How to Help the Texas Coast Using GIS


Millions of people have been affected by Hurricane Harvey, and many more are looking for some way to help. Information is needed on the effects of the damage so that officials can move forward with coordinating recovery efforts. Organizations such as GISCorps, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, and Tomnod are among the groups trying to fill in the gaps.

  • GISCorps is a coalition of GIS professionals founded in 2003 through the Urban and Regional Information System Association (URISA) who volunteer their time to help provide necessary information about real world problems. A notable previous project involved assisting the Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois create maps used to facilitate emergency response following Hurricane Matthew. GISCorps wants to use their volunteers to the best of their abilities, so not every volunteer is assigned to every project. If you aren’t selected to help with a certain project, don’t worry! They will find a job that suits your skill set somewhere down the road.
  • Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team or HOT, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to creating up-to-date maps for relief organizations responding to emergency situations. Their maps are used by the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and other such entities to help identify areas of need. You can volunteer through their website and the online training instructions they provide mean that anyone regardless of skill can help in some way. HOT is currently working on ensuring maps of buildings and roads damaged by Hurricane Harvey are up-to-date.
  • Tomnod was originally created by Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin as a research project to help search for the tomb of Genghis Khan. It uses crowdsourcing to identify areas of interest where help appears to be needed using satellite imagery. Volunteers log on and are instructed to mark certain areas that they believe to be relevant to the project they choose. If enough users mark an area, it is deemed an area of interest. Tomnod is currently looking for volunteers to help mark things such as blocked bridges and roads, and trash heaps in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.

There is no doubt that the recovery efforts following Hurricane Harvey will be long and difficult. However through virtual volunteering with organizations such as these you can help out your maybe not-so-next-door neighbors as they work on rebuilding. If you are interested in volunteering with one of these groups, follow these links to their respective websites to learn more: GISCorps, HOT, Tomnod

Kayla Saenger
Banks Environmental Data

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