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>  News Releases >   2006 >   June

Project color-codes New Orleans neighborhood for recovery status

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 06/05/06 • Genevieve Haas (603) 646-3661

Dartmouth and Dillard University partner on unique online approach

As part of ongoing recovery efforts in post-Katrina New Orleans, Dartmouth College's MOSAIC project, helmed by Quintus Jett, a visiting professor at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering, is taking advantage of web-based "open organizing," an organizing framework based on the principles of open-source programming. The newest MOSAIC initiative relies on GIS (Geographical Information Systems) to build an online community map showing color-coded levels of recovery.  Among those helping to create the GIS map are a group of Dillard University students who are taking part in the project as part of a graduation service requirement.

An interactive map may help a New Orleans neighborhood determine its next step.
An interactive map may help a New Orleans neighborhood determine its next step.

MOSAIC's focus is the neighborhood of Gentilly, a New Orleans community damaged by post-Katrina flooding. Gentilly, a multi-racial and socio-economically diverse community, is representative of the city as a whole in terms of  both its demographics and the level of destruction it sustained. By focusing on one neighborhood, the MOSAIC organizers hope to provide a general neighborhood disaster recovery model for other Gulf Coast residential areas that were severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina, as well as a model for future disaster recovery efforts.

Students at Dillard University, a historically black university in New Orleans, must take part in some form of community service relating to the post-Katrina recovery efforts in order to graduate. Following a May 26th meeting at Dartmouth in which Dillard representatives and New Orleans city officials met with MOSAIC organizers, a group of Dillard students received permission to take part in the Gentilly Neighborhood Mapping Project in fulfillment of their service requirement. Helping to lead the Dillard students is Erica Williams, a Dillard junior and Gentilly native who represented Dillard students at the May 26th meeting.

"The goal is to help Gentilly residents and officials and a neighborhood association there better see what is recoverable and decide how they might best recover it."

- Ben Wilson

The mapping project, built by Ben Wilson, a Dartmouth junior, and Dartmouth Professor of Geography Xun Shi, works by using GIS images and data, and photos taken for this purpose at ground level. Areas and individual residences are color coded according to their level of damage. Areas coded red indicate the location is blighted, untouched, and uninhabited, with no signs of work. Yellow indicates the location has been gutted, electricity can be metered and has indications of work beginning. Blue designates a location that is habitable with major action or repairs underway. Green coding indicates undeveloped or vacant land.

Wilson explained that "the primary purpose of the web GIS site is for people to view and work with community data in a way that has a spatial meaning. The color coding system allows users to get a rough idea of the restoration status of more than one point at a time. Once a significant amount of data has been collected, these color codes could be used in calculating restoration statistics for an entire block, or group of blocks. Users will be able to use the GIS "buffer" feature to find out from a given address how many addresses are inhabited, gutted, or still blighted.  The goal is to help Gentilly residents and officials and a neighborhood association there better see what is recoverable and decide how they might best recover it."

Dillard students and other volunteers contribute to the mapping effort by collecting data on the recovery status of individual homes and buildings within Gentilly and adding their data to the mapping project.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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