6HWbNHN-show-poster2x3-c7tgE2Y.png

Artbound

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
Earth Focus

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

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
(LEFT) ER nurse Adwoa Blankson-Wood pictured near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, wearing scrubs and a surgical mask; By October, Blankson-Wood was required to don an N-95 mask, protective goggles, a head covering and full PPE to interact with patients.

As A Black Nurse at The Pandemic's Frontlines, I've Had A Close Look at America's Racial Divisions

Most of the time, I was able to frame conversations within the context of the virus and not race, telling patients that we were doing our best, trying to be the heroes they kept calling us. But I was dying inside .... It was easier to find solace in my job, easier to be just a nurse, than to be a Black nurse.
The City of L.A. is staging a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic in Chinatown for senior citizens, in an attempt to improve access to the vaccine among vulnerable populations.

Long-Awaited COVID-19 Vaccine Access Expanding in L.A. County Monday

Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 vaccination effort will expand vastly Monday, but health officials said today those workers will have to be patient as vaccine supplies remain limited and staff are trained to ensure only eligible people receive shots.
Photo from above of people waiting in line on a sidewalk.

COVID-19 Pushes Many Indian Employers to Grant Informal Employees New Work Benefits

Bank accounts, housing and fixed wages among new benefits being offered to some of India's vast army of informal workers.