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UvA Earth Sciences alumni made it to the finals of DigitalGlobe's international GBDX for Sustainability Challenge. Their winning project, Global Green City Watch, makes it possible to monitor the quality of green spaces in a city based on satellite imaging, and use insights from these data to improve the quality of urban green spaces.

Global Green City Watch
An impression of the Global Green City Watch application
An impression of the Global Green City Watch application, with quality indicators for the Parque Jardin do Carmo in Rio de Janeiro. Click on the image to enlarge.

The contest was organised by DigitalGlobe to give a platform to ideas that accelerate innovation in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. According to the jury report, Global Green City Watch has the potential te be developed into a powerful tool that not only maps urban green spaces in great detail, but can also link this information to health indicators (such as for asthma prevention or pollen allergies). As an open source application, the tool can be used by regional governments to strengthen the ecology in the city.

From space

'More than half of the world population lives in urban areas, making the ecological quality of the city of increasing importance. Local government often lack the proper tools to map and assess the quality of their parks, gardens and other urban green space,' team member Nadine Galle explains.


Portrait picture of Nadine Galle
Nadine Galle. Photo: private collection.

Galle is currently pursuing a PhD in Ecological Engineering at University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin. 'By combining machine learning and image processing algorithms with DigitalGlobe’s high-resolution satellite imagery we are able to unlock valuable insights. In short: we’re monitoring the quality of urban green space, from space.'

To the World Bank

With their win, the team, which besides Galle consists of earth scientists Chris van Diemen, Jim Groot and Anjelika Romeo-Hall, and Urban Studies Master's student Stella Balikci, gains access to 100 PB (petabyte) of satellite data as well as technical support from DigitalGlobe to develop their application. In addition, they have been invited to present their project to the World Bank in Washington DC. The team received advice and support from Emiel van Loon, researcher at UvA's Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics.

Related programmes

About the GBDX for Sustainability Challenge

For the GBDX for Sustainability Challenge, DigitalGlobe is opening up their geospatial big data platform, GBDX, to accelerate innovation in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

DigitalGlobe is a trendsetting technology firm, specialised in remote sensing. Remote sensing uses satellite images as a basis for making analyses with a multitude of applications. Examples are projects in agriculture improvement, water management and the fight against deforestation.