Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
Professor T

Professor T (UK)

Start watching
SoCal Update

SoCal Update

Start watching
Us

Us

Start watching
The Latino Experience

The Latino Experience

Start watching
Key Art of "Summer of Rockets" featuring Keeley Hawes and Toby Stephens.

Summer of Rockets

Start watching
Line of Separation Key Art.

Line of Separation

Start watching
Artbound

Artbound

Start watching
Death in Paradise Series 10

Death in Paradise

Start watching
millionaire still

KCET Must See Movies

Start watching
Independent Lens

Independent Lens

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Earth Focus

Earth Focus

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

Cool New Tool Brings Storytelling to Environmental Science

Support Provided By
story-map-8-22-14-thumb-600x350-79444
Mapping pollution and stories about it in California | Image: Geographic Impacts of Global Change: Mapping the Stories of Californians

Environmental science is usually a combination of dry, depressing, and alienating. Those of us who write about it for a living try to deny it at times, but it's true. If you study the details of our effect on the planet's living systems, you find doomsday predictions on the one hand and impenetrable descriptions of acre-feet, megawatt-hours, visitor use days, and genetic scatterplots.

You'd scarcely think that all this boring bad news actually generates stories worth telling, but it does. Whether it's a story of how a wild animal struggles to make a living, or how humans envision their relationship to that animal, the environmental realm is full of narratives.

Now, a new tool developed by two graduate instructors at Stanford University is literally putting those stories on the map.

The story map, entitled Geographic Impacts of Global Change: Mapping the Stories of Californians, was developed as part of an undergraduate biology class by instructors Alexis Mychajliw and Melissa Kemp, under the guidance of Stanford biologist Elizabeth Hadly. Stories from a range of sources (including several from right here at KCET) are linked to hotspots on an interactive map of California, which mark as closely as possible the place where that story happened.

Story hotspots are color-coded depending on their sources, which range from government agencies to cultural minority groups to farmers and conservationists. The map is viewable through five broad category filters -- climate, population, biodiversity, invasives and diseases, and pollution.

Melissa Kemp says the project's intent is to give users a handle on those sometimes overwhelming and inaccessible topics. "Topics like climate change have become buzzwords," says Kemp. "We want this story map to allow people to really see how global problems affect them in their own communities."

"We wanted to focus on stories that people already have in those communities," adds Alexis Mychajliw. "It would have been too easy just to Google stories in the New York Times, or even the Los Angeles Times. Instead, we tried to emphasize the really local sources throughout the state."

Mychajliw says that the bulk of the project's work was done by Stanford undergraduate students Simone Barley-Greenfield, Osama El-Gabalawy, Jason Kaufman, Job Naliana, and ZiXiang Zhang. Each of the five focused on a specific area of the state, divided using the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's organizational regions as a guide. "It was a great opportunity for our undergraduate students," says Mychajliw. "they'd never had the opportunity to translate any of their work into the policy field before."

What's next for the project now that the Spring 2014 semester is history? Mychajliw and Kemp's plans include expanding the map to include the remaining 49 states, incorporate video and audio interviews, and reach out to K-12 teachers who might find the story map a useful tool. The two say they're also considering ways to allow people to put their own stories on the map.

I know I'll be using it as a way to see what kinds of stories I might be missing out there in the California landscape. Check it out.

Support Provided By
Read More
A light structure similar to scaffolds were used in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

How the Gleeful Aesthetic of L.A.’s 1984 Olympics Unified a Sprawling City

In 1984, Los Angeles exuded Olympic psychedelia, a gleeful '80s aesthetic which underlined the complementary power of sport, culture and art. It would also revitalize a bedraggled Olympic movement.
The City of Huntington Park sign in front of City Hall hosts a welcome message for residents passing by.

Hefty Contracts for Campaign Contributors in Huntington Park

An examination of public records from 2018 and 2020 confirmed that several companies contracted by the city of Huntington Park donated gifts and campaign contributions to council members during that time. The investigation raises questions about whether council members are truly looking out for the best interests of the public when creating policies and making decisions.
0722021_Lancaster_PU_Sized_10.jpg

Thieves Are Stealing California’s Scarce Water. Where’s It Going? Illegal Marijuana Farms

As drought grips most of California, water thefts have increased to record levels. Thieves tap into hydrants, pump water from rivers and break into remote water stations and tanks.