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March’s App of the Month: Yukon Landform Atlas

Creating effective, interactive teaching tools can be a great way to get students learning. The Yukon Periglacial landform atlas takes the classroom to the web by teaching all levels of education – from elementary school students to senior undergraduates – and professionals about the different periglacial landforms commonly found in Yukon.  Discover how story maps can take learning to the next level with March’s App of the Month. 

Imagine going on a hike to discover the beautiful landscape nature has to offer. Instead of stopping and smelling the roses that you encounter, you instead are intrigued by the cool-looking rocks and other geological landforms near you. Could it be a tor? How about a pingo? Wouldn’t it be great to quickly identify which feature you’re looking at?

Well, if you happen to be hiking in Yukon, or even learning its geomorphology, there’s an app for that: The Permafrost and Other Periglacial Landforms – Yukon Landform Atlas (“Yukon Periglacial landform atlas”).

This story map, a team effort by Crystal Huscroft, geomorphologist and senior lecturer at Thompson Rivers University, Panya Lipovsky, surficial geologist and Brett Elliot, geological and spatial database administrator from the Yukon Government is a great example of how story maps can be used as a teaching tool.

“The Yukon Periglacial landform atlas is an online web atlas of periglacial landforms created with the goal of increasing understanding of the distribution, development and processes impacting cold climate landforms,” explains Crystal. “The website is an online portal that combines authoritative maps with narrative text, photographs and references to the scientific literature surrounding cold climate landforms in Yukon for academia, K-12 teachers and the public”. 

The Yukon Periglacial landform atlas has received over 2,000 views since its release last year. The app has helped push Yukon Government internal staff to create more interactive web mapping applications to provide the public with increased accessible information. 

The team’s workflow for the development of the app is a great example of how to plan and create a story map. Initially, Crystal and Panya came up with an idea for a teaching tool they wanted to create and what information they wanted to present. Next, with Brett onboard, the three visited the Esri Story Maps gallery  to determine which template would be the best for their application. The gallery is a great place to start if you feel stuck and don’t know which story map template to use. Alternatively, it’s a very informative resource to build inspiration on a topic you may be interested in.  You can filter by the type of template, subject, industry or all three at once to help you discover the world of story maps.

Once the templates were chosen, majority of the project time was spent on gathering the content. What makes a good story map is great content –therefore, I encourage you to plan your content ahead of time. Once the initial planning process is complete, it’s easy to build the app with the user-friendly wizards in ArcGIS Online. Even better, no coding background is required.

The team decided on the Map Tour as it displays a large image for each point and the goal was to create a photo-centric application. In total, 12 map tours were created for each type of periglacial feature. Then, they decided to incorporate each tour into the Tabbed Series template as a central location to display the diverse features.

Yes, that’s right, it’s several story maps embedded within a story map. This is otherwise known as story map inception.  

Along with a map tour displaying the different landforms, the app also includes a classified permafrost map. 

You can embed a variety of story maps within a story map using the URL of the story maps. A best practice if you choose to embed story maps within a story map is to use a URL parameter (&embed) to minimize the user interface (“UI”) of the template to be embedded. By minimizing the UI of the embedded story map, you’re able to eliminate redundant titles, descriptions and other elements. For more information on embedding story maps within story maps, read this blog by Bern Szukalski, chief technology evangelist and product strategist at Esri.

Since there are 12 different web maps, all the data for each map tour story map was powered through a central database. Brett developed Python scripts to create .CSV files that would be formatted specifically to be loaded into the map tour template. By streamlining the process with Python, updates to the data, when required, will be quick with minimal work.

Future plans for the application include adding more types of landforms and additional functionality such as the ability for users to easily download datasets that they can use in their own applications.

Story maps and teaching go well together and allow students to take their learning to the next level.  So, the next time you’re looking to provide a new interactive medium for learning, use a story map. It’s a great tool to help everyone learn something new. 

About the Author

Jasmine Sohal is a GIS Analyst for Esri Canada, holding an Honours Bachelor of Science degree from McMaster University and a post-graduate GIS Applications Specialist certificate from Sir Sandford Fleming College. As a kid, Jasmine refrained from going to new places until she drew a map of how she would get from Point A to Point B. After taking her first Introduction to GIS course at McMaster University, Jasmine knew right away where her passion lay. Now, as a self-proclaimed Geogeek, she is always inspired to visualize situations spatially and applies GIS anywhere she can. In her spare time, Jasmine is a discoverer; for good hiking trails and restaurants, that is. She is always going out to discover beautiful landscapes during her hiking adventures around the province. Off the trails, you can find her discovering new restaurants to dine at. With her open mind and willingness to adapt and learn, Jasmine is excited to see what her future in GIS holds for her.

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