Hudson Valley Mappers

By Adele Birkenes, (Geography ’20)

Vassar YouthMappers is new group forming on campus, coordinated by Vassar students to engage other Vassar students, faculty, and community members in local and global geospatial humanitarian mapping and community GIS. Vassar YouthMappers will be a campus chapter of YouthMappers, which was created by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) GeoCenter in 2015 and has since grown to over 120 university chapters in 36 countries. 

YouthMappers is focused on the generation of both local and global geospatial data. On a local scale, Vassar YouthMappers may work with the Poughkeepsie government and NGOs to pinpoint ways in which the chapter can support urban renewal and development projects through mapping. For example, last year, Vassar students mapped ash trees in the City of Poughkeepsie and used the geospatial data to develop an ash tree management plan to minimize the damage caused by the Emerald Ash Borer. YouthMappers would aim to assist in projects like this one.

On a global scale, Vassar YouthMappers will participate in mapping for the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). HOT has an online tasking manager that lists humanitarian aid efforts around the world that are in need of geospatial data. Recent projects range from flood response efforts in India, Sri Lanka, and Japan; earthquake response in Japan; and refugee response in Uganda, among other efforts. Once having selected a specific response effort to support, online mapping software loads up recent satellite imagery of the specific area, which is used to digitize local infrastructure such as roads and buildings. This information is of critical importance in supporting humanitarian aid efforts, as it enables relief teams to accurately estimate the size of affected populations (and therefore the supplies they require), as well as to know where households are located and how to access them.

Please contact Adele Birkenes ( if you’re interested in helping launch Vassar YouthMappers, or in participating in upcoming mapathons and other activities.