Dr. Andrew Marx of the US Department of State served as a Fellow of the US Holocaut Memorial Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide from February to May 2013. Whle there he tested a pro-active way to use LANDSAT ETM + satellite imagery to detect mass human rights violations. The image at right is from a video that animates data collected of Darfur.
He theorized that destruction of villages by burning would produce a change in the reflectivity pattern of the affected area that could be automatically detected with the NASA imagery. During his fellowship, Dr. Marx successfully tested his methodology by comparing images taken of Darfur between 2000 and 2008 with a database of 2,666 villages in Darfur that were reported as destroyed during that period. The comparison not only confirmed that his methodology could detect villages that had been burned, it also provided new insights into the Darfur conflict during the period examined. While the location of the burned villages is already known at approximately an annual basis, this study provided the first comprehensive documentation of when villages were destroyed within as little as a two week period, thus showing more specific and accurate patterns of violence than were previously documented. Although Dr. Marx screened for patterns consistent with the burning of villages, he theorizes that other types of destruction associated with human rights violations cause reflectivity changes that can also be detected using mid-resolution imagery.
- A New Approach to Detecting Mass Human Rights Violations Using Satellite Imagery (pdf)