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Using interactive maps with stories of resilience to transfer solutions.



Personal stories of the impacts of and adaptations to climate change, through media and interviews, contain valuable information about both vulnerability and adaptation. However, these testimonials are not traditionally represented in scientific climate change maps that policymakers use to recognize and assist vulnerable areas. Synthesizing local insight with scientific maps has the potential to empower both local adapters and policymakers facing sea level rise, as well as inform official regional and national policies. The Map of Stories interactive geoweb portal addresses this gap between vulnerability and adaptation knowledge by mapping vulnerability to sea level rise, incorporating media and interview testimonials in this map to document on-the-ground impacts and solutions, and transferring knowledge about adaptation strategies through a geoweb platform that creatively and visually maps scientific vulnerabilities with stories of local testimonials. We use a mixed-methods approach (GIS mapping combined with media and participatory content) to both understand coastal vulnerability and to document climate change testimonials to engage a wide user group and inform local, regional, and international policy and action. 

Check out the beta version of the Map of Stories at or

Category of the action

Communicating Coastal Risk and Resiliency

What actions do you propose?

We propose to address this gap between coastal vulnerability and adaptation knowledge with these actions:

 1) map vulnerability to sea level rise (SLR) in North and South America,

2) incorporate media stories and interview testimonials in this map to document on-the-ground impacts and solutions and

3) transfer knowledge about adaptation strategies through the geoweb platform “Map of Stories” to creatively and visually maps scientific vulnerabilities with stories of local testimonials.

We bring together two worlds—science and stories—with a robust geoweb portal to better understand and engage different stakeholder groups to provide a platform to fund and spread viable solutions.

We use a mixed-methods approach to both understand coastal vulnerability and to document climate change testimonials so they may engage a wide user group and inform local, regional, and international policy action.

Our approach begins with biophysical, habitat, and socio-economic data to quantify the vulnerability of coastal communities.  We seek to collaborate with researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to answer the following questions:

Do testimonials addressing SLR hazards correlate with GIS-modeled areas of high vulnerability?

Where do communities currently engage in adaptation strategies?

What makes a successful strategy?

Are successful local strategies transferable to other areas?

To answer these questions, we use a three-phase action-based methodology.

For our first action, we map to understand socio-ecological vulnerability: We will produce a coastline map at medium-scale resolution using ArcGIS (Geographic Information Systems) mapping software and InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Environmental Services and Tradeoffs) software from the Natural Capital Project to document and assess coastal vulnerability. Data includes habitats, physical and weather-related, and socio-economic data, including population demographics as well as infrastructure and property values. Significant international data is available for these inputs, and mapping will require data acquisition through an international network established by the project leaders as part of the Fulbright NEXUS Regional Scholar program of 2012-2013. We utilize and harness the power of existing mapping software to manage the challenge of visualizing the big climate data which represents the complexity of evaluating coastal vulnerability. Previous work in the US and Colombia has generated vulnerability maps that prove scalability.(1)

For our second action, we collect stories of resilience and feedback on solutions: We employ media aggregation, Text Thrasher, and NVivo software to collect and categorize existing media testimonials throughout regional news sources identified in the Americas. With this database and the in-country knowledge of regional NGOs and academics we can identify areas implementing adaptation strategies. We will use participatory methods, from structured interviews to participatory photography, to document SLR impacts and adaptations. Finally, where possible and in close collaboration with the Planet Forward team at the Center for Innovative Media at The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, we will conduct video storytelling with a journalistic perspective in communities facing SLR. All engagement is participatory and focuses on bringing diversified, local perspective to the scientific interface.

For our third action, we communicate both science and local solutions through a dynamic interface: The Map of Stories uses multiple media formats (writing, photography, and video) shot by community stakeholders, journalism students, our team, and social media contributors to explain key issues facing individuals, regions, and countries. Through these participatory methods, we create a vulnerability map that demonstrates areas of the highest ecological and social risk to SLR, then use this map on the web portal to explore SLR through the multi-media format. Therefore, we identify regions that appear to have low vulnerability to sea level rise but have silently struggled with SLR impacts, or the map can help identify the under-the-radar pioneering solutions. We can also help to identify regions of high vulnerability that have not received media attention. In this way, the map aids policymakers to find and fund communities in need.

How we show and share risk: Multimedia presents both a backbone and the big data challenge for this proposal. To demonstrate the highest risk sites, we start (1) with traditional climate data: we use the InVEST Climate Vulnerability software to present a map based on the biophysical and social vulnerability. Next, we use a (2) media aggregator to identify new stories (including those with existing multimedia content). We then use (3) Text Thresher, a software package developed by the UC Berkeley’s social science D-lab, to crowd-source the decomposition and coding of media stories to populate the map.

Why the Americas?: We aim to increase the knowledge exchange between stakeholders in neighboring (or continental) countries that may share similarities in habitat for coastal protection, socio-economic constraints, or cultural preferences. We choose to focus on the Americas as an extension of the project’s foundation with the Fulbright NEXUS fellows, a program designed to share cutting edge research on environment and resources in the Western hemisphere. We provide a map that allows users to search by criteria in English and Spanish.

However, this project serves to benefit from local-to-global scaling. As the map grows, the medium-term goals aim for expansion to a global map that allows for the global sharing of local and regional ideas. Therefore, although we begin with developing and enhancing the already-established data-sharing networks of the Americas, we plan to provide a global platform.

How we engage and motivate action: We motivate action by providing a free and engaging platform to meet local and regional practitioners with both scientific and storytelling data—searchable based on their specific needs and experiences.

By connecting with researchers, practitioners, and Fulbright NEXUS stakeholders in the Americas, we heard the personal and institutional insight that many communities were looking for a source for adaption ideas and practices. Many felt overwhelmed with local burden of adaptation and wanted to learn what others in their situation—biological, social, and political—were doing to address their specific issues. They wanted to learn about success, failure, and process.

