Artbound

Artbound

Start watching
Fine Cut

Fine Cut

Start watching
SoCal Wanderer

SoCal Wanderer

Start watching
a large damn with graffiti of a woman with a hammer on it, mountains in the background

Earth Focus Presents

Start watching
Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
Professor T

Professor T (Belgium)

Start watching
Emma

Emma

Start watching
Guilt

Guilt

Start watching
Line of Separation Key Art.

Line of Separation

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
Death in Paradise Series 10

Death in Paradise

Start watching
millionaire still

KCET Must See Movies

Start watching
Independent Lens

Independent Lens

Start watching
Tending Nature
New Special Airing Nov. 14

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
Discover all the ways you can make a difference.
Support Icon
The Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams are here to help.

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
 Sign reading "Imperial Beach" with sunset in the background.

A Small-Town Mayor Sued the Oil Industry. Then Exxon Went After Him.

The mayor of Imperial Beach, California, says big oil wants him to drop the lawsuit demanding the industry pay for the climate crisis.
South Central Los Angeles

Black and Brown Residents Face Uphill Battle for Homeownership in This L.A. Neighborhood

Examining how the historic area is becoming gentrified via homebuying trends over the last decade and how an organization is promoting wealth building and homeownership for longtime residents of color.
Freeways crisscross and a lot of concrete infrastructure as seen overhead

Meet the People Featured in 'City Rising: Youth and Democracy'

"City Rising: Youth & Democracy" follows the stories of youth leaders, allies and organizations as they challenge institutional and systemic issues through civic engagement. Learn more about the people and organizations featured in this season.