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  • 14 October 2005
  • Map specialist flies out to aid earthquake relief mission

    Jonathan Douch

    Jonathan Douch

    A University of Sussex geography research student is using his mapping skills to help get vital aid to earthquake victims in Pakistan, Kashmir and Afghanistan.

    DPhil geography student Jonathan Douch, from Forest Row, East Sussex, flew out to Islamabad in Pakistan on Friday October 14 as a volunteer for MapAction. The UK-based charity maps disaster areas so that rescue and relief missions can get aid and supplies quickly and efficiently to areas that need it most. It also assists with longer-term development and humanitarian programmes.

    Mappers provide vital information about damage to transport links, infrastructure and local amenities as well as details about key locations and the local populations. Field workers head out to affected areas and, using global positioning systems, relay data back to base, where computerised maps are created and updated for use by the aid agencies who need them.

    Jonathan, 43, is into the second year of research on heathland distribution and is also a tutor in geographical information systems (where computerised mapping techniques combining GPS information, satellite images and other data sources are used to create new maps) at the University. He will be using his specialist skills to assist the relief effort. Jonathan will be part of a team of eight, who have been helping since the earthquake struck, and he expects to spend a week to ten days with the operation. "The charity likes to get in early and hand over quickly," said Jonathan, before flying out.

    He said: "I heard about MapAction from a colleague at Sussex, then saw how they got involved with the tsunami relief effort so, because of the work I do, I decided to sign up. This is the first time I've done this sort of thing so I don't know what to expect."

    Jonathan added: "I know that there have been problems because of a lack of data, the political sensitivity of the area and a lack of helicopters."

    Evelyn Dodds, Map Curator and Resource Centre Manager for the geography department, who has raised funds in the past for MapAction, says: "Geography students at Sussex learn similar techniques, creating new maps of areas such as the Ashdown Forest using GPS devices and remote sensing [satellite imagery]. It's good to know that things we do here can be so relevant in the outside world."


    Notes for editors 

    For interviews, images and further information, please contact Maggie Clune or Jacqui Bealing at the University of Sussex Press Office on 01273 678 888 or email or

    For further information about MapAction, see

    For further information about geography at the University of Sussex, see



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