We increasingly navigate new spaces that blur physical and virtual, public and private.

When we enter coordinates into google maps, we enter a space bounded by both real and virtual perimeters, featuring public information and private capture of personal information.

We need to get to know this terrain better to assert our rights as Spatial Citizens. Citizen Science resources offers us ways to explore these hybrid spaces and discover where we need to assert our rights as citizens. Is a koala population near you under threat? Can you create a themed map to show us?

Do you know how get involved in Ground Truthing the data around you?

Fitzroy River, Rockhampton in flood. The image was supplied by the United States Geological Survey

Fizroy River, Rockhampton in flood captured at 9:52am on 5 April 2017. Landsat 8 OLI image courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

Citizen Science momentum

From discovering new galaxies to finding unidentified species of flora and fauna, everyday people from around the globe have been responsible for some of the most important discoveries of our time.

Today connectivity, technology and the rapid pace of globalization are enabling crowd sourcing and public participation on a scale never seen before.

This, in turn, is speeding up the process of discovery, innovation and problem solving.

In Australia, our academia and government have acknowledged the power and speed this brings and have multiple programs encouraging citizen science.

In 2016, the Federal Government announced $4 million in Citizen Science Grants, over four years to support opportunities for the public to collaborate with researchers on high-quality, nationally important research projects.

Citizen Science Projects

Australia has a dedicated Science Engagement Program to inspire citizen science. Find out more about this Inspiring Australia.

The Atlas of Living Australia is a collaborative, national project that aggregates biodiversity data from multiple sources and makes it freely available and usable online.

The Australian Citizen Science Association  (ACSA) was formed to advance citizen science through the sharing of knowledge, collaboration, capacity building and advocacy.

The Australian Museum has had a long history in citizen science projects and currently manages, with collaborators, some of Australia’s most well known and best loved citizen science projects.

The Reef Citizen Science Alliance is a network that fosters collaboration, capacity building, advancement and action for citizen science that benefits Queensland’s Reefs.

Advance Queensland is supporting science engagement and communication projects, events and activities that increase the reach and impact of science in Queensland.

Grants of up to $10,000 are available to eligible Queensland-based applicants.

Creating your ground truth has never been easier. From Google Earth to VegMachine, citizens everywhere have access to open source satellite imagery or the datasets derived from it.

Governments are also opening the doors, with the Queensland Government leading the way with its first open data portal opened in 2012 and an Open Data Policy Statement released in September 2017.

Open Source Data – A World of Possibility

Tern Data Discovery Portal
Tern Data Discovery Portal

Delivering open access to Australia’s terrestrial ecosystem data.

Google Earth
Google Earth

The whole world is now in your browser. Fly through landmarks and cities like London, Tokyo and Rome in stunning 3D, then dive in to experience them first hand with Street View.


VegMachine is an online tool that uses satellite imagery to summarise decades of change in Australia’s grazing lands. It’s simple to operate, easy to understand, and free to use.


This service is a Queensland Government initiative to provide improved public access to a variety of spatial and associated data.

Queensland Government Data
Queensland Government Data

A Queensland Government open data initiative. There are 2436 datasets (9408 resources) that you can browse, learn about and download.

“Open data produces value through improved services, it enhances inclusion and responsiveness, and it also stimulates the digital economy”

Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch

A simple guide to creating your Ground Truth

Ground Truth is a way to document and preserve the changes around us from watching the bloom of a flower and growth of a child to the changes on your farm or neighbourhood.

Step 1. Collect a series of images (using the data sources above or your camera on your phone) of the same location or object over a period of time

Try to keep the boundaries of the location or object the same each time.

Step 2. Turn up the contrast and look for patterns – maybe give certain elements of your photo more vivid colour (ie water)

Step 3. Download a video (iMovie, Vine or Splash)  or slideshow app (PicPlayPost, SlideLab or Photo Slideshow Director)

Step 3. Add your images into your app and create your Ground Truth TV clip.

Step 4. Post it on social media with a description and  hash tag #groundtruth or tag @groundtruthnetwork

True Colour or False Colour?

Gound Truth Exhibitions use both True and False colour images.

‘TRUE’ colour assigns colour to visible spectra (red, green and blue light) so the displayed image looks like the world as humans see it.

‘FALSE’ colour assigns colour to visible and invisible spectra (infra-red light) to reveal characteristics of the landscape that may not usually be visible to the human eye.

Unlike photography, satellites measure the Earth’s surface in discrete spectral bands. If the spectral bands imaged were red, green and blue light and the final image was assigned the colours of red, green and blue in order, then the displayed image would resemble how the human eye would normally perceive the Earth’s surface. i.e. in true colour.

However, not all satellites image all colour spectra and they also may measure near infra-red and short-wave infra-red spectra. One of the most frequently published combinations of false colour imagery bands uses near infrared light as red, red light as green, and green light as blue. In this case, plants reflect near infrared and green light, while absorbing red. Since they reflect more near infrared than green, plant-covered land appears deep red to the human viewer. Another common false colour band combination uses the shortwave infrared (shown as red), the near infrared (green), and the green visible band (shown as blue). These images are called false colour images and produced to highlight features not normally seen by the human eye.

How can a forest be red and a cloud blue? It depends on the processes used to transform satellite measurements into images.

Earth Imaging Journal