Map-a-thon FAQ's

What is a Map-a-thon?
A map-a-thon is a simple and easy way for everyday people to contribute something towards a disaster recovery effort from the comfort of their own computers. It’s simple and doesn’t require any prior knowledge about how to map, or any specialised equipment. We (SSSI) will provide you with all the instructions you need to understand the what and how, and from there you can put in as much time and effort as you like - with no expectations or requirements from us. 

I’m not a spatial expert, so can I still participate in the Map-a-thon?
Absolutely! No special skills are required to take part in the Map-a-thon - just a willingness to help the disaster recovery efforts and a computer. We’ll provide you with all of the how-to’s, as well as support along the way if you need help where we can.  A comprehensive training manual will be available on the SSSI website on the morning of the Map-a-thon

Why has SSSI organised this Map-a-thon?
The 2019-2020 megafires in Australia have burnt or are currently burning 18,600,000 hectares (46 million acres) as of January 14, 2020, with an estimated loss of over 1,000,000,000 mammals, birds and reptiles and possibly entire species having become extinct. More than 20 people have lost their lives, and over 2,000 homes, 48 facilities and 2,000 outbuildings have been lost in NSW alone, with reports of over 70 metre high flames at times. To provide global context, the 2019 Amazon Rainforest wildfires burnt 900,000 hectares, and the 2018 Californian wildfires burnt 800,000 hectares. 

Australia has never before experienced this level of destruction of property and ecosystems as a result of bushfires, and recovery efforts - ‘unprecedented’ is no longer sufficient to capture the level of destruction and sheer devastation that these bushfires have brought, and continue to bring. In true blue Aussie spirit, however, life moves forward and we are coming together to rebuild and support each other. 

SSSI represents the entire Australian Geospatial Industry in a united effort to contribute to the bushfire recovery efforts, with this Map-a-thon representing meaningful local, national and international support for these bushfire recovery efforts. 

How do I register?
Everyone participating in the Map-a-thon will need to register online. Click here to register.

You are able to participate in the Map-a-thon in three ways (and from anywhere in the world):

  1. Individually - from the comfort of your own home/office or any preferred location
  2. As a team - form a team with family, friends and colleagues and map from the comfort of your won home/office or preferred location
  3. In person at one of our seven locations (Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Canberra, Brisbane, Hobart) around Australia  (please check ticket info prior to selecting this option)

For those who have registered, information on how to link to the map-a-thon will be emailed a day prior to the event.

Do I have to register?
Yes - to attend an official event or take part remotely on the day (Sunday 9 February 2020), you will need to register to be able to access the training materials. You can easily and quickly register for free here, no matter where you are based around Australia or around the world. 

How do I know the data I am collecting will be put to good use? 
SSSI has reached out to government, academia, professional bodies and allied associations to understand how best the surveying and spatial professionals can respond and can create value for the communities impacted by recent fires. This Map-a-thon provides a way we can all contribute to the information needed by agencies delivering recovery services and those researchers and data analysts looking at future preparedness scenarios.

What areas will the Map-a-thon be focusing on?
This map-a-thon is focusing on areas that have been devastated by the recent bushfires. OpenStreetMap will be used for data collection in conjunction with government data and imagery. The Map-a-thon aims to collect information relating to burnt infrastructure (homes, outbuildings, facilities, fences and power poles etc). The information is intended as a guide for recovery efforts to supplement authoritative data sources where no data exists. This information will be validated and verified at a later date. 

Who is supporting the Map-a-thon?
Thank you to the wonderful organisations supporting the SSSI National Bushfire Recovery Map-a-thon

My company would love to sponsor the Map-a-thon... is it too late?
Absolutely not! We would love to have your support. Please contact Johanna Gastevich at for further information. 

If attending in person, what do I need to bring with me? Should I bring my own portable device to use?
All you need is your computer - a laptop and mouse! It can be useful to bring along a bottle of water on the day, and our official events will provide refreshments and (non-alcoholic) beverages. 

Can I only attend for part of the day?
You sure can - we understand that being a weekend, people will have prior commitments. While the event will run from 10am - 4pm, you are welcome to join for as long or short as is convenient for you, especially if you are participating remotely from home.  

I can't participate in the Map-a-thon on Sunday, 9th February, 2020, am I able to map on another date?
Absuloutely! We have been overwhelmed by the response from people wanting to participate in this Map-a-thon, you will be able to continue accessing the site for at least a month after the event. We are hoping this will be the first in a series of Map-a-thons.

Can I take part in the map-a-thon remotely from my computer at home, from a regional location or from overseas?
You certainly can - while joining one of the face-to-face events on the day held nationally across Australia will allow you to meet and mingle with other mappers, we want to make involvement in these efforts as inclusive and accessible as possible. So, no matter whether you are away from home, based in a regional centre or overseas, we’d love to have you join us for the Map-a-thon. 
Simply register by clicking here so you will be provided access to the training materials and links, and you’ll be set to participate and help the recovery efforts. 

Who is the SSSI?
The Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute (SSSI) is the peak national body for all custodians of quality spatial (location) data creation, storage, maintenance and use in Australia. SSSI exists to serve the evolving needs of this community, maintaining its rich heritage stretching back hundreds of years, in balance with adapting to new technologies as we move towards the fourth industrial revolution with changes in the way we work and the skills valued in the workplace. 

What sets SSSI apart is it’s unique national reach, which enables a number of significant strengths:  stronger and broader advocacy, the ability to break down geographic silos and build stronger technical excellence, the ability to offer a plethora of events that allow a broad and diverse network of professionals with strengths in many areas the ability to network and collaborate, certification to strengthen the core of the Australian geospatial and surveying industry for a future where it is even more strongly positioned in an international context, the ability to provide professional development opportunities with a broader reach and scale, migration skills assessment to provide another pillar of support for the future of our profession, and many more. 

What is surveying and spatial science?
Surveying and spatial sciences come together as two sides of the coin of all things related to location data (anything with coordinates, primarily on the Earth but also in space). 
Surveyors have a long and well-established foundation in the history of many countries and cultures around the planet as the creators of accurate and precise records of location information that underpin the smooth operation of society - around cadastral (property) boundaries (land surveying); around building and civil construction (engineering surveying); around the planning, construction and operation of mines (mining surveying), around understanding and measuring the geography of land under the ocean (hydrographic surveying); and understanding the shape and size of the earth and it’s changing surface over time (geodetic surveying). Surveyors use many tools to undertake their work, utilising a range of technology from theodolites to photogrammetry. 

Spatial science goes hand-in-hand, almost inseparably, with surveying as the management and applied use of this location data - from the creation of small and large spatial datasets of many types and capabilities, interpretation of remotely sensed images and photogrammetry, to cartography (the display of location data as maps in various mediums) to modelling (utilising location to accurately and precisely predict how a product or situation might play out in the real world) to complex analyses (for example to understand constraints or make comparisons). 
Increasingly, the geospatial industry as a whole is moving towards capturing and modelling the world around us digitally in 3D and 4D, allowing a spatial data framework to become the workbench for other data that links to its location context. This is both a spatial data science and an information management art, bringing together both surveyors and spatial scientists as custodians if quality location data and its effective management. Spatial data can be related to almost any dataset in the world, and in a quiet, humble way, geospatial underpins the work that all other industries do.

I still have more questions - who do I ask?
Yes, we are happy to answer any questions you may have! Please email them to Johanna Gastevich at