MapStory Initiatives

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MapStory Initiatives are intended to cover the full breadth and depth of a mapping subject, as a single mapstory, with associated datasets. Initiatives are listed below; examples include MapStory Local, which maps all of human settlement through time, MapStory Life, which maps biodiversity and ecosystems, MapStory Water, which maps all global water resources, and so on.

Like on other mapping websites, each initiative's mapstory will look the same globally and the look will change as users zoom in and out - each initiative will have a set of layers that will be styled uniformly, and simple or complex based on zoom level.

Generally, MapStory Initiatives will strategically focus on a few small-scale projects that will establish the intended depth that the breadth of the initiative will cover, while also covering the intended breadth at a low level, that the depth will fulfill. For example, with MapStory Local, there will be one or more projects that will cover the full history of a city or region, while mapping all of the basic global political boundaries, which will be filled with the full emulated depth.

MapStory Initiatives will be spearheaded by MapStorytellers and supported to scale by the MapStory Foundation. Both paid and volunteer MapStorytellers will together systematically accumulate data to be integrated and maps to be drawn over, which will be organized and prioritized, with goals set and progress tracked.

MapStorytellers will self-organize around initiatives, and divide into interest groups based on a data type, geographic area, or subject matter.

Note: the term "initiatives" is provisional, as it may be too broad. A new term may be used soon.

List of MapStory Initiatives

Initiatives Underway

  • Local - Human settlement.
  • Genealogy - Human relationships and lineage.
  • Life - Biodiversity and ecosystems.
  • Boundaries & Annexations - Political and administrative units
  • Voting - Polling places
  • Beer - Beer Breweries
  • Paleo - Flora and Fauna data from the paleolithic era (pre-history)
  • Languages - History of language geographic (speaker data, not official record)

Proposed Initiatives

  • Health - Human health issues.
  • Water - all water resources and the global hydrologic system.
  • Peoples - "people groups" - ethnic groups, both ascribed and self-ascribed.
  • Crime (rename)
  • Climate - Climate change.
  • Markets
  • Science & Technology - discoveries, inventions and proliferation. May be too broad.
  • Events - news-related events.
  • Radio - radio stations and transmitting range.
  • Earth/geology - Geologic layers over geologic time.
  • Energy and Minerals (rename) - global oil, gas and mineral resources and their extraction.


MapStory Local is an initiative to map all of human settlement over time. Think google maps or openstreetmap, but where you can type in a year, see the way any part of the world was then, and animate it backwards and forwards.

Lead: Nitin Gadia


  • Infrastructure
  • Land use
  • Boundaries
  • People (population density)
  • Places (placenames, linked with longitudinal gazetteer)

General approach

  • Depth: Start with a complete mapstory of Ames, Iowa, USA including the political hierarchies it is in.
  • Breadth: Do basic MapStory of whole world, of basic political boundaries, settlements, human fossils and their founding or dates.


As with other mapping websites or applications, there will be multiple styles.

Simplify/add detail based on zoom level, as one sees in Google Maps or Openstreetmap. However, while those applications are transportation-centric and land is covered by how it is seen from above, for the primary Local style, land will be colored by land use, as listed below.

  • Settlement - show as dots/circles, with colors/sizes based on population size brackets. As user zooms in, detailed infrastructure appears. The option to add an isopleth population density layer can also be turned on, with an opacity slider.
  • Land use - colors or sets of colors for: urban, agriculture, timberland, non-human land (eg. grasslands, forests, wetlands, deserts, ice, water, etc).


MapStory Life is an initiative to map all species and ecosystems. Every species will be projected backwards and forwards, perhaps using ecological niche models, where the range or population size and distribution is predicted. Users will be able to choose from any species.


All species - extent and density and known sightings All land and ocean cover - general types - human, forest, grasslands, desert, etc. Ecosystems, interactions Environmental issues?

General Approach

  • Depth - Bald eagles. Maps have been made of nearly every nest since the endangered species act was passed, and has gone from 200 nests to upwards of 10,000. Will want to project population into the future, perhaps using ecological niche analysis.
  • Breadth - all species. Add GBIF data of extents. Start with dates of scientific classification.

Boundaries and Annexations

Lead: Karl Phillips


Lead: Chris Tucker

Beer is the most popular drink in the world, after water and tea. It is also an extremely “place-based” drink. Brands like Guinness or Sam Adams define cities and even countries. This Initiative will seek to organize a global community to map the history of the founding of every beer brewery in the world.


For now, only beer breweries. We expand later to distribution sites, agricultural input sites, etc

General Approach

Mostly we will rely on the Create tool to create an empty schema that others can add brewery features to either one at a time or in bulk. Were still working out what the Attribute table will be, but it will likely include: Brewery_Name, Brewery_Founder(s), Owning_Company, Feature_Beer_Type, Capacity_Type (nano, micro, macro)


Lead: Jon Marino

The Voting Initiative seeks to organize the mapstory community around mapping the physical sites where people in the world vote (aka polling places). Doing so, we believe, provides an interesting lends in to the "geography" of democracy, and could help provide real-time monitoring and accountability when governments close down access to voting for marginalized groups.


For now, we will focus purely on polling place locations. We will seek to track when the site began as a polling place location and when it stopped serving as such, and a justification for why it closed.

General Approach

We will begin with a focus in the USA, specifically Arizona, and most specifically the counties of Maricopa, Pima and Cochise. This is because, according to a 2016 report by the Leadership Conference, Pima County and Cochise had the highest number and percentage of polling paces closed in the country. Check out the nationwide study. Also, according to the Arizona Central, Maricopa County had 1 polling place for every 21,000 voters in the 2016 election, causing voters to wait for up to six hours to vote. See the full article here

From this local success, we will scale nationally, working with more partners. The Voting Information Project at the Pew Foundation has developed a dataset of national polling places as of 2011. However, this doesn't include start-dates and doesn't track change and closure after 2011. Other partners such as the League of Women Voters could help us work with volunteers in local communities to gather historic and current data.