Interactive student project puts “communities in crisis” on the map


Goofy has defined each story on a world map that allows viewers to zoom in, pan, and even search by address. She did not take the course. She carried out the project as part of an internship and did so out of interest in scientific communication. For her, communicating on the impact of climate change is both urgent and important.

“I think a lot of people think climate change is something far away, something that isn’t going to affect them in the near future, or affect their region right now,” Dingo said. “They think it’s a problem for people in desert and coastal communities. But if you look at Pennsylvania, we have a lot of problems with ocean acidification, pollution, invasive species, and that’s part of climate change. They are part of the way humans modify the environment. And it will alter the environment for a long period of time. This map really puts things in perspective when you see the range of regions that are affected. Climate change is happening right now. And it’s happening everywhere. And it’s going to affect us all.

As Goofy read the essays, this mantra was apparent.

One essay, titled “Drowning Motherland,” chronicles a Gambian student who incorporates stories from his family about the plight of their homeland. Others told stories of people like the Iñupiat people of Alaska needing to relocate and having little means to do so. Another recounted how petroleum-based plastics are accumulating in the city of Pittsburgh due to fewer options to recycle the material. Around the world, similar land and water issues were apparent.

To build on these trials, Goofy is now putting together custom stories to create a story map for his ArcGIS course that will integrate with the map.

Madison Kinsley, a junior specializing in public relations, focused on the issues that matter most to us. The spotted lantern fly, native to Asia, is impacting its hometown of Allentown, Pa. Through economic and agricultural devastation.

Because the mission asked students to focus on an area that was no larger than a city, it forced her to dig deeper into her research to spot localized impacts. She said many global effects of climate change – such as wildfires on the west coast and extreme weather events – were already being told, but the granular stories of small communities were not as well known.

For another essay, Kinsley traveled the world to India, where she told the story of record breaking heat waves in Ahmedabad. In 2010, temperatures there reached over 116 degrees Fahrenheit, killing more than 1,300 citizens.

Kinsley said the job was outside of what she normally does for her major, but she knew climate change was affecting so many people. And, admittedly, she said she didn’t know much about the root causes, problems, and potential solutions.

“Climate change is a problem that many people don’t know much about. I was the same and wanted to change that, ”Kinsley said.


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