Google has coursed the Amazon, swam the Great Barrier Reef and scaled the Burj Khalifa – and now the tech giant has launched their latest Street View Trekker project with a collection of incredible maps of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. Allowing users to become “Darwin for a Day,” the 360-degree street view maps swim with marine life and hike over islands that Darwin likely encountered in his historic venture 178 years ago. Viewers can even help with ongoing conservation in the region by identifying the plants and animals on screen.
Conducted in collaboration with the Galapagos National Park, the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Catlin Seaview Survey, Google collected the images over the course of ten days this May. Taking their distinctive cameras both on backpack treks over the islands and down into the surrounding waters, the mapping expedition provides a thoroughly unique documentation of the region’s unique ecosystem.
As Google highlights, many of the animals one will encounter as one travels through the maps exist only on the Galapagos Archipelago, including the Galapagos region’s own majestic giant tortoises, sea lions and lesser-known marine iguanas. Many of these unique creatures are believed to have inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection when he studied the area in 1835.
But these incredible animals, as well as marine- and landscapes are under threat from invasive species, and research in the field is costly and time consuming. So in addition to providing awe-inspiring armchair entertainment, the extensive documentation of the islands will assist conservation groups as they study the “environment, conservation, animal migration patterns, and the impact of tourism on the islands.”
Amateur scientists as well as experts in less exotic climes can become involved too. Google has partnered with iNaturalist to create the “Darwin for a Day” program, which enables users to help catalogue the plants and animals shown in the Street View images, further advancing the perhaps unexpected use of Google Street View as a conservation tool.