Data Visualization

Information visualization tools like Gapminder, Many Eyes, Fusion, and Google Earth have revolutionized how information is shared by providing free, powerful, and easy to use tools for people of all skill levels to interact with data. For rangeland management, this means that we are no longer bound by traditional constraints on how we present information related to assessment and monitoring, management, planning, and restoration. Interactive visualizations can go a long way towards translating the arcane language of charts, graphs, and maps into a medium that effectively communicates to a wider audience and invites participation.

JournalMap - Mapping Scientific Literature

The advent of semantic searching and aggregation searches like Google Scholar and Web of Science has made it easier to search across disciplines and publishers to find useful references. However, the ability to find out what is known about a specific ecosystem or landscape is also hindered by current search technologies because they rely on key word, topic, text, and author searching - concepts of cataloging and searching for published information that date back to the late 1800's. Much of the published research conducted on ecosystems around the world is tied to specific places, and these locations can be exploited for literature searching if precise geographic information on where studies take place is reported.

Expand the REM Journal Map

The map above shows locations of studies that were published in Rangeland Ecology and Management (2005-2011) and the Journal of Arid Environments (2006-2011). Locations for each study were extracted from the study area section of each published article. Due to restrictions on automated searching of publishers' websites, the information displayed in the Journal Map was extracted manually. This process could be easily automated, however.

Approximately 87.2% of the studies published in these two journals reported locations of their study areas. Of these, 32.9% reported only a place name or general description (e.g., 5 miles west of Hailey, Idaho) that could not be precisely mapped. The remaining studies reported geographic corrdinates in various formats and levels of precision.

In addition to being able to search for literature geographically, the JournalMap opens up the possibility to search for literature from similar areas. In many parts of the world, there has been little formal study of the structure and dynamics of local ecosystems, turning resource management into a guessing game. However, research that has been conducted on landscapes that share similar soils and climates can, in many cases, be relevant to these understudies regions. Currently, however, there is no way to easily identify these areas and search them for published studies.

Lines of Inquiry - Visualizing Scientific Collaboration Networks

Scientific journals also contain other interesting data that can be automatically harvested like the affiliations and collaborations involved in conducting and publishing research. Mapping the network of author collaborations in a journal can reveal patterns like geographic biases in publishing and dominance of certain institutions in fields represented by the publication.

Expand the REM Lines of Inquiry Map     |     Download a high-res PDF version.

This map shows the locations of institutions that have published an article in Rangeland Ecology and Management (REM) from 2005 to 2010. In some cases, dots represent more than one institution at a location. Multiple authors from a single institution were counted only once per article. Lines connecting locations represent coauthorship links between institutions on the same paper. Thicker lines represent multiple collaborations between institutions.

Several things are clear from this map. First, REM draws from a diverse set of highly connected researchers across the world, but is concentrated in the United States. Second, a core set of 14 locations (comprising 15 institutions) generated 49.7% of the research published in REM.

Data to create this map came from the Society of Range Management's journals website ( Author affiliations for each article were obtained via an automated web-scraping routine. Coordinates for affiliation locations were generated through the GPS Visualizer ( The data were prepared in Microsoft Access and ESRI ArcGIS.

Visualizing NRI Monitoring Data

The National Resources Inventory (NRI) is a statistical resource monitoring program for all non-federal lands in the United States (including private, state, tribal and trust lands). The NRI reports on indicators like land use change and soil erosion rates. Results are published in 5-year intervals starting from 1982. NRI results are provided in the form of tables in reports and selected static maps and graphs. The visualizations below were created from tabluar data provided in the 2007 NRI reports to illustrate the ease of making interactive data products from NRI results.

The maps and graphs above were created with Google Charts and data stored in a Google Documents spreadsheet.

Rangeland Visualization & 3-D Symbol Library

Go the next step beyond interactive maps and create life-like visualizations with the rangeland-specific 3D symbols we’ve created.