UCSB’s Google Earth Connections

Marine Science Institute Helped Out with New Version of Popular Mapping Program

A new version of Google Earth was launched early in 2009 and now, according to a February press release, features “information, imagery and stories on more than 4,500 Marine Protected Areas around the world.” That means the updated program includes a new look into the world’s oceans, giving the landlubbers among us a look into the deep blue.

The new “Ocean” features in the Google Earth program were developed with the help of the Marine Science Institute at UCSB, which provided “scientific guidance, intriguing content, and innovative web-based graphics for the Marine Protected Area (MPA) layer of Ocean in Google Earth,” said MSI’s director Steven Gaines. Gaines and Google hope that the new interactive features on Google Earth will help raise awareness of the damage being done by man to the world’s oceans, as well as raise support for marine sanctuaries.

“Ocean in Google Earth is a great platform for stimulating debate, research, and ocean protection,” explained Gaines. “The vast majority of people only see the ocean by looking at its surface.”

Users of Google Earth will not only be able to take a “Virtual Swim” through protected marine sanctuaries, but will also be updated on the changes in plant and animal life in the areas after becoming protected. Gaines mentions how it’s impossible to know if an area of ocean is in trouble without getting wet, and it is therefore very difficult to raise awareness of human impact on the ocean among those who spend most of their time on land.

The project works with the belief that establishing protected areas in the ocean is vital to creating a sustainable relationship between the vast resources of the sea and human society. The amount of land that we have set aside for conservation greatly exceeds the amount of protected ocean area, said Gaines, and further action is required on our part to preserve the global ecosystem. Gaines hopes public access to the ocean in new multi-media like this will do more than its part to “greatly increase the pace of change.”


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