Ground Truth: Information that is collected on location, on the ground, from a close up perspective, in fine detail. From Wikipedia: Ground Truth
Sky Truth: Information that is collected from above, with a broad vision, giving the big picture.
We at SkyTruth spend a lot of time working out how to give people an “elevated” perspective on environmental issues. Most of the time we do this by providing top-down views from satellites in space or from aircraft.
We often find the SkyTruth perspective illuminates new questions and identifies sites of interest that local environmental groups may be unaware of. Or we simply wish we had more local, first-hand knowledge contributed from folks with boots on the ground to complement and help explain our high-flying images to our global audience.
In these cases, we strive to augment our images with targeted “Ground Truth” for these sites. This may mean someone on the ground needs to go to the site with a camera and a GPS and take some pictures. Or it could mean a visit to the county courthouse to find out who owns the property, or when construction got underway.
One example is the recent work we did on habitat loss for the threatened Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse in Colorado. In this case we identified dozens of locations where construction and development is clearly taking place – or already existed – within designated “critical habitat” areas. For each of these sites we’d like to know if the development was already there before the mouse was officially recognized as a threatened species (1998), or if it’s been constructed since then, a very important distinction. Ground Truth could consist of recent and historic on-location photos, and documentation from the county on when construction permits were issued and approved. Concerned local citizens could provide this with fairly modest effort, if they know what to get and where to send it.
To harness this potential citizen-army of ground-truthers, SkyTruth is building a system to organize “help wanted” requests, publicize the needs, and collect and organize the responses. That, however, is keeping us very busy, and is a topic for another post…
Please share your thoughts and comments on how you think we should go about this.