by Patrick Yan
Google Earth’s detailed 3-D virtual model of the earth provides a novel interface for numerous applications. For Duke professors in the environmental sciences, Google Earth comes conveniently bundled with several “layers” that provide various information on the environment in relation to geographic coordinates.
ARKive: Endangered Species
For classes concerned with species biodiversity, the ARKive: Endangered Species layer would be a useful interactive tool for the class. Using their own computers, students can explore myriad locations on the earth and view information on endangered species in those areas. This layer provides the name, description, pictures, movies, and links to more information, which can serve as introductory material for research.
The geographically arranged data provides a unique and entertaining method of researching different endangered species. Detailed information can then be obtained through the links provided by the ARKive layer, or the student can simply conduct his own additional research.
Greenpeace also has a layer in Google Earth that lists the different areas where they have initiatives to prevent/counteract environmental changes. The layer covers a wide variety of topics, e.g., droughts, deforestation, species conservation, retreating glaciers. For classes where the student is required to learn a wide variety of environmental effects, this layer provides a comprehensive introductory research stage. As with the ARKive layer, the student can familiarize himself with these issues and then conduct further research.
Students focusing on the more political side of environmental changes can use this layer to research initiatives that NGOs like Greenpeace have started to combat them. This layer provides details on both the environmental and publicity aspect, from which point the student can research further.
UNEP: Atlas of Our Changing Environment
The UNEP layer provides images and information on landscape changes due to human activities, such as deforestation and shrinkage of bodies of water. Not only does the UNEP layer introduce these landscape changes, it also provides high-quality satellite imagery of the locations available for download.
Unlike the previous two layers, the UNEP layers not only provides a starting ground for research, but also images that could be used in students’ analysis of these environmental problems. This also provides a unique opportunity for professors to teach how to cite data from new media platforms.
Sea level rising visualizations
The Google Earth Gallery has multiple KML applications that take advantage of Google Earth’s 3-D visualization abilities to show models of rising sea levels. These layers combine data on sea level changes as a result of climate change with geospatial visualization, which allows the user to interpret the data more easily. Students can interpret the resultant destructive effects of rising sea levels to lands that would be immersed underwater.
View & download the layers mentioned above:
With the range of layers and applications for Google Earth, professors have a myriad of opportunities to integrate Google Earth into their environmental science classes. Even more specific applications can be found on the Google Earth Gallery website and Google Earth Community.