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CEOE student leads Mapathon

Article by Jonathan Hynson

Troy Saltiel, a senior majoring in environmental science in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, organized UD’s third ever mapathon event aimed at providing vital information about the Philippines to humanitarian organizations distributing aid.

Saltiel organized four different clubs and over 50 volunteers who, over the course of two hours on Wednesday, April 24, used the online mapping tool, OpenStreetMap, to map agricultural areas, buildings, and roads in the Philippines.

Inadequately mapped infrastructure does not appear on maps and in turn, can deny Filipinos humanitarian aid after a natural disaster.

The mapping is meant to inform decisions of humanitarian aid organizations. The goal of these organizations is to decrease these communities’ reliance on convenience stores and processed foods.

According to Saltiel, food security is a sensitive topic in the Philippines, since there are high rates of poverty and communities are vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change.

Mapathon photoMapathons like UD’s are crucial because they allow humanitarian aid to reach these communities and inform long-term decisions of humanitarian aid organizations.

“We’re literally putting these places on the map,” he said.

Saltiel estimates that the attendees of the mapathon completed over 2,000 edits, which means 2,000 buildings, roads, and other geographic features were mapped.

Saltiel said that OpenStreetMap is the most accessible mapping software, which is important because mapping software allows aid workers to have updated maps of regions they are entering. Often times, these humanitarian aid workers do not have adequate maps of areas, which delays the distribution of life-giving aid.

UD Mapathon 2019

Saltiel, who has an extensive background in mapping software, primarily ‘Geographic Information Systems and Science’ took about four months to plan UD Mapathon 2019.

The 51 participants were the most ever for a UD Mapathon event, the first of which was held in 2017 and also organized by Saltiel.

Mapathon events are not unique to UD, as they refer to any organized group using the OpenStreetMap software.

“The result of mapathons are meaningful contributions to humanitarian relief,” said Saltiel. “As a result of having the mapping, aid is distributed more effectively, it reaches more people, and it provides a quicker response.”

While Saltiel is happy about the outcome of the mapathon, he laments that he won’t be able to host anymore mapathons at UD. Now that he has graduated, he will be heading to the University of Utah to earn his Masters in Remote Sensing.

While his leadership and passion for humanitarian effort will be missed, it won’t be gone.

“Epsilon Eta has committed to organizing these events in the future, likely in a similar, collaborative fashion,” said Saltiel. “Each November, there is Geoweek in which hundreds of mapathons take place across the world, so that would be a time to look out for another mapathon event [at UD].”

For those who are interested in learning to map now, Missing Maps is a group who promotes humanitarian mapping and provides instructional videos. Prospective volunteers can also follow the instructions of the Earth Day Mapathon website to contribute to the project in the Philippines.

About OpenStreetMap

OpenStreetMap is a nonprofit organization that provides free mapping software for anyone to use and is widely used by humanitarian relief organizations like the American Red Cross, who utilize its free software.


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School of Marine Science & Policy

Advancing the understanding, stewardship, and conservation of estuarine, coastal, and ocean environments.

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Discovering how geological processes have operated over various time scales to create and influence the planet’s surface environments.

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Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences

Providing a unique spatial perspective that seeks to explain patterns of differences and commonality across the human and natural environment.

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