Online mapping tools useful for a variety of disciplines – Doug Spieles, Environmental Studies

Teaching a class that deals with racial inequality, voter suppression, or environmental justice? How about wealth distribution, gross domestic product, or energy consumption? Last spring, I found some easy-to-use online resources that allow students to create meaningful maps that help provide a spatial context to their work.

For example, you can produce spatial visualizations that compare:

                • Socioeconomic census data and Cancer incidence
                • National GDP and Immigration/Emigration data
                • Minority populations and Schools, Parks, and Public housing

If you are teaching data presentation techniques, some of these sites allow you to manipulate the display and/or download the data. These tools are fun and interactive, and can be a nice way to launch a unit or add an extension to a discussion, paper or presentation.

There are a number of such online mapping sites available. Three simple ones I used were EJSCREEN from the Environmental Protection Agency, MapMaker from National Geographic, and the USGS National Map.

Here are two video demonstrations of two of these sites. The left compares Income levels and Cancer rates, while the right compares National GDP and Light pollution.

Doug Spieles
Environmental Studies