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SkyTruth is a nonprofit environmental watchdog that uses satellite imagery and remote sensing data to identify and monitor threats to the planet's natural resources. Its stated mission is to "use the view from space to motivate people to protect the environment".[1] Areas of focus range from issues such as offshore drilling, oil spills, urban development, hydraulic fracturing, mountaintop removal mining, and illegal fishing.[2][3] SkyTruth releases all of its imagery and data to researchers and the public for free, with the goal of greater transparency, motivating individuals, policymakers, governments, and corporations towards more responsible stewardship of the planet Earth.[4]


SkyTruth was founded in 2001 by John Amos, a geologist working in the private sector who became concerned with humankind's growing impact on the planet. Amos spoke with advocates in various environmental groups to discuss their communication needs and resource limitations and found a niche in providing analysis of satellite and aerial imagery to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), environmental advocates, and government resource managers. Early SkyTruth projects included mapping the landscape impact of natural gas drilling in the Rocky Mountains, revealing commercial fishing vessel activity on the outskirts of marine protected areas, and showing the growing environmental impact of strip mining for coal and other minerals throughout the United States.[5][6]

Deepwater Horizon disaster[edit]

In April 2010, the offshore oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, operated by BP P.L.C., exploded in the Gulf of Mexico and triggered the largest accidental oil spill in history. In cooperation with Florida State University, SkyTruth estimated the amount of oil flow from the damaged well-using satellite imagery and determined based conservative estimates using the visible surface slick that the flow of oil was between 5 and 25 times greater than BP reported.[7] SkyTruth was the first organization to challenge BP's claims, and continued to monitor and document flow from the well until it was successfully sealed.[8]

Recent Projects[edit]


SkyTruth's FrackFinder project utilizes public crowd sourcing to map fracking operations on the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations.[9] SkyTruth has mapped out fracking well pads and retainment ponds in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, with further plans to quantify the total impact halos of fracking operations underway. FrackFinder data is publicly available through GitHub. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University used SkyTruth's FrackFinder data to link hydraulic fracturing activity to premature birth, high risk pregnancies,[10] migraines, fatigue, and chronic nasal and sinus symptoms.[11]

Global Fishing Watch[edit]

On September 16, 2015, SkyTruth in partnership with Google and marine conservation organization, Oceana, launched Global Fishing Watch at the Our Ocean Conference hosted by then-US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, DC.[12] Global Fishing Watch continuously publicizes the locations of over 200,000 vessels via their onboard Automatic Identification Systems so that users can individually track vessels through exclusive economic zones, marine protected areas, and other features. Global Fishing Watch has been used by governments, such as that of Kiribati in 2016, to crack down on illegal fishing and fishing in protected waters.[13]

Mountaintop Removal Mining[edit]

SkyTruth collected data for their mountain top removal survey in a partnership with Appalachian Voices, to map the location and growth of mountain top removal (MTR) mines over a 30-year period.[14]

Oil Spill Monitoring[edit]

SkyTruth continuously monitors oil spill activity, investigating United States Coast Guard National Response Center reports and calculating estimates of spill volume from confirmed surface slicks. SkyTruth monitors the chronic leak from Taylor Energy site 23501.[15]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Tucker, Neely; Tucker, Neely (2013-07-31). "SkyTruth, the environment and the satellite revolution". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  3. ^ Urbina, Ian (17 February 2016). "Palau v. The Poachers". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  4. ^ "About – SkyTruth". Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  5. ^ Tucker, Neely; Tucker, Neely (2013-07-31). "SkyTruth, the environment and the satellite revolution". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  6. ^ "About – SkyTruth". Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  7. ^ "Gulf Oil Spill "Not Over": Dolphins, Turtles Dying in Record Numbers". 2014-04-09. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  8. ^ Cart, Julie (2010-05-01). "Tiny group has big impact on spill estimates". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  9. ^ "Tracking Frackers From the Sky". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  10. ^ 21, Hub staff report / Published May; 2017 (2015-10-12). "Johns Hopkins study links fracking to premature births, high-risk pregnancies". The Hub. Retrieved 2017-05-22.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ 21, Stephanie Desmon / Published May; 2017 (2016-08-25). "Study: Fracking associated with migraines, fatigue, chronic nasal and sinus symptoms". The Hub. Retrieved 2017-05-22.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Revkin, Andrew C. "How Digital Tracking of Rogue Fishing Can Safeguard Vast Ocean Reserves". Dot Earth Blog. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  13. ^ "Satellite watchers busted an illegal fishing vessel, and they're coming for others around the world". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  14. ^ "Appalachian Voices Releases Mountaintop Mining Mapping Tool". Associated Press. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  15. ^ Ellis, Emma Grey. "Thousands of Invisible Oil Spills Are Destroying the Gulf". WIRED. Retrieved 2017-05-22.

External links[edit]