Virtual volunteers from the University’s School of Geosciences are using their expertise to assist the international aid effort in Turkey and Syria.
Geography students have been using an online programme to provide up-to-date mapping and spatial data to aid workers dealing with the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in the countries.
The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team’s (HOT) Tasking Manager enables users to trace roads and buildings over satellite imagery.
Once areas are fully mapped out, humanitarian organisations including the British Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières use the data to plan disaster responses, evacuation routing and resettlement planning, among other lifesaving activities.
Fourth year geography student, Douglas Morrison, is using the programme to assist in the aid effort and wants to spread the word about the impact mapping can have.
He said: “I started mapping with HOT when an internship with an offshore survey company fell through and I wanted to use the time that I had set aside for the internship for good.
“Being a final year student, I’ve barely done any mapping over the last while but now that I’ve submitted my dissertation, I’m happy to be back doing ‘virtual volunteering’.
“During a humanitarian disaster like the one currently being experienced in Turkey and Syria, one of the important tools for aid workers is up to date mapping and spatial data.
“Amazingly, you can help with the response to this from your own computer.
“Even just five minutes of mapping makes a big difference. As part of our course, we’ve had extensive teaching in Geographic Information Systems which are software packages that allow you to produce and interpret maps and analyse spatial data.
“We’ve been taught to understand how the data is collected and the different types of data you produce in this mapping. It really is pretty simple and anyone can do it so I'd urge anyone with an interest in mapping to log in and give it a shot.”
David R. Green, Director MSc in GIS Degree Programme, said: “It is extremely pleasing to see Douglas and his fellow students leading this initiative and especially the application of these tools and techniques in a real-world situation where the added value of geographical data is key to planning and decision-making on the ground and a vital aid in disaster relief.
“Geospatial technologies are core to the Geography curriculum at Aberdeen and a practical working knowledge of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), satellite imagery, mapping and cartography, as well as WebGIS, is a very important skill for any Geography student to acquire.
“It's fantastic to see our students applying their geographical skills to help those affected by the tragic events in Turkey and Syria.”