Expanding the Reach of Forest Data and Research with Story Maps

Forest Service researchers present plenary session at Esri User Conference

Forest Service researchers Chris Oswalt (right) and Charles "Hobie" Perry presenting a plenary session at the Esri Users Conference.
Forest Service researchers Chris Oswalt (left) and Charles “Hobie” Perry (right) presenting a plenary session at the Esri Users Conference. (Link to actual video below.)

The USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) unit is increasing the interactivity and reach of forest science by using FIA and other data to create storymaps on topics that range from southern forest products to white-nose syndrome.

Developed on Esri’s ArcGIS Online platform, storymaps are stand-alone web-based resources that – as the title suggests – lead a viewer through a narrative through an interface that can combine maps, text, videos, photos, and other media with templates, map interfaces, and navigation devices designed by Esri. Though the story itself may be linear, GIS-based map layers add multiple dimensions, allowing users to interactively find information for the locations they’re most interested in.

On June 27th, Forest Service FIA researchers Charles “Hobie” Perry (Northern Research Station) and Chris Oswalt (SRS) presented a plenary session at the annual Esri User Conference, which this year attracted over 16,000 attendees. Perry and Oswalt introduced the FIA program and new ways to use FIA data to tell the story of America’s forests, including the Forest Atlas of the United States and the ArcGis-based Timber Supply Analysis developed by partners at the Texas A&M Forest Service to provide information important to Texas forest landowners and managers.

Earlier this year, SRS announced the online premier of Southern Forest Products – An Economic Engine, a storymap that allows viewers to interactively chart the ebb and flow of forest products across the southern states. Developed by Oswalt, the storymap is constantly refreshed as new FIA data is collected, providing a near-real-time guide to southern timber product outputs, the mills that process them, and the flow of wood products from one state to another.

SRS FIA forester Sonja Oswalt led the development of the story map for the Forest Service national strategy to address white-nose syndrome, which has killed millions of bats in the U.S. Photo of Indiana bat, courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
SRS FIA forester Sonja Oswalt led the development of the story map for the Forest Service national strategy to address white-nose syndrome, which has killed millions of bats in the U.S. Photo of Indiana bat, courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Just last month, the Forest Service unveiled a new storymap, Fighting the Battle for the Bats, which provides a compelling guide to the spread of white-nose syndrome across the United States – and to the efforts by the Forest Service and partners to slow the spread of the disease and to support the recovery of bat populations affected by it.

The storymap introduces the integrated management strategy developed by the Forest Service, which combines research with ground-level strategies on the national forests to address the ultimate goal of arresting the spread of the disease. SRS FIA forester Sonja Oswalt, Chris Oswalt, and Ted Ridley, SRS FIA IT specialist, developed the storymap and narrative in collaboration with Patricia Klein and Nicole Zimmerman from the Forest Service Washington Office and Tim Clark from Esri.

Watch a short video of the Forest Service plenary presentation at the Esri User Conference.

Read more about the Southern Forest Products storymap.

Access the Fighting the Battle for Bats storymap.

For more information, email Chris Oswalt at coswalt@fs.fed.us or Sonja Oswalt at soswalt@fs.fed.us.

Access the latest publications by SRS scientists.

 

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