The following open source or freeware may be useful for investigating ecosystems (at your own risk).
Geographic Information Systems
Marble Marble is a Virtual Globe and World Atlas that you can use to learn more about Earth: You can pan and zoom around and you can look up places and roads. A mouse click on a place label will provide the respective Wikipedia article. Of course it's also possible to measure distances between locations or watch the current cloud cover. Marble offers different thematic maps: A classroom-style topographic map, a satellite view, street map, earth at night and temperature and precipitation maps. All maps include a custom map key, so it can also be used as an educational tool for use in class-rooms. For educational purposes you can also change date and time and watch how the starry sky and the twilight zone on the map change.
Marble is a light weight generic geographical map component for use in your own Qt 4.x / C++ application. The MarbleWidget provides a ready-made solution for displaying maps and locations. This includes support for GPS tracking and importing KML/GPX files.
- Marble is cross platform and runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.
- Marble runs decently even without hardware acceleration. It just uses Qt's Arthur API as a painting backend. Optional OpenGL support is being worked on.
- Marble uses vector as well as bitmap data. Marble pulls much of its data from internet servers but can also be used offline.
- Marble provides a plugin architecture and can easily be extended for lots of use cases.
- Marble has got support for several 3rd party data sources like OpenStreetMap, Wikipedia, KML, GPX etc.
- Marble can use several projections: Globe, Flat ("Plate Carree") and Mercator.
- Marble starts up very quickly