Case Study: Mapping Mangroves and Coastal Wetlands


Mapping the Mangroves (MTM),a project of MapWorks Learning,provides formal and informal education, and gives citizen scientists and the larger scientific community the ability to engage with and explore mangroves and their ecosystems. Mangroves are a cornerstone species and play important roles in habitat formation, stabilization of coastal environments, and carbon sequestration. The MTM open curricula and GIS tool provide opportunities for anyone to learn about authentic applications of GIS in the field, explore mangroves and their ecosystems, and share their findings. Learners develop an understanding and appreciation for the role mangroves play in a healthy environment and how GIS can aid in conservation.


GIS, Coastal Conservation, Open Data, OER (Open Educational Resources)

1.0 Successes

MTM has been successful in gathering data and reports from users around the world. The application is a fork of Ushahidi, a crisis mapping tool, and is free for anyone to use or repurpose. Low-cost sensors were created using Raspberry Pi and Arduino to measure environmental factors and are also part of an open curriculum. The curricula developed around the project ensure that anyone interested in data collection can build and deploy low-cost, high-impact technologies to assist with monitoring and protecting coastal ecosystems. An open-source environmental science curriculum was also developed by a teacher in Costa Rica that relies on the MTM project to collect, store, and display data (Baldwin, Dubia, & Long 2013). Another success has been organic adoption of the project around the world, with reports submitted from Papua, Palau, Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Pakistan, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the United States (Balga, P. 2013).

2.0 Hurdles

Despite the many successes of the project, there have been hurdles to overcome. The open nature of MTM allows anyone to post a report and requires validation by an expert. The usage of a 3rd party to validate reports is cumbersome because of funding and time commitment. Similarly, the sampling that users perform is most likely far from what would be performed by someone with an ecology/statistics background (i.e. data points are clustered in small areas, sample size is insufficient to draw conclusions, lack of reproducibility). One concern that has been decreasing is the availability of smartphones and Internet connectivity. The project relies on these tools to create and publish reports and often the study areas are fairly remote.

3.0 Opportunities

There are many opportunities around our project, and one of the most significant areas of interest is creating linkages through API’s to both U.S. and globally based Open Data initiatives (Meinke, B. 2014). In addition to linking to data, we envision creating connections to other biomes and building a mapping platform that engages global communities around management of natural areas, threats, opportunities and restorative plans. The development of country-level managers and university partnerships would also help increase the effectiveness and accuracy of civic contributions and further garner community support and participation. The localization and translation of the tool, curricula and all resources is a way to encourage people to participate more fully as global citizens. It also inspires them to create a shared identity and helps communities to evolve, perceive and live sustainably.


About MapWorks Learning:. (2014, April 8). Retrieved March 4, 2015, from

Baldwin, D., Dubia, C., & Long, A. (2013, July 7). MapWorks Learning. Retrieved March 4, 2015, from

Balga, P. (2013, November 11). Mangrove Restoration in Guanabara Bay — Rio de Janeiro — Brazil. Retrieved February 24, 2015, from

Dubia, C. (2012, April 1). Mapping the Mangroves. Retrieved March 4, 2015, from

Meinke, B. (2014, August 28). MapWorks Learning combines OER and open data to protect threatened biodiversity. Retrieved February 24, 2015, from

Ushahidi. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2015, from