MapMaker, National Geographic’s geovisualization tool, contains an ever-expanding list of map layers curated for students. Together, they form a geographic data set that learners can use to illustrate a concept or tell a story. These map layers are data that learners can overlay on a basemap, like a transparency on a projector.
In September, we shared tips for getting started with MapMaker. Now, we have another activity you can use to help your learners develop their mapping and spatial reasoning skills, all while exploring the ocean with National Geographic Pristine Seas. Launched in 2008 by National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala, Pristine Seas aims to explore and help inspire the protection of the ocean’s vital places.
On the left side of the screen is the layer panel. Learners can scroll through the list of options or use the search bar to look for layers related to particular subjects or keywords. Once they find a map layer they are interested in, they can click “Add” to overlay it on their map.
Users can change the basemap under “Map Settings” at the top of the layer panel. To help students focus on the data, we recommend selecting a more minimalist basemap, such as “NGS Light Gray,” “NGS Black Line,” or “NGS Black Line Unlabeled.”
Users can learn more about the map layer by selecting the “Layer Details”button to the right of “Add.” Clicking “Layer Details” will open a layer description rich with hyperlinks to further information, credits, sources, and dates for when the layer was created and last updated.
Adding a layer to the map will also automatically open the legend, if the map layer has one, which allows users to adjust the order of the layers using the arrows near the layer title on the screen. This can be useful in the event that a raster-style map layer (spatial information organized as a grid of cells that represent groups of data) covers a vector map layer (data representing a precise location as a point, line, or shape). Users can also adjust a layer’s opacity to make place-names or other features highlighted by the basemap more visible.
Users can even add more than one data layer to a map to explore a particular concept. For example, turn on 32. Seafloor Bathymetry, 25. Pristine Seas: Expeditions, and 26. Pristine Seas: Marine Protected Areas to explore the work of Explorer in Residence Enric Sala and the Pristine Seas team near the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador. This diligent team has completed 36 expeditions worldwide and advocated for the creation of 25 marine reserves protecting over 6.5 million square kilometers (approximately 2.5 million square miles) of ocean since 2008.
Have your class read this encyclopedic entry on marine protected areas and watch the video on the Pristine Seas homepage ahead of class. Back in the classroom, sort your students into small groups and ask them to open MapMaker. Instruct them to open 25. Pristine Seas: Expeditions and 26. Pristine Seas: Marine Protected Areas. Ask them to explore and research five expedition points and note what makes each site unique and any similarities between them. Then have them do the same for five marine protected areas (MPAs). Students can use the Pristine Seas webpage to learn more about both the expeditions and the MPAs. They can also click on the points or the polygons on the map layer to open a pop-up with more information.
Next, have students turn on the 57. Marine Biodiversity map layer. This layer shows the richness and rarity of species, which together can be a useful way to quantify biodiversity. Richness refers to the “number of species within a biological community,” according to Britannica, while a species is considered rare if it has a smaller area of occupancy or fewer individuals than comparable species. Your students may need to adjust the layers using the arrows in the legend so the Pristine Seas layers are on top of the Marine Biodiversity layer. Invite them to adjust the opacity of the Marine Biodiversity layer to make the Pristine Seas data show up better. Ask students, “Are there any places with high biodiversity that could benefit from the creation of an MPA?” Have students research their selected area then write a letter to Dr. Sala advocating for an expedition to the region. Extend the lesson with the “Why We Explore” or “Conduct a Micro-Expedition” activity.
Want to explore Pristine Seas further with your students? Check out this “Exploring Oceans” idea set!
Featured image: The Juan Fernández sea lion was hunted to the point of near-extinction a century ago, but some hundred individual seals were rediscovered in 1965. The endemic sea lion’s population is now roughly 16,000 and continues to increase (Enric Sala)