Mapping & Visualization @ CoML, Duke University

Google Earth Presentation on Thursday, October 23rd

Presentation: Link to slides

Earth & Maps Examples:

  • Appalachian Voices Mountaintop Removal: make visible in Global Awareness to view.
    This layer uses many interesting techniques to introduce the world to the story of mountaintop removal.

  • Black Tides: Worst Oil Spills in History: Download KML file
    This layer uses the Spreadsheet Mapper tool to link Google Spreadsheet data to Google Earth.

  • Disappearing Forests: Download KML file
    This layer uses Google Chart API to dynamically create pie charts and bar graphs of deforestation data for each country.

  • ARKive: Endangered Species: make visible in Global Awareness to view.
    This layer uses the Spreadsheet Mapper tool to link Google Spreadsheet data to Google Earth. It also links to videos, images, and other information on the ARKive website.

  • Marine Protected Areas: Download KML file
    Point and polygon layer of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around the world, in which you can view photos, videos, and stories about each MPA. Each MPA links to, where you can add your photos, videos, and stories.

Questions asked:

  1. Question: Can the Spreadsheet Mapper link up with Google Base?  In other words, can you link Google Base to Google Spreadsheet so that you can easily link up with the Spreadsheet Mapper tool, so we can use the templates available there?

    Answer: Google Base is a place to store "data items" that can have arbitrary attribute value pairs associated with them.  You can use GData API to query for data items, or restrict to data items that have certain values for certain attributes.  You can upload items programmatically, through a GUI, or via FTP.  Then you can use URLs to query it back (they also show up in Google Search).  While it is most often used for more classified-type listings, it can be used (with some work) as a general purpose database.  As far as connection with Google Spreadsheets, I'm not sure yet if it lets you suck in data in a meaningful way via GData, but you might be able to use the Spreadsheet Data API.

    A better solution might be to provide something standalone (maybe built on Google App Engine), where someone could specify a URL for a GData feed (coming from Google Base or anywhere), and then easily transform that feed into KML using extended data (mapping attributes to fields), and applying a style via an editable text box.  You could also use this in conjunction with a Google Spreadsheet as a data source (not just Google Base) since Google Spreadsheets outputs GData feeds as well.  I'm not aware of this being built in the past, but it should be possible.

  2. Question: Can revision history, version, and release tracking for polygon editing be added?

    Answer: Currently, this is not a feature that is a part of Google My Maps, which is the only place where Google manages data editing for people.  This is an excellent feature request, and I will take it back to the Engineering teams!  Ei's polygon editing in the OBIS-SEAMAP application uses the Google Maps API polygon editing feature, but stores the code and all the changes in their database, not Google's.

  3. Question: Can you restrict a portal (like the MPA portal) to be restricted to only certain people?

    Answer: Yes.  The MPA portal ( is built in App Engine, and you can programmatically create your own roles/ACLs however you'd like.

  4. Question: What is Google Earth/Maps stance on color blindness?

    Answer: We definitely want to make our applications accessible to everybody and we do think about color-blindness when designing our interfaces.  Google's mission is to organize the world's information (including geographic information!) and to make it universally accessible and useful, but admittedly some products/features are further along than others in regard to color blindness.  If you have feedback on any products/features that particularly suffer with color blind users, our Engineering stressed that they are happy to hear it!

Resources and Links for Your Work With Google Earth

Google Earth Outreach website:

Relevant APIs:

Multi-media integration:

Tools for creating Google Earth & Maps:

  • Spreadsheet Mapper: Create a Google Earth & Maps layer linked to your data on Google Spreadsheets: link here.
  • Create a Google Map at a published Google Spreadsheet: link
  • LatLong Conversion program (for converting degrees-minutes-seconds to decimal degrees): link here. 
Tutorials for creating Google Earth & Maps:
  • Workshop Guide: Download PDF file part 1 & part 2
  • Spreadsheet Mapper: Create a Google Earth & Maps layer linked to your data on Google Spreadsheets: link here.
  • Embedding YouTube videos in your pop-up balloons: link here.

Making movies of Google Earth

Terms of Use of using Google Earth & Maps in publications: link here.