent natural disasters across the globe, including Hurricane Irma, have prompted UW-La Crosse’s Geography and Earth Science Department to organize its first mapathon.

A mapathon is an opportunity for volunteers to join together to create up-to-date maps that facilitate response to crises in vulnerable places in the developing world. Efforts will focus on three recent geographic regions where natural disasters have unfolded, including Hurricane Irma’s toll in the Caribbean and continued damage as it enters Florida, the strongest earthquake to strike Mexico in a century, and extreme flooding in Bangladesh.

The mapathon runs from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22, in 245 Cowley Hall. Volunteers can come and leave at any point during the event. Anyone may participate. Mapping experience is not necessary as directions will be provided throughout the event. A laptop and internet connection are required to assist with mapping.

The effort is coordinated in conjunction with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) which aims to make open-source geospatial data available in these regions.

Map features will be created based on satellite images as required by HOT.

“Within the U.S., we are fortunate to have detailed open-source geospatial data, but in places like Mexico and Bangladesh, there is very limited data available for disaster relief and management,” says Gargi Chaudhuri, UWL assistant professor of Geography and Earth Science.

Many UWL geography students will be volunteering at the event. “I believe it’s a great opportunity for our students to use their mapping skills and have a global impact right from their classroom,” says Chaudhuri.

No installation or downloading will be required to participate. Refreshments are available. Learn more about open maps at openstreetmap.org.

If you go—
What:
 Mapathon
When: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22
Where: 245 Cowley Hall
Admission: Free