The Mississippi River Delta, located on Louisiana’s Gulf coast, is one of the most fertile landscapes in the world. The delta provides food and shelter for those who call it home, as well as hurricane and flood protection, a flyway for migratory birds, recreational benefits, and more. Despite their economic and ecological value, Louisiana’s wetlands are being lost at an alarming rate. Over 400 square miles of marshland have been lost to oil and gas activity alone.
In response to this crisis, Cartoscope, in partnership with Healthy Gulf and Northeastern University, developed Land Loss Lookout, a citizen science tool that trains users to identify types of wetland loss in the Gulf of Mexico and label where such loss is occurring by categorizing color infrared aerial photographs.
The project focuses on identifying the patterns associated with six significant types of land impact: agriculture, oil and gas, sea level rise, erosion, shipping, and restoration. When beginning Land Loss Lookout, participants are randomly assigned to look for just one of these categories and are then given a short tutorial on how to identify the unique patterns associated with their assigned type of land impact. Once participants have completed the tutorial, they may begin sorting through the image database and labeling whether or not their assigned land impact pattern is present.
As users label the photos, Cartoscope collects the geolocation information for each categorized image and plots the results on a map that is available to the research team and participants. This allows participants to view their own contributions and the contributions of others, while also playing an instrumental part in the effort to protect Louisiana’s wetlands.