Visualizing and Validating Jamaica Bay’s Environmental History

Authors: M. Joy Cytryn*, CUNY - Graduate Center
Topics: Historical Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Coastal and Marine
Keywords: Jamaica Bay, GIS, Environmental History
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Taylor, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The diminished Jamaica Bay estuary located within the City of New York is the focus of much research especially since Hurricane Sandy. What happened to Jamaica Bay, to this once vibrant estuary? How and why did the process of environmental degradation take place? The field of historical GIS, the application of geographic information systems (GIS) and other geospatial technologies to the study of history has been conceptualized as one of the core method of analysis. Today much of what at one time would have required months of archival research is often readily available on the internet making it a more time effective research method. Newspapers, local, regional and national as well as large collections of digitized historical maps are archived in numerous depositories online. Much of this information is free. This more readily available primary data enabled a further understanding of the societal shifts and attitudes in the region. These shifts caused changes in how land was valued and resulted in the loss of most of the estuaries wetlands. Using the free and accessible cartographic and narrative data in a GIS enabled the production of a rich visualization of Jamaica Bay’s environmental history. Using GIS, the study produced a collection of maps. These maps interweave current and historical Jamaica Bay providing a compelling story of the past 250 years. It both narrates and visually communicates, sometimes by translating words to images, the history of land use/land cover change and modification and an understanding of some societal drivers of change.

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