Google Earth

Google Earth combines satellite imagery, aerial photography and map data to make a 3D interactive template of the world. People can then add and share information about any subject in the world that has a geographical element.

To access the files, first download Google Earth and install it on your computer. Then click on the links below to access Nature's avian flu mashup and other files, including our Science on the Solstice special.

In October 2006 Nature's avian flu mashup won the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) Use of a New Digital Platform Award 2006. See below for more details. Image: Google Earth


Avian Flu


Nature has used Google Earth to track the spread of the H5N1 avian flu virus around the globe. To access Nature's avian flu file (or 'mashup'), download Google Earth, install it on your computer, and then click here to access the file or paste this URL into your web browser:

A second file shows the density of poultry domestication around the world. Click here to download the poultry map. Once you have downloaded both files you can view both of them at once by modifying the 'layers' menu in the left-hand navigation window. See the Google Earth help section or this blog entry for more details on how to do this. Source: FAO Gridded Livestock of the World datasets


Click here to listen to Senior News Reporter Declan Butler talking about Google Earth and GIS mapping in 17 February 2006 Nature Podcast. Hear more about Internet 'mashups' in the 05 January edition of the Nature Podcast.

Find out more about avian flu in Nature's Avian Flu web focus, and in's Bird Flu in focus.

Google Earth introduced in September 2006 new functionality that allows one to map events against time. Clearly this is the ideal way to view the spread of avian flu worldwide, so all future versions of the flu maps will use this. To view the new maps you will need the latest beta 4 time-enabled version of Google Earth. After you have installed this, the new link for the time-enabled maps is here.

Click here for more links, sources, acknowledgments and further information on how to use the latest beta 4 version of Google Earth, which incorporates time-series functionality.

You must have installed the beta 4 version of Google Earth for the preceding time-series functionality link to work. There is more on the time-series functionality update in creator Declan Butler's blog and this blog.

The Nature articles listed below discuss further how Google Earth and other programs like it can be used for a variety of purposes, from learning and geospatial planning to disaster management and species conservation. You can also find out more about Google Earth, mashups and Nature's avian flu mashup in creator Declan Butler's blog, and see comments from the blogosphere in this entry.

In October 2006 Nature's avian flu mashup won the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) Use of a New Digital Platform Award 2006. The award was thus described:

" has adapted Google Earth technology to produce an invaluble information resource with detailed findings about the spread of the avian flu virus. The project has been an online publishing success for, a scientific breakthrough for animal and human healthcare experts, and as critical hit among blogers, programmers, podcasters and other watchers of new and innovative publishing platforms.

Judges' comments: "This entry perfectly demonstrates he intersection of content and technology. A really simple yet incredibly clever idea that seems to have struch a chord with everybody and delivered fantastic value for its users. Neat, simple, and blindingly valuable."




Think global

'Virtual globe' software is transforming our ability to visualize and hypothesize in three dimensions. Educators take note.

Nature 439, 763 (16 February 2006) doi:10.1038/439763a

Full Text | PDF (190KB)


Virtual globes: The web-wide world

Life happens in three dimensions, so why doesn't science? Declan Butler discovers that online tools, led by the Google Earth virtual globe, are changing the way we interact with spatial data.

Nature 439, 776-778 (16 February 2006) doi:10.1038/439776a

Full Text | PDF (190KB)


Mapping disaster zones

Illah Nourbakhsh et al. Google Earth software proved effective during relief efforts in New Orleans and Pakistan, say Illah Nourbakhsh and colleagues. Is there more to be gained than lost from opening up disaster operations to the wider public?

Nature 439, 787-788 (16 February 2006) doi:10.1038/439787a

Full Text | PDF (190KB)


How does Google Earth work?

Short cuts bring the globe to your screen without crashing your computer.
Declan Butler

Published online: 15 February 2006 | doi:10.1038/news060213-7

Full Text


The virtual world gets bigger

Tools set for use in three-dimensional modelling of everything from our anatomy to the Solar System.
Declan Butler

Published online: 15 February 2006 | doi:10.1038/news060213-8

Full Text

Mashups mix data into global service

Is this the future for scientific analysis?
Declan Butler

Nature 439, 6-7 (5 January 2006) doi:10.1038/439006a

Full Text | PDF (190KB)

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