Real World Impacts: Nepal – Image Analysis Goes Beyond Academic Research to Aid Disaster Relief


Tomnod Nepal Earthquake Data portal

EGI Research Scientist Dr. Greg Nash recently participated in an image analysis project to aid the relief effort following the devastating earthquake and aftershocks in Nepal in April, 2015. The work was done through the tomnod website, a community of volunteers who work together to identify important or interesting objects in satellite images. Volunteers use tomnod to visually explore the Earth and help solve real-world problems.

Using high-resolution satellite imagery provided by DigitalGlobeTM satellites, volunteers search billions of pixels every day, interpreting satellite images to address a broad spectrum of issues impacting humanity, such as natural disasters, wars, and humanitarian crises. A current emphasis is to help in the fight against malaria in Swaziland.

In response to the Nepal Earthquake, before and after images were provided to facilitate detecting changes indicating building damage, infrastructure damage, and emerging tent cities. Volunteers world-wide, numbering 62,687, searched a total of 195,497 km2 over a period of 24 days. Dr. Nash searched 800 map tiles over which 30 damaged areas were identified and tagged.

There is always a need for volunteers and, although some background in image interpretation can be useful, it is not required. Tomnod provides guidance through how-to videos, examples, and tips on the website. Everyday logic and a little time invested can go a long way to help identify and map objects in the quest to help make the world a better place.

EGI appreciates the dedication of our staff to the issues and causes that help make our communities– from the towns we live in to the global scale– stronger, healthier, and safer. We congratulate Greg and thank him for being such a positive example of using our everyday expertise to contribute to a better world.

For more information about how you can contribute to ongoing image interpretation campaigns through tomnod, visit their website and explore or create and account to begin searching.