Mapping Change

Mapping Change is an initiative to document and map the biodiversity of the American Midwest before it is ravaged by climate change. The American Midwest contains three of the world’s largest terrestrial ecosystems, with broadleaf forests, coniferous forests, and the prairies, all of which are under threat from rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and extreme weather patterns. Mapping Change was developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota to document the historical ranges of native species by using fellow nature enthusiasts to transcribe the original written annotations of physical specimens into a database. Location, species name, and the original appearance of the specimen were all recorded and after digitalization, native species could then  be mapped and modelled. To ensure accuracy, each specimen is reviewed by five citizen scientists and reviewed by a member of Mapping Change before it is added to the final database. The Bell Museum has curated a collection of over four million specimens collected over a 125 year period. Some of their samples were collected even before extensive European colonization and the subsequent habitat loss and fragmentation, so their collection and the database is quite possibly the most extensive  collection of the three Midwest ecosystems available. So far, almost 5,000 volunteers have participated and have annotated over 17,000 species since the initiative started in 2009. 

Kress, W. J., Garcia-Robledo, C., Soares, J. V., Jacobs, D., Wilson, K., Lopez, I. C., & Belhumeur, P. N. (2018). “Citizen science and climate change: Mapping the range expansions of native and exotic plants with the mobile app Leafsnap“. 


Biodiversity, Citizen Science, Data, Ecological Modelling, Ecological Monitoring, Internet of Things, Monitoring