Why we began the NatureMapping Program
The Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Washington and the
Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife co-founded the NatureMapping Program in 1992
as the public outreach component for the U.S. Geological Survey's Gap Analysis Program (GAP). Its goals
were to facilitate the exchange of information on biodiversity among natural resource agencies, academia,
land-use planners, local communities and schools through public education and participation in data collection
The NatureMapping Program officially began as a national program in 1998 when citizens and
representatives from several states, and other countries, convened their first annual meeting to share
information and agree on established protocols and procedures. At that first meeting,
three states (Washington, Virginia, and Iowa) established state structures for implementing the Program. These states have been instrumental in the continuing development of training workshops and methodologies for supporting local NatureMapping projects around the country.
The Brief History of the NatureMapping Program
- NatureMapping begins by asking the retired natural resource professionals
and Audubon members to collect data for the development of predicted distribution
maps of wildlife, then asks the public and schools “what do you see
and where did you see it?” to assess those maps.
- NatureMapping Program meets the needs of schools required to begin
teaching environmental education.
- Data “reporting” protocols were developed
- The statewide biodiversity database was developed for 640 species of wildlife
- Data were submitted by experts and novices
- Data were available for anyone to use
- The database provided accuracy down to one square mile to maintain privacy
for some landowners
- “Data Collection and Monitoring” training workshops and materials
including the latest emerging technologies (e.g., GIS, GPS, satellite imagery)
- Web site containing materials and NatureMapping data over maps
- Received the Renew America National Award
- “How to Ask a Scientific Question/Project Design” workshop
and materials developed as a response for more detailed workshops that would
help citizens working on new/existing community projects
- First Annual National Meeting for other states/countries ready to implement NatureMapping.
- The 2nd NatureMapping Module - Water. Training was conducted
to organizations and schools around the state.
- NatureMapping’s first school/community field research project,
The Adopt-a-Farmer Project begins in Waterville
- Project CAT (Cougar and Teaching) begins to train pre- and in-service teachers
throughout the Cle Elum/Roslyn School District with an 8-year plan to integrate
K-12 students and the community to answer the scientific question “How
is Cle Elum changing in the eyes of the cougar?”
- NatureTracker data collection software for PDA’s begins development.
- Schools had to meet state standard testing in 2001 – NatureMapping provided
the skills and field-biological science training, but not the ability to
teach them how to integrate NatureMapping into standard testing…
- “Teacher Preparation” workshop and materials developed.
- Mule Deer Project, a 5-year, multi-school, multi-agency project begins
where students collect research-related and NatureMapping data to
augment the study of Mule deer.
- Pacific Education Institute was formed in 2003 by NatureMapping Program
co-founder to develop field investigation and biological rubrics for state
- NatureMapping Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) was created to handle
the demand for materials, maps, data analysis, support to existing NatureMappers and
fund-raising for projects and the NatureMapping Program.
- The Tacoma Nature Center becomes the pilot NatureMapping Training
Center. Three project evolve: Gig Harbor Biodiversity Management
Area implementation and bioblitz, Oak Tree Park inventory and monitoring
with School of Tacoma Arts high school students, and the Lower White River
Biodiversity Management Area implementation.
- Data analyses were conducted by the Virginia, Iowa, and Washington NatureMapping Programs
showing over 95% accuracy of sightings to GAP predicted distribution maps
and/or county of occurrence maps.
- NatureTracker is used in first Washington State bioblitz to collect data.
- Adopt-a-Farmer Project students present at ESRI’s Annual Conference
- NatureMapping Foundation receives first grant.
- Biodiversity data (i.e., insects, plants, fish, marine invertebrates, fungi,
etc.) are now reported. Previously, only wildlife data were reported.
- NatureMapping Training Centers were envisioned to provide local
training, support and a better connection with the public on projects in
2004. Six Centers around the state were selected in 2006.
- Other NatureMapping states look to replicate the concept of Centers.
- Washington and California NatureMapping Centers hold their first
retreat to exchange ideas and materials.
- Discussions begin with GLOBE, National Wildlife Federation and Student
Conservation Alliance to partner in similar efforts.
- NatureMapping Foundation finds an executive director and begins
building a board of directors.
- Waterville School District begins a 5-year study of the biodiversity of
the Waterville Plateau.
- NatureTracker, data collection software, for PocketPC's with GPS units
is completed for 7 states - each state sequence lists their own wildlife
- NatureMapping Activities and Data Collection Protocols developed for online use
- NatureMapping website endhanced with new Animal Fact Sheets and Wildlife Distribution Maps
- Wildlife Module revised and expanded
- California NatureMapping website launched
- Marine|Nearshore Module launched
- Water Module revised and expanded
- NatureMapping protocols and NatureTracker data collection
software is presented to state Fish and Wildlife agencies throughout the US
- "How to" book Awakening Inquiry for (K-8)is available
- Android version of NatureTracker is developed for bioblitzes
- Alaska and Oregon NatureTracker data collection sequences are added to
10 other states
- NatureMapping Program in Washington leaves the University
of Washington and moves to the
- The Foundation stops all activities except to host the NatureMapping website.