SkyTruth provides services and data on Fracking, Wastewater ponds, Mountain Top Mining sites, Global Fishing illegal fishing Watches and Oil spill monitoring. They have developed a system of creating and verifying datasets to be used in Remote Sensing Applications. (Remote Sensing is the process of creating layered maps from disparate sources to collect data needed to study a topic.) This is done through software created for this purpose.  SkyTruth has grown from a one man operation in the basement of his home to a respected part of the Remote Sensing Community.

All of the SkyTruth datasets are open source, meaning they can be used for free by anyone that needs that data. The datasets were also created using an open source method, having volunteers in the open source community assist in creating and verifying accuracy in the datasets.  Furthermore, SkyTruth has created two software platforms to run their datasets, and they have also created an open source model for the software.  The nature of open source is that the community using the software confirms its validity by manipulating the software for their own uses, and discovering bugs or limits as to what the software is capable.  The scientific, educational and open-source community as a whole can use these discoveries to improve upon the software, and double check its accuracy.

SkyTruth had its public debut when the DeepWater Horizon drill rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. John Amos, the founder of SkyTruth, began downloading aerial photos each day that were following the size and extent of the plume. He and a fellow researcher made calculations that made the world admit that the estimates of the spill by BP and government officials were off by at least 10-fold.  

Later SkyTruth became the lead developer in Global Fishing Watch, which uses layers of data to identify ocean-going craft that are not using satellite locater ‘pings’ as larger freighters are required to do. This gives clues to the locations of boats that might fishing illegally. Using layers of satellite data, these unidentified boats can be seen, often with fishing lines in the water or moving in a way that they would be if they were trawling for fish. This partnership was created by a request from the government of Chile to monitor fishing on Eastern Island. Preliminary Studies of this work is ready to be released.

To demonstrate its effectiveness and scientific contributions, SkyTruth’s work, staff, and data have been used to write at least 6 peer reviewed articles on topics including environmental health effects of mountaintop removal, work in the Appalachian Mountains regarding water quality, and monitoring the gulf for oil seepage and spills.

This isn’t just non-profit work in the field of Natural World, but pure science being created, published, and being used in a variety of applications.


Matchar, Emily, “Fighting Illegal Fishing With Big DataSmithsonian.com, February 28, 2017

Research: Daneshgar Asl, S. Amos, J et al., “Chronic, Anthropogenic Hydrocarbon Releases in the Gulf of Mexico” American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2012, abstract #OS2ID-1782, December 2012