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 and analysis.

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) were developed.


  • Web site containing materials and NatureMapping data over maps was developed
  • 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 tests.


  • 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 plenary session
  • 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 species.


  • 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 NatureMapping Foundation


  • The Foundation stops all activities except to host the NatureMapping website.

NatureMapping Foundation
  Sitemap |   Contact Us

© 2008 NatureMapping