To this end, the Map of Stories engages by first utilizing the establish networks from Fulbright NEXUS and the extended group of stakeholders to create awareness around the web portal. We will also use our social data tool, Text Thrasher, to identify invested individuals and groups already identified by media to target for engagement.

Next, the portal will provide a clear option to search for solutions. Categories include habitat (e.g., mangroves, kelp beds, coral or oyster reefs,) biophysical characteristics (islands, coastal geography), impacts (storm surge, inundation, ground water intrusion), social demographics (age, population concentration), and political demographics (local governance, NGO involvement, funding details.) The platform itself will adapt and grow based on the needs of users; we seek feedback and input to the platform not only via story, but via request for content. We seek to highlight stories of innovation and success, but we plan also to identify solutions of varying degrees of effectiveness. All stories can serve to inform and guide local strategies and regional policymaking, and transferring solutions can start with this interactive searching for an amalgamated solution, backed by science—a better understanding of sea level rise vulnerability, and story—the experiences, perceptions, and solutions in media and interviews.



Who will take these actions?

Our key actors start with our core team to build the Map of Stories. We begin with academic researchers from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California – Berkeley, with support from the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, for the scientific data collection and processing in ArcGIS and InVEST. To acquire regional data, we turn to academic, governmental, and international NGO allies such as CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) to source the data to populate the vulnerability maps. 

To acquire testimonials, we engage journalists, non-profit organizations, and local stakeholders in coastal communities to understand and tell the stories of local impact and SLR resilience. This process is an ongoing and collaborative process informed by the participants, who will shape and guide the vision of the Map of Stories to create the most useable and holistic interface. We utilize the expertise of journalism students at Planet Forward to collect the most innovative stories of solutions.

Finally, the geoportal engages a wider audience; specifically, regional, national, and international policymakers, global researchers, international funding agencies, as well as local activists, to provide a forum for the exchange of information. As the social media interface spreads, users are able to provide the content that illuminates hidden or underfunded local strategies.

What are other key benefits?

Habitat conservation: By utilizing the InVEST Coastal Vulnerability model, we identify crucial habitat that protects populations and infrastructure and provide the economic incentives for habitat conservation.

International collaboration: Solutions that augment resilience may be transferrable internationally. Maps of vulnerability and stories of solutions, in an easily searchable and visual format, can aid action implementers by demonstrating what communities in other regions and countries are doing to protect local populations, their environment, and their economy. 

Building trust: A disconnect often exist between policymakers, scientists, and people experiencing the first-hand impacts of the coastal hazards of sea level rise. The Map of Stories brings all of this information visually into one place for all users.

A flexible interface for a changing coast: This dynamic, user-generated interface reflects and anticipates the coastal changes that occur as a result of sea level rise.

What are the proposal’s costs?

Project cost: $250,000.

Project development requires advanced programming skills to develop a dynamic, visually engaging, and robust geoweb portal. Both the user interface and the associated database require engaging a professional and progressive web developer. For our continued development, the Map of Stories will use crowdsourcing and entrepreneurial engagement to provide both content and funding strategies.

In addition, the acquisition of data for all countries requires extensive travel to develop initial journalistic content and engage local communities. To mitigate this impact, we highlight the most innovative adaptation strategies by first examining the scientific and media data, utilize the Fulbright NEXUS extended network to source content, then deploy researching journalism students from Planet Forward to both document stories and engage international students for visual content generation.

This estimate covers the initial regional scaling of the project and secures funding for proof of concept. In addition to external funding, it relies on the support of Planet Forward and UC Berkeley for researcher and journalist time and travel funding. To lower expenses, we plan to utilize existing, established open source storytelling and mapping networks. For example, we will participate in the Tribeca Film Institute’s Storytelling Innovation Lab to pitch the Map of Stories to assembled developers and engage with programmers to develop the map through this less traditional but highly innovative route entailing both significantly less expense and additional networks throughout the storytelling community.

The medium and long-term goals of the project, such as scaling globally, will involve additional investment.



Time line

Short term: The Map of Stories engages stakeholders in the immediate future to identify the areas most in need of strategies of resilience and well as communities that have found successful strategies. The map illuminates these shared solutions with visually mapped connections. This builds a network for implementers searching for resources. In addition, after the initial investment and mapping, the map can expand beyond the coastal hazards identified in the vulnerability model and include impacts from, and solutions to, coastal climate issues such as sea surface temperature change and ocean acidification.

Medium term: The Map of Stories platform can be transformed by users to accommodate the needs of populations impacted by sea level rise. For example, the areas of highest impact may shift depending on the varying coastal hazards, and the map and users will be able to track these changes.

Long term: The Map of Stories, driven entirely by user-generated content, provides the venue for exchange about climate information and serves as a scalable framework for information gathering and sharing, from the local activist to the governmental implementer, through social media on a global scale.

Related proposals

The King Tides Project: The California King Tides Project currently shares photos of the impacts of “king” tides, the highest high tides, taken by citizens to visualize and understand the impacts of sea level rise. The stories of sea level rise are told through images. Both the King Tides and the Map of Stories tell the story of climate change through online, multi-media presentations of locally-sourced data, and we hope to collaborate with the King Tides Initiative to best understand and harness the incredible power of citizen engagement in climate issues.

NJADAPT: NJADAPT proposes to provide useful geospatial information to local policymakers. The Map of Stories interface could be an additional tool to understand common goals among existing and proposed strategies, as well as integrate the public perception of coastal hazards.


(1) Arkema, Katie K., et. al. "Coastal Habitats Shield People and Property from Sea-Level Rise and Storms." Nature Climate Change 3 (2013): 913-918.