Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Possible project: Biodiversity dashboard

Mattern 1 dashboard 1020x703 Despite the well deserved scepticism about dashboards voiced by Shannon Mattern @shannonmattern (see Mission Control: A History of the Urban Dashboard, I discovered this by reading Ignore the Bat Caves and Marketplaces: lets talk about Zoning by Leigh Dodds @ldodds) I'm intrigued by the idea a dashboard for biodiversity. We could have several different kinds of information, displayed in a single place.

Immediate information

There are sites such as Global Forest Watch Fires that track events that affect biodiversity and which are haoppoening right now. Some of this data can be harvested (e.g., from the NASA Fire Information for Resource Management System) to show real-time forest fires. Below is an image for the last 24 hours:

We could also have Twitter feeds of these sorts of events

Historical trends

We could have longer-term trends, such as changes in forest cover, or changes in abundance of species over time.

Trends in information

We could have feeds that show us how our knowledge is changing. For example, we could have a map of data from the newest datasets uploaded to GBIF, the lastest DNA barcodes, etc.

As an example, @wikiredlist tweets overtime an article about a species from the IUCN Red List is edited on the English language Wikipedia.

Imagine several such streams, both as lists and as maps. As another example, a while ago I created a visualisation of new species discoveries:


I'm aware of the irony of drawing inspiration from a critique of dashboards, but I still think there is value in having an overview of global biodiversity. But we shouldn't loose site of the fact that such views will be biassed and constrained, and in many cases it will be much easy to visualise what is going on (or, at least, what our chosen sources reveal) than to effect change on those trends that we find most alarming.