Crowdsourcing Oil Spill Coverage

We’re now entering into the eighth week since the catastrophic explosion and fire aboard Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon, which is estimated to have dumped 40 and 100 million gallons of oil into the Gulf so far. The latest containment cap installed is supposedly capturing about 650,000 gallons of oil a day now, but the situation continues to be disastrous.

Part of what’s so upsetting about the situation in the Gulf is that the media are having a hard time getting to the bottom of the story that’s taking place 10,000 feet under the sea. In the meantime, thousands of citizen journalists and photographers are documenting and sharing what they’re seeing along the shores. Here are a few interesting crowdsourced projects that are keeping the country up to date with the worst environmental disasters of our generation:

  • The Oil Spill Crisis Map from environmental justice group Louisiana Bucket Brigade is using Ushahidi, an open-source software that collects and displays crowdsourced news submitted via mobile phone or internet.
  • Grassroots Mapping is helping citizens to use balloons, kites, and other simple tools to produce their own aerial imagery of the spill. Quoting from their website: “We’re not trying to duplicate the satellite imagery or the flyover data (though we’re helping to coordinate some of the flyovers and trying to make sure the data is publicly accessible). We believe in complete open access to spill imagery and are releasing all imagery into the public domain.” A 150% successful crowdfunding campaign at Kickstarter should help the Grassroots Mapping project in its mission.
  • Powered by CitySourced, the Gulf Oil Spill Reporter iPhone application provides volunteers a free and simple way to use their smartphones to report oil spill related damage. Users can browse reports submitted by other folks within the application or online at

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  John Basile · Idea Scale blog contributor

Based in Oakland, California, John Basile is a regular contributor to the IdeaScale blog. He is also the founder and CEO of Scraster Professional Screencasting.

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