Mapping Species Ranges in the Sudan

Guest post by Dan Dougherty, Geography/History ’12

The GIS team here at Bucknell worked on numerous projects throughout the summer. The first of these major projects was the mapping of mammal species ranges in the Sudan. The project began as a request from Biology Professor DeeAnn Reeder, who was interested in adding species maps to the newest, upcoming edition of her publication. The objectives were twofold: make maps which clearly show the range of each species of interest superimposed over political delineations, and make an additional map showing the current political situation in the Sudan, independent of species ranges. Professor Reeder requested range maps for over 300 mammal species, which included large mammals, small mammals, and even bats. The maps do not necessarily show precisely where an animal could be found, however. Instead, the maps show where an animal might potentially be found, under ideal conditions. Human presence throughout the region reduces their numbers and often means that they cannot live in certain areas, even if those areas are favorable in all other aspects.

The species maps were limited to black & white due to publishing constraints. Overcoming this limitation was a particularly difficult cartographic challenge, but hopefully the end result displays the map information clearly and sensibly.

P. leo

This map shows the potential species range of the lion (gray shading)

Data was collected primarily from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations. The IUCN provides a comprehensive shapefile containing species range data for over 50,000 mammals. By querying the shapefile, it was possible to isolate the individual species ranges to be mapped; the queried shapefile was then exported. Political data was gathered from the United Nations Sudan Information Gateway. The regional political data was slightly modified using a clipping extent. An extent rectangle was drawn in Central Africa, encompassing all of Sudan and small portions of the surrounding states. All political data outside the extent was removed from the map after running the clip tool.

Showing species ranges in a political context was especially important to us. On July 9, 2011, South Sudan formally seceded from the rest of Sudan. So while the species maps on a basic level show the species ranges, they also provide a base for further analysis. What will be the effect of this newly formed political boundary on the livelihoods of the innumerable resident animal species, who are not constrained to arbitrary political borders? Specifically, the maps raise some questions about the effect of differing political, cultural, and social attitudes on habitat sustainability and conservation efforts. Furthermore, the potential for resulting conflict over natural resources and regional hegemony in the aftermath of the split might also carry significant consequences for the animal species. In addition, the maps also seek to illustrate the immense biodiversity of the region.

Making a (good) map

The previous post talked about Margaret Pearce’s call for an active, engaged map reader. Consider this post a call for cartography that’s good enough to keep the attention of those active, engaged map readers. There are tons of great blogs and websites out there that focus on cartographic design – from the high end conceptual approaches to map-making all the way through to the nuts and bolts of how to find and load different symbol sets. I’ll try to highlight a number of those in the coming weeks (it is poster season after all). For now, here’s a good blog to start with – Map Practical.

They had me at “classic mountain stamp” symbol sets.

From MapPractical’s blog description:

Welcome to Map Practical, where the cartography gets done. These are the cartographic trenches, the domain of greasy hands, busted knuckles, and sore mouse fingers. This is the home of techniques, tutorials, and tricks of all things map. Here’s how we do it; your job is to make it look good!

Reading a map

A few weeks ago, Bucknell hosted Kansas State University geographer/cartographer Margaret Pearce for a presentation on map visualization and cartographic design.  Dr. Pearce is a geographer who works on cartographic representation of cultural and historical geographies, especially Indigenous geographies.   Much of her presentation focused on communication between the cartographer and the map reader – particularly on the need for an active/engaged map reader.

Pearce mentioned that she has had people compliment her on her maps by saying that they really had to “sit down” with the map to read and understand it. As Pearce put it, you probably wouldn’t compliment the author of an article or book that way…. yet often times maps get only a passing glance instead of a full, attentive reading.  During her presentation, Pearce walked the audience through a careful reading of  “They Would Not Take Me There” – a map that she made with co-collaborator Michael Hermann to illustrate the travels of Samuel de Champlain as he explored Canada between 1603 and 1616.  She discussed her use of Native place names, quotes from Champlain’s travel journals, historic fonts and cartographic techniques in shaping the map into a narrative in its own right – one that is a starting point for a discussion rather than a mere summary of Champlain’s travels through Canada.

From Pearce and Hermann’s introduction to the map on the University of Maine’s Canadian-American Center website:

At one level, Champlain’s explorations have been extensively documented and mapped by scholars focusing on the locations and dates of Champlain’s arrivals and departures. But these maps are silent with regard to the Indigenous geographies through which Champlain moved and upon which he relied for the success of his own explorations and mappings. Also, they fail to convey the human experiences which shape the emotional geographies of his journals.

From an article on the map that was published in Cartographic Perspectives, Number 66, Fall 2010:

The project began with a single map of the hydrography from the Gaspe Peninsula to the Georgian Bay, which was the extent of Champlain’s exploration of Canada along the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. But the cartographic challenge evolved into more than mapping Champlain’s exploration routes; the mapping of his experience became both the design question and quest. Champlain’s own travel narrative
became the primary design element, with his words placed among the geography he described. These quotes were selected to bring the reader into the landscape of the map, including, but not limited to, observations of the physical landscape. His interactions and conflicts with Natives and Europeans also were stories that needed to be mapped. This concept of mapping stories and interactions became the primary focus.

 

An example of the use of Native place names and historic fonts:

 

An image of the full map – no full-size digital file available (but soon I’ll have one in my office if you want to see it):

 

Diagram presenting one way to group information and read the map for the first time:

Reminder: Margaret Pearce cartography presentation tomorrow, Tues. 3/1

Margaret Pearce, University of Kansas Dept. of Geography, will present a lecture, “Rethink the Reader: Toward Cartographic Design to Engage, Inspire, and Empower” tomorrow (Tues. 3/1) at 4:30 in 221 Coleman Hall.

Dr. Pearce works on cartographic representation of cultural and historical geographies, especially indigenous geographies. Her work stems from, as she describes it, “a love of map design as both a tool for exploring geographical information as well as expressive form for communicating complex geographical ideas, especially ideas about place and experience.” Her work is inspired and influenced by emerging ideas in critical cartography, affective technologies, and Indigenous Studies. She has published in journals such as Cartography and Geographic Information Science, American Indian Culture & Research Journal, and Cartographic Perspectives and has authored a book, Exploring Human Geography with Maps.

Sponsored by L&IT, the Geography Department, and the Bucknell Environmental Center.

Upcoming lecture by Margaret Pearce

Tuesday, March 1st @ 4:30pm (Coleman 221)

“Rethink the reader: Toward cartographic design to engage, inspire and empower”

Come hear Margaret Pearce from the University of Kansas talk about map visualization and cartographic design.  Dr. Pearce is a geographer who works on cartographic representation of cultural and historical geographies, especially Indigenous geographies.  Her work is inspired and influenced by emerging ideas in critical cartography, affective technologies, and the focus on place in Indigenous studies.  She has published in journals such as Cartography and Geographic Information Science, American Indian Culture & Research Journal, and Cartographic Perspectives, and has co-authored a book, with O. Dwyer, Exploring Human Geography with Maps.