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GISCorps Newsletter


GIS Professionals Volunteering for a Better World

May 2015
A Message from the Core Committee


Greetings Volunteers and Friends:
This has been another busy and fruitful quarter for URISA's GISCorps and its amazing volunteers!

We have been engaged in 6 new projects, have completed 3 missions and are processing new requests on a regular basis. The total number of projects is now at 164 with over 735 volunteers deployed to over 59 countries around the world.

Read the stories of some of our recent missions: assisting the World Health Organization (WHO) in their efforts to control the Ebola outbreak; providing spatial context to social media input in response to Typhoon Pam, which devastated the island nation of Vanuatu on March 13; and spatial analysis to document an environmental disaster in West Papua.

As for the new projects, over 50 of our volunteers are working in support of activities related to the devastating earthquake in Nepal, one volunteer is working on a mission for a group in Laos, and another is supporting a mission in Guatemala. You can read a summary of each of these remarkable projects in our "Projects in Progress" web page.

We are thankful for your continued support of GISCorps and grateful to our volunteers for their remarkable service.

With most sincere wishes,
GISCorps Core Committee: Dave Litke, Dianne Haley, Heather Milton, Mark Salling, Allen Ibaugh, Shoreh Elhami

P.S. Please email if you wish to be removed from this list.

Deployment and Partnership News

Missions in Progress

A total of 12 missions are currently in progress. Detailed accounts of these projects are posted on our Ongoing Projects Page. 

Nepal Earthquake Assistance
Over 50 of our volunteers have responded to two projects related to the devastating earthquake in Nepal. In one of the projects, they are digitizing various features on OpenStreetMap and in the other cleansing village based datasets to create a match to country's rich Census dataset. Read more here.

GISCorps Assists World Health Organization in Mapping Ebola Response Activities

In December 2013, a two-year old child in a remote village in southeastern Guinea died from a then-unidentified disease. From that beginning arose the unprecedented West Africa Ebola outbreak which eventually infected 26,093 people in 15 countries, caused over 10,000 deaths, and gave rise to fears of a worldwide pandemic. For this crisis, the United Nations (UN) established the first-ever UN emergency health mission, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER). From its headquarters in Accra, Ghana, UNMEER oversaw a huge network of response activities in Africa, and directed the work of tens of thousands of brave response workers.


In December 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) requested the assistance of GISCorps to support UNMEER in the mapping of their West Africa Ebola response activities. Five volunteers, knowledgeable in GIS (Geographic Information Science) and advanced web mapping capabilities, were requested to work from four to six weeks in the three hardest-hit African countries (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone), as well as in the UNMEER headquarters in Accra, Ghana, and in the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Read their stories here.

GISCorps Volunteer Team, from left: Emmanuel Lansana, Leslie Zollman, Jeff Pires, Charleen Gavette.

Mimika Land Rights Project - West Papua
West Papua is a remote Melanesian province of Indonesia that has an abundance of gas, mineral and timber resources. West Papua remains a region under close supervision by the military and a difficult area to operate in for human rights workers, environmental activists and journalists. 

The Grasberg mine, operated by Freeport-Rio Tinto, is located in Amungme territory in the Carstenz range. It is considered to hold the planet's largest combined reserve of copper and gold. The Grasberg mine has been dumping tailings into the Ajkwa River deposition area downstream in Komoro territory since operation in the 1980's and is the site of an environmental disaster. The Forensic Architecture and Earth Sensing Association has launched an investigation into documenting the Grasberg mine environmental disaster on behalf of the Papuan negotiator and in collaboration with TAPOL, the human rights campaign organization for Indonesia based in the UK. The spatial analysis conducted by a GISCorps Remote Sensing Specialist is a crucial preliminary element of the investigation, especially for an area that is extremely difficult to reach as a zone of conflict. Read more about this mission here.

22 Volunteers Responded to the Call for Typhoon Pam
Twenty-two GISCorps volunteers responded to the call for Typhoon Pam, which devastated the island nation of Vanuatu on March 13. The Digital Humanitarian Network was activated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and member organizations formed interdisciplinary teams to quickly monitor, process, and analyze incoming information from social media. GISCorps partnered with Humanity Road and PeaceGeeks to provide spatial context to social media input, resulting in data and maps to share with the humanitarian community. Read more here.

Read more about other completed GISCorps projects here.  


Read more about projects in progress here.  

Volunteer Profile 

Name: Stéphane Henriod
GISCorps Mission / Year served: GIS Training at KPU (Kabul Polytechnic University) - 2014
About the mission: The purpose of the mission was to provide GIS and remote sensing training to the staff of KPU, so that they could start designing a GIS curriculum for their students. As part of the project, a full GIS lab has been set up. Some of the staff got a scholarship to continue their GIS education in Kazakhstan.

Anything else to share: As has usually been the case during my previous assignments in Afghanistan, I have met a bunch of highly capable and motivated people and it has been a huge pleasure to work with them. I would love to work with them again in the future and I'm sure I will!

Name: Heath Robinson, The University of Illinois

GISCorps mission/Year served: Establishing a GIS Laboratory at Kabul Polytechnic Institute (KPU) in Afghanistan - Summer 2014

About the mission: This was a fantastic mission that not only served an immediate need in Afghanistan by providing the necessary hardware to establish a GIS laboratory at KPU, but it also had the potential for long-lasting benefits. By teaching the professors at KPU about GIS, there is the potential for a multiplier effect as they pass that information down to their students when KPU's GIS program is established.

To read more stories visit the Volunteer Profiles Page

Thank you for your continued support of URISA's GISCorps!

In This Issue
Message from the Core Committee
Missions in Progress
Featured Projects
Volunteer Profiles


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GISCorps Core Committee

Shoreh Elhami

Dianne Haley

Allen Ibaugh

Dave Litke   

Heather Milton

Mark Salling


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