The SCGIS/ESRI/SCB International Conservation Mapping Contest
AWARDS: Grand prize & Innovation (see links for other categories)

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Brooke Wikgren,
New England Aquarium, with Kerry Lagueux

dRelative Distribution of Baleen Whales in the Gulf of Maine: An innovative approach to mapping relative species distribution using an ordinary kriging interpolation method
Brooke Wikgren, New England Aquarium
Kerry Lagueux, New England Aquarium

With a growing demand for marine spatial planning to mitigate conflicts between existing and future ocean uses, determining the relative spatial distribution of marine animals has become increasingly important.  Traditional distribution analyses based on survey sightings can create highly variable spatial data and is greatly dependent on survey effort.  To help account for this, a methodology was created incorporating survey effort with the sightings data resulting in an index termed sightings-per-unit-effort (SPUE) and involves assigning calculated SPUE values to spatially explicit gridded cells based on latitude and longitude.  Mapping SPUE species distributions by gridded cells is a widely used practice; however, SPUE data is often sparse and can be difficult to interpret.  In addition, many marine animals are highly migratory, and mapping based on arbitrarily defined cells can be unrealistic as these animals are not constrained to the grid cell they were sighted in.  In response to this, we have developed a kriging methodology to smooth the relative species density and fill in un-sampled areas with predicted values based on spatial autocorrelation.  The resulting interpolated surface provides a more realistic species distribution that is easier to interpret and provides a visually enhanced dataset for mapping purposes.  For this exercise annual SPUE data for all baleen whales was used to compare the more traditional gridded cell mapping method with that of our improved interpolated method. FULL ESSAY . FULL MAP


GRAND PRIZE: Andrew DiMatteo, Duke University, VA,   with Bryan Wallace, Brian Hutchinson, Rod Mast, Kellee Koenig, Miya Su Rowe and Patrick Halpin, from SWOT Report Vol. 6 ,

dMarine turtles are highly migratory, widely distributed marine megafauna, and several populations have experienced significant declines in recent decades.  Although most marine turtle species have circumglobal distributions that extend from tropical to temperate latitudes, distinct populations of the same species can show variations in body sizes, reproduction, and population trends. Thus, regional and local conservation efforts can be better directed and placed in context when the broader, global biogeography of a species is understood... FULL ESSAY . FULL MAP(JPG(10mb) . MAP SECOND PAGE(10mb)

Brad Stratton, The Nature Conservancy New York, with Kate Hubbs

dThis map shows the 55 year history of land protection by The Nature Conservancy(TNC) in New York, highlighting the extraordinary time and effort that went into protecting the roughly 700,000 acres of land that TNC has protected or helped to protect.  Despite the countless hours of labor and millions of dollars, we have never had a map that shows the full extent of land conservation.  This map is a milestone in the five year effort to create a comprehensive GIS database of all TNC land transactions.  This effort required us to track down paper deeds and surveys from the last half-century in order to properly code the spatial data.  There have been many complex land transactions that required a large team of GIS staff and database staff to create a comprehensive and easily updated Geodatabase.  The end result was a map that cartographically shows all this work to TNC staff and supporters. FULL ESSAY . FULL MAP


Hans Edwin Winzeler, Purdue University  with Zamir Libohova (National Soil Survey Center, NRCS) and Phillip R. Owens (Associate Professor of Agronomy, Purdue University)

dThe purpose of our project is to provide a continuous classification of climate and a method for visualization of complex information using three color ramps combined in one red-green-blue visualization. We hope to provide a method of visualizing climate that can be used in models of soil moisture, wetland preservation, species diversity efforts, and other natural resource management tasks. A continuous classification avoids discreet boundaries, which often do not exist in nature. FULL ESSAY . FULL PDF MAP

Mark Endries, US Fish & Wildlife Service, NC, with
US Fish and Wildlife Service Asheville ES Office Staff

dWildlife faces a myriad of benefits and threats to their well-being.  If one considers all of the benefits and threats to wildlife as a system, this system is very complex.  A challenge to those responsible for the conservation and preservation of wildlife systems is the ability to efficiently provide information on these systems to those who need it.   
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Asheville Field Office (AFO) is responsible for reviewing for endangered species compliance all federally authorized, funded, and permitted projects, and implementing listing and recovery activities for federally listed endangered and threatened species and candidate species of concern in Western North Carolina (WNC).  Paramount to the ability of the AFO to effectively implement listing and recovery actions, as well as educate constituents on conservation issues in WNC, is a tool to provide conservation information in an effective manner.  This tool would permit landscape-scale evaluation of a proposed project to assess its impact on lands important to fish and wildlife species.  In an effort to prioritize the work area of the AFO and share this information with AFO constituents, the AFO used geographic information systems (GIS) to develop a work area habitat prioritization map.  This map incorporates a wide variety of land use, land cover, and wildlife species data to rank the AFO work area landscape on a 1-10 scale based upon federal trust resource priorities of the AFO staff.  FULL ESSAY . FULL PDF MAP

The Esri/SCGIS International Conservation Mapping Competition was organized to find and recognize the best conservation mapping work in the world today.  We specifically used the term "mapping" in order to take in the wide variety of digital and online work  that have expanded our concept of  mapping well beyond static paper maps.  In all we received over 100 entries representing  countries and projects all over the globe.  We are especially grateful to the international Society for Conservation GIS, who played a critical role in reviewing and juding all of the entries.  Comprised of Conservation GIS practicioners and senior organization staff from every major non-profit conservation group and many environmental agencies and businesses, SCGIS is the foremost society representing  and supporting Conservation GIS professionals worldwide (
One criteria was to place equal emphasis on an essay where each entrant got to tell how they made their map.  What was the story they needed to tell? How did they make decisions about what to include and what to leave out so that their map told that story best?  In the end, the winners all displayed a deep consideration for design, systematic, thoughtful approaches to the problem of telling a specific story for a specific audience, leading to careful, reasoned decisions about how to build the map that best fulfilled that design.  Sometimes a design calls for intricate details and complexity, where that's what works for the defined audience.  Sometimes simplicity works best.

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