Meet Oil Reporter

Oil Reporter App

Meet Oil Reporter, an open data initiative of CrisisCommons. This suite of tools and resources encourages response organizations to capture and share data with the public as they response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. This initiative provides response organizations with the ability to adopt and customize Oil Reporter for their own use, add additional data collection elements and provide technical assistance to help response organizations aggregate and visualize their data into products for use in response and recovery efforts.

The Oil Reporter mobile application is available on the Android and iPhone platforms. It features the ability to capture geotagged photographs, video, text and basic data elements such the presence of oil and distressed wildlife. The application also provides official phone numbers on where to report oiled beaches, wildlife as well as volunteer information links.

Oil Reporter mobile application source code is publicly available on GitHub for reuse and customization. Response organizations wishing to create their own Oil Reporter app can make a request here to be matched with volunteer mobile developer to encourage the reuse of the Oil Reporter application and its open API.  Additionally, response organizations can also request a code so that their communities to flag data for future comparison with public input and other data elements.

Oil Reporter uses an open API for greater information sharing. Response organizations wishing to expand data elements of the API can do so by requesting customization through the match program. All data provided by the response organizations and those using Oil Reporter is public data.

Data collected utilizing the Oil Reporter mobile applications will be managed by San Diego State University’s Visualization Center. Dr. Eric Frost will lead a team to provide visualization tools and products based on the Oil Reporter data. Response organizations requiring assistance will be able to submit a request via for volunteer visualization and analytics support.

Oil Reporter will host an Adopt-A-Beach initiative for virtual volunteers to adopt a span of beach along the Gulf Coast. Through the use of high resolution imagery, volunteers will be provided a specific location and training to map data elements of what they see such as perimeters of oil presence and injured wildlife in remote areas where physical assessment access is limited. This may also provide an opportunity for Oil Reporter photographs and video to be joined with high resolution imagery to provide greater understanding and provide an ability to share data from these sources back to the public. More details on this project will be coming soon.

Like many projects at CrisisCommons, it takes a group of dedicated volunteers to make it happen. We especially want to thank Brendan Lim, Chris Selmer, Jonathan Nelson and Sean Soper from Intridea a web products and service company based in Washington, D.C., specializing in agile application development, user interface design, and custom mobile app solutions. Their team created the open API, mobile application and the website you see here. Just this past January the Intridea team also built the first Kreyol to English web application diction for Haiti relief efforts ( Want to know more about them? Visit Intridea at

We also want to thank Jeff Haynie and Scott Schwarzhoff from Appcelerator who volunteered the use of its open source mobile development platform Titanium. This was the product upon which Oil Reporter was developed by Intridea.  Appcelerator’s team also created Oil Tracker, Oil Reporter’s companion tool that enables mapping of Oil Reporter data.  Appcelerator has volunteered to lead a mobile developer matching program to team mobile developers with response organizations to create their own Oil Reporter app with custom features and data elements. We are thrilled to be working with Jeff, Scott and the entire community at Appcelerator. Check out their open source development platform at

We also want to thank Emicus and Edgecase who have contributed their thoughts and perspectives to the development of this team and contributions to open data collaboration and the entire Commons community for their expertise and support.

We need help with Oil Reporter – want to volunteer? Are you a RIM, Windows Mobile or Palm developer? We want to talk to you.

To volunteer join our Google Group! Oil Reporter needs more versions such as RIM, Windows Mobile and Palm.


About Heather Blanchard

Heather Blanchard is a co-founder of CrisisCommons and CrisisCamp.

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21 Responses to “Meet Oil Reporter”

  1. DeeVon Quirolo May 29, 2010 4:09 pm

    Congratulations! I hope we start seeing more and more images on the ecological disaster in the Gulf that will drive BP and the government to do a better, more efficient job at cleaning it all up.

    I have a blog on Offshore Oil on my website at where I have chronicled all the news, volunteer info and other related issues.

    Also there are scientific papers on the effect of oil on coral reefs and other marine ecosystems on the Recent Science blog on that same site.

    All is free to the public to help inform and encourage action to protect marinelife in the Gulf.

  2. Andy Brack July 28, 2010 3:07 pm

    Here are two sites that your readers may find helpful

    1. — a daily photo blog by the Center for a Better South to highlight what’s going on in pictures.

    2. — a daily rundown of more than 70 new stories about what’s happening in the Gulf. Culled from more than 80 sources every business day. Free subscription.

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