Image Acquisition Overview Resource Mapping -- Remote Sensing and GIS for Conservation

International Conservation and Development

Digital Aerial Imagery in International Conservation and Development

The natural color Santa Cruz mosaic displayed at the top of the Natural Color Imagery page is one section of over 126,000 hectares of aerial imagery collected in southern Belize during a two-week period that rained every day. Using a local aircraft stationed in Punta Gorda and a network of involved communities and conservation groups reporting on weather, we were able to mobilize quickly and collect good aerial data whenever conditions permitted.


This project was part of a workshop on GIS development with the use of locally collected digital imagery. Participants from Central and South America and the Pacific Islands took part in the Punta Gorda workshop.



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First Peoples Worldwide (FPW) is a non-profit organization that promotes the ability of indigenous communities to control the development of their own lands as well as resolve tenure issues with their governments.

First Peoples Worldwide has conducted workshops of this type around the world, showing participants how to utilize imagery in low-cost or open source GIS systems to construct maps and monitor their landscape, empowering the indigenous representatives to become active participants or opponents in projects for oil exploration, logging, or tourist development in their homelands.

“If you don’t have a map,
no one will talk with you.”

Resource Mapping has trained workshop participants in the use of our cameras, and continues to work with FPW to develop low-cost systems with Kodak cameras and inexpensive software that can be distributed to communities to do their own monitoring on a timely basis with local aircraft. Training manuals developed for these workshops are designed for non-profit groups and indigenous organizations. If you are interested in developing this capacity, please contact us.


Once local communities have monitoring capabilities, many applications are found.

Resource Mapping has been involved in global conservation and development since 1980, when we started flying villages and mapping vegetation with 35 mm cameras in Tanzania for Development Alternatives, Inc. We used a 70 mm aerial camera attached to a local aircraft to fly complete coverage of the country of Lesotho for a USAID project headed by American AG International, processing the film on site in a makeshift darkroom to make sure we had everything in the can before leaving Maseru.

Village leaders identify land use and surrounding forest boundaries in Andasabe, Madagascar.

Working with Conservation International in Madagascar in 1994, we began using digital imagery by processing 35 mm aerial film at a local one-hour photo store, scanning the negatives in our hotel room, and constructing mosaics on a portable computer. We then printed those mosaics with an inkjet printer and taped tiles together into larger photomaps. Those were distributed to local villagers so they could delineate their properties and land use in relation to nearby natural reserves. Conservation International pioneered this type of interactive engagement with the local populations surrounding a park or forest reserve to reduce encroachment and maintain the reserve boundaries.


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Maps of the type used in Madagascar remain a significant product, in addition to our digital GIS files. Inexpensive 'as needed' printing makes it possible to distribute paper maps in specific local languages or to identify a particular feature or property in the terrain.

30 Years of Aerial Imagery Applications

Working with educational institutions, consulting firms, and governmental agencies since 1978, our principal researcher, Dana Slaymaker, has been instrumental in the development of digital video, still camera digital imagery, and profiling lasers as tools for natural resources surveys. Resource Mapping has incorporated that research to provide these innovative services to conservation organizations like The Nature Conservancy and Elephants Without Borders, and we established in-house aerial photography and image processing capacities for non-profit corporations like Conservation International and Winrock International that want their own systems.

We teach everything we do, and do not retain proprietary procedures or equipment. With nearly 30 years of aerial survey experience, both domestic and abroad, we have completed difficult assignments from detecting invasive tree ferns in the mountains of Hawaii to mapping the potential routes and environmental impacts of a 640-kilometer pipe line between Santa Cruz, Bolivia and Cuiaba, Brazil.

We have the expertise and background to successfully acquire and utilize excellent imagery under adverse conditions, and we send our most experienced people into the field, not our least expensive.

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