We recently came across this interesting article about how researchers have created a land cover map of East Africa, differentiating the areas with human land cover vs areas that remain natural. The map will be useful for studying many different species of wildlife in the area, but it has already proved useful in the study of African Wild Dogs.
The map was created using a tool called GE Grids created by Andy Stanish and available here. It creates a grid over a specified area and you can select or de-select squares in the grid. So, for the East Africa map in the article above researchers looked at the satellite imagery and selected areas that showed signs of human habitation or land use. Very simple but remarkably useful. This highlights the usefulness of the Google Earth API, which Google plans to shut down next month. In this particular case the tool does not use historical imagery or other features unique to Google Earth, so it would be relatively easy to convert the tool to use Google Maps instead. However, there are plenty of other applications and tools out there which will have no real alternative after the Google Earth API comes to an end.