Mapping water, and the interface of science & society
Community participation in environmental monitoring is changing, aiming for 2-way interactions with deeper dialogue, democratic process and wider manifestations of participatory practice. We increasingly acknowledge multiple forms of environmental data, from the numerical results of technical monitoring to oral/textual/visual narratives of traditional and/or local knowledge. We are beginning to recognise the value of co-creating science communication, not just the data collection, and understand that situating data in its local context is important for interpretation and use, as well as respect of local ownership. Effective platforms for achieving this are, however, not so well known.
Our project investigates the potential of the on-line platform ESRI ‘Story Map’ (https://storymaps.arcgis.com/en/) for meeting these goals in coastal New Zealand communities. We describe our practice-based research in two case studies. The first case is the mapping of a collaborative project between a hapū (a local Māori tribal unit) -led marine management group and their wider community and university scientists. The East Otago Taiāpure Committee holds long-term data in many forms about the health of their marine and freshwater spaces. This includes fragmented datasets from different sources and methodologies and time periods. Compiled in context it could become valuable for informing their management decisions.
The second case includes a collaborative mapping project between local schools on the South Island and an environmental education centre, which examines the health of local river watersheds from source to sea. This project aims to combine citizen science and informal science learning (school-based) with their local communities and regional natural resource managers.
Multiple maps have been produced, which vary in nature of data, context and authorship. These are described, as well as their methodologies and functionality. We conclude with a summary of a critical discussion between multiple stakeholders about the use of Story Map. This was the focus of a dedicated workshop for local community and environmental groups, scientists, communicators, agencies and regional government, and provides a perspective on the functionality of the Story Map platform, as well as challenges for communities compiling and communicating environmental data.