Map storytelling to build empathy for Oregon coast communities

Authors: Michala Garrison*, University of Oregon
Topics: Cartography
Keywords: climate change, map storytelling, geovisualization, ocean acidification, cartography
Session Type: Guided Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Two climate change induced conditions—ocean acidification and hypoxia—are rapidly changing the biogeochemistry of Oregon’s coast and the livelihoods of coastal residents. Decreasing pH levels caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide by the ocean is creating corrosive conditions for shell-forming organisms, known as calcifiers, like shellfish. Calcifiers provide habitat, shelter, and food that many plants and animals rely on. These disturbances to Oregon’s seawater and food webs have dire consequences on their marine environment, local and state economies, and tribes. While visualizations and tools have been designed to illustrate the changes in ocean biogeochemistry, this research is often presented as a collection of facts and values which fail to 1) communicate urgency, 2) illustrate how changes related to climate dynamics affect livelihoods, and 3) inspire action of stakeholders at multiple scales. In short, maps made to illustrate vulnerable and high-risk areas need to depict where these locations are and communicate how these communities will be affected. Within the fields of cartography and geovisualization, there have been recent calls to incorporate storytelling into map design to provoke emotional response and build empathy in the reader in order to connect them with people and places they have never met nor seen. These storytelling maps both communicate environmental changes and tell the story of livelihood change. In this poster, we illustrate one way in which to tell a story through a map by illustrating the dynamic scientific processes occurring in the ecosystem and incorporate stories of how these communities are being affected.

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