Story Maps: A New Approach to Communicating about Forests

Forest Service researchers Chris Oswalt (left) and Charles "Hobie" Perry (right) presenting a plenary session on story maps at the Esri Users Conference in late July.
Forest Service researchers Chris Oswalt (left) and Charles “Hobie” Perry (right) presenting a plenary session on story maps at the Esri Users Conference in late July.

The U.S. 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 story maps on topics that range from southern forest products to white-nose syndrome.

Developed on Esri’s ArcGIS Online platform, story maps 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.

Earlier this year, SRS announced the online premier of Southern Forest Products – An Economic Engine, a story map that allows viewers to interactively chart the ebb and flow of forest products across the southern states. Developed by Oswalt, the story map 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.

In June, the Forest Service unveiled a new story map, 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 story map 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 story map and narrative in collaboration with Patricia Klein and Nicole Zimmerman from the Forest Service Washington Office and Tim Clark from Esri.

Read more about the Southern Forest Products story map.

Access the “Fighting the Battle for Bats” story map.

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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