On the Trail of the North American Buffalo – a Story Map

Our lives and the stories of our lives on this small planet that we call home can be connected in so many ways. As a geographer I know that we share a finite environment with all the Earth’s communities.

While researching my family history, I learned that my Polish ancestors immigrated at around the year 1900 to a Detroit neighborhood called Delray, and a section of Delray called Carbon Works. My family did not know the origin of that name, but I learned that Carbon Works was established as a factory site in 1873 to process the bones of slaughtered American buffalo for industrial purposes. At peak, 400 trainloads of buffalo bones were shipped to Detroit each year. Within a decade most of the buffalo and their bones were gone, almost forever.

buffalo_nickelFrom my youth I knew that the North American buffalo was an icon – it was on the nickels that I used to buy penny candy at the corner store. They were also an icon in films, they were a feature at many zoos, and they could be seen in sparse numbers in the wild in Montana and the Dakotas. I even knew that a few European bison survived in a remote forest in Poland.

Now Monica Van der Vieren, who works as a King County Wastewater Treatment Division community relations planner, has created a new visually stunning Story Map, “On the Trail of the North American Buffalo,” which tells the story of the North American buffalo and promotes bison and prairie conservation. Story Maps, from Esri, combine multimedia content into rich online visual narratives. Monica’s Story Map helps to reshape the narrative of the contributions of North American native peoples to bison recovery after near extermination.

MVDV_onthetrailAfter working on her project for eight months, Monica submitted her story to Esri’s Story Map Gallery, which receives 2,000 submissions per week. On the same day, Esri featured her story on their home page. Esri also promoted it in their social media and they continue to share it now that it has cycled into the gallery.

Esri is a GIS software company, so their Story Maps platform is a natural for featuring map content in addition to other media. Monica worked with Wastewater GIS analyst Shaun O’Neil who volunteered his personal time to create richly illustrative maps for the project. Read more about Monica’s and Shaun’s work, including two related Story Maps, in the KC Employee News.

Follow Monica’s story on the trail of the North American buffalo and you will see why Esri has featured it so prominently. Then get inspired to map your own story or passion.

Greg Babinski is KCGIS Center Marketing and Business Development Manager.

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