Grassroots Mapping is a series of participatory mapping projects involving communities in cartographic dispute. Seeking to invert the traditional power structure of cartography, the grassroots mappers used helium balloons and kites to loft their own “community satellites” made with inexpensive digital cameras.

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At Public Lab, we've grown the Grassroots Mapping community into a broader effort to enable communities to understand and respond to environmental threats with DIY techniques.

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Help requested with mapknitter- Balloon mapping of Metal processing plant in Providence, RI

May 13th, 2013 by Lynnrw

We're a neighborhood group in East Providence, RI with houses adjacent to a large construction waste grinding business. Toxic dust was filtering into our homes and yards from the plant. Many in the neighborhood suffer from respiratory and other health problems thought to be associated with the dust.

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Vermont Winter Festival, Viewed from a Kite String

March 1st, 2013 by KalynRosenberg

A kite aerial photography field report

Date of flight: January 27, 2013
Site: North Branch Nature Center, Montpelier, Vermont
Occasion: Ice on Fire deep winter celebration

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Kite Flying Tree

February 16th, 2013 by dan.beavers

That tree between the pines likes to fly kites. I was a little upset with it because it was my kite. The tree finally got bored after about 45 minutes and let go so I am not too upset. It took me a couple of hours to find the kite but when I did there was absolutely no damage to it. I love Tyvek! The wind was very gusty and the line got snagged by the tree during an extended lull.

Easy Cut Delta Kite simplification

February 2nd, 2013 by dan.beavers

Wintercamp activities included working on simplifying the kite build. From the left. A pocket for the spar spreader that we were not really happy with. Next is the mini-caribener and pex plastic pipe. This was the standard attachment. The solution we arrived with eliminated the additional parts. Next are 3 mock-ups of folded pockets. The last item is the almost final form.

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Balloon Mapping From the Ground Up: Public Lab’s Field Techniques

January 2nd, 2013 by Stewart Long

cross-posted from PBS's IdeaLab

Public Lab's balloon- and kite-based mapping approach is a new way to take aerial images from the ground. However, there are some considerations and things that can be learned from a few map stories.

Each map project has distinct characteristics in its time, place, and local atmospheric conditions. Here are several examples of how those factors make each balloon and kite map unique.


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Raising the Dead: Grassroots Mappers Help Look For America’s First Veterans Cemetery.

November 8th, 2012 by eymund-diegel

An ordinary looking concrete slab in Brooklyn - what story does it really tell ?

"To balloon or to kite, that is the question.."

Just after Independence Day 2012, the “Over My Dead Body” balloon mapping expedition set out to capture high resolution aerials of a very special grave site: America’s first ever military cemetery.

Their site of interest was none other than the fabled Marylander Burial Ground, rumored location of the first soldiers ever to die as Americans in the 1776 War of Independence.

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map of Bayou Bienvenue CIAP restoration ("B" of Green Slice area)

October 7th, 2012 by eustatic


We're going to have to repeat this one. The camera shut down prematurely.

I attribute the failure to the use of duct tape on the camera trigger-- any thoughts on this are appreciated. From looking at the photo sequence, the camera gave out after a wind gust. Still, some interesting shots were taken.

And, in the future, i will be using the Common Ground kayaks, so repeating this day will be easier the second time.

shannon snaps our flight

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Shannon Dosemagen Interviews Scott Eustis of Gulf Restoration Network

October 4th, 2012 by mathew

This interview is from the summer issue of Grassroots Mapping Forum, our quarterly print publication. Subscribe here.

Shannon Dosemagen sat down with Scott Eustis of the Gulf Restoration Network to discuss the shifting sands and fortunes of the Mississippi Delta and the Chandeleur Islands

Can you tell me a bit about GRN, the work you’re doing with them, mission, some of the work that your co-workers are doing?

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Mapping trees that are in high risk of uprooting at Shapira Neighborhood, Tel Aviv-Yafo

August 24th, 2012 by shaief

Published originally on my website

About two months ago, on June 12th, we woke up to the sounds of heavy machinery. Through the window we saw a bulldozer and a crane uprooting olive trees from the area behind our house. We went outside and stood in front of the bulldozer and caused its operator to stop working. The crane continued to work, so we jumped on a tree. By doing so we prevented the work for about a month and saved 1 out of 4 trees that were uprooted at that day.

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Oil residue preparation for spectroscopy

July 26th, 2012 by warren

Parts & Crafts campers worked with me to produce this guide to sample preparation of oil or tar contaminated soil. This covers just the sample prep and how to see fluorescence in samples with a green laser. You'll need to construct a spectrometer to measure the samples' colors and try to identify the contaminant: