On Wednesday, November 13, over 50 Ball State University students, staff members, and faculty volunteered to contribute to the Missing Maps Project by meaningfully updating online digital maps using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology at Bracken Library’s Schwartz Digital Complex.

As part of the global GIS Day every November, the Missing Maps Project Map-a-thon coordinates volunteers worldwide to map some of the most crisis-prone parts of the developing world using online GIS technology. In doing so, they can directly improve the lives of some of the planet’s most vulnerable people.  This year, participants at Ball State contributed to global projects related to the dengue fever in Honduras, displaced populations in the Lake Chad Basin, and the Colombian migration crisis by adding 903 buildings and over 8km of roads to digital maps of these areas.

Ball State University’s efforts towards this project were coordinated by Angie Gibson, GIS Specialist for Ball State University Libraries who provides collaborative expertise, instructional services, and technology administration for digital mapping to support teaching and research on campus.

“I’m always amazed at the support I receive from both the University Libraries and faculty for the GIS Day Map-a-thon. They recognize the value of mapping to support humanitarian aid around the world, and the importance of guiding students to volunteer their time to this unique opportunity to use GIS for good” said Gibson, reflecting on the success of this year’s event.  “The success of this event is truly a prime example of a successful collaboration between the libraries, faculty and students.”

GIS Day Missing Maps Mapathon

Participants contributed a total of 44 collective hours towards the Map-a-thon this year, uploading their edits with the #BSU19 hashtag that allowed for all of the University’s contributions to be identified.

“This year’s Map-a-thon event was valuable to me because it allowed me to aid in the efforts of humanitarian organizations that are working towards meeting the needs of vulnerable people” explained Kerragan Garab, an undergraduate student majoring in natural resources and environmental management who participated in this year’s event.

Rueben Allen, Associate Teaching Professor of Geography, found unique value in the Missing Maps project in providing students with meaningful learning experiences. “Students get the opportunity to see how their mapping contributions help to better address a real-world problem. Helping an actual community is way more gratifying than completing a required lab exercise.”

The Missing Maps Project is a global non-profit initiative that seeks to improve the accuracy and quality of maps in the developing world in so that local NGOs and individuals can more affectively respond to crises in these areas.  The project uses OpenStreetMap, a freely editable global map project, to record and preserve updates made.

The University Libraries’ GIS Research and Map Collection advances teaching, research, and community engagement at Ball State University by providing cartographic resources, GIS software, consultative and instructional services to advance GIS research, expert mapping assistance, and reference and instructional services.  For more information about GIS programs at Ball State University, contact Angie Gibson, GIS Specialist, at asgibson2@bsu.edu.