GeoEye Inc. recently donated more than 1,000 square kilometers of high-resolution satellite imagery to help conservation groups study a shrinking gorilla population in Africa, according to a Nov. 13 company news release.

Mark Brender, GeoEye vice president of corporate communications and marketing for the Dulles, Va.

-based company, said in a Nov. 14 interview that the imagery likely has a value of about $20,000.

Additional processing – also worth about $20,000 – was

performed on a pro bono basis by Satellite Imaging Corp., a reseller of GeoEye Imagery, according to Leo Romeijn, president of the Houston-

based company.

Satellite Imaging Corp. had requested the donation on behalf of conservation groups through the GeoEye Foundation, which GeoEye set up earlier this year with the goal of providing imagery to universities and non

governmental organizations, Romeijn said in a Nov. 14 interview.

The world’s gorilla population has shrunk from about 17,000 in 1994 to about 5,000 today, according to the news release. The issue has gained increased media attention recently due to the massacre of a family of gorillas in the Virunga National Park, an area

that hosts about 60 percent of the world’s population of gorillas, according to the news release. The donated imagery will provide coverage of that entire area.

The imagery donated by GeoEye also covers parts of the Republic of Congo, Uganda

and Rwanda, Romeijn said.

Conservation workers were previously using LandSat satellite imagery, which offers 15-meter resolution, Romeijn said. The imagery provided by GeoEye from its Ikonos

satellite offers

1-meter resolution, which offers much more detailed information about the gorillas’ habitat, he said.

Some of the uses of the imagery include identifying routes used by poachers and areas where illegal logging may be taking place that disrupts the gorillas’ natural habit, Brender said.

The donated imagery came from GeoEye’s archives, which include about 300 million square kilometers of Ikonos

imagery, and thus did not require new tasking of its satellites, Brender said. GeoEye processed

the imagery, while Satellite Imaging performed additional processing that included bringing the imagery together into a seamless picture of the gorillas’ habitat.

Conservation groups that will receive the imagery include the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, the Central African Regional Program for the Environment, the International Gorilla Conservation Program, the Zoological Society of London

and the African Conservation Fund, according to the GeoEye news release. Clare Richardson, president and chief executive officer of Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, said in the Nov. 13 news release that the imagery “will be enormously useful in helping to plan for the future of the endangered mountain gorillas.”

In addition to supporting the gorilla conservation efforts, the GeoEye Foundation has provided imagery to

universities and non

governmental organizations for

a variety of

tasks since it was created in March, Brender said.

Other efforts that have received grants this year include a Duke University researcher studying bird habitats in Brazil, a Harvard University study on how ancient cities formed and collapsed in Iraq, and a Mountain Studies Institute study on mercury emissions in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, he said.


low relative cost of processing and distributing the archived satellite imagery via DVD

likely will be more than compensated for

by the benefits

GeoEye will gain from

working with universities and non

governmental organizations, Brender said. In addition, the GeoEye Foundation is a morale booster within the company

and helps with retention of employees, he said.

The foundation

also may prove to be an effective recruitment tool by establishing or strengthening existing bonds with universities who are educating the next generation of geospatial imagery experts, Brender said. In addition to finding new employees, GeoEye could use the relationship with the universities for help in evaluating imagery from its GeoEye-1 satellite after it becomes operational following its launch in April 2008, he said.

“There are many wins, and the costs to us are not great,” Brender said.