How a new data journalism project is keeping tabs on the Amazon rainforest

(This article from International Journalists' Network covers InfoAmazonia, a new website that Internews helped launch.)

A new data journalism project hopes to map the hotspots of the Amazon rainforest, keeping tabs on deforestation, development and wildfires.

Launched at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, InfoAmazonia is an easy-to-use interactive map offered in three languages - Spanish, English and Portuguese - with updated information on the world's most pristine ecosystem. Maps provide data and recent news items, which can be contributed by readers. Data on the site is also available for download, making it an interesting research tool.

"Despite the important role the rainforest plays in the health of the South American and global environment, little information is available about threats to the area’s survival," said Gustavo Faleiros, creator of InfoAmazonia, and a Knight International Journalism Fellow of the International Center for Journalists.

At the launch, Faleiros led 30 journalists in a workshop where he introduced them to the data, photos and maps on the platform. Participants also learned how to geo-tag stories using spreadsheets such as Google Fusion Tables, and how to use data applications such as Google Earth and MapBox, a product of Development Seed, for storytelling. By combining data, satellite photos, maps and graphics, the project hopes to give people better information about what's going on at ground level.

Faleiros has spent three months developing the project during the fellowship. InfoAmazonia began as a partnership between the Brazilian environmental news agency O Eco and Internews, with support from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network. The map platform and publishing system was designed by Development Seed.

He hopes the data will be updated frequently by journalists, NGOs and citizens making it a visual and graphic log of development, deforestation, forest fires, mining and other threats to the rainforest.

"The aim: to stop and hopefully reverse environmental damage to this precious natural resource," Faleiros said.

For updates, follow InfoAmazonia on Twitter.

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