Mapping is one of the core skills of the naturalist. Today, that mostly means GIS (geographic information systems), here divided into ArcMap, LiDAR and IfSAR. Explore those sub-categories or view the entire JuneauNature hierarchy at this site map.

A standard step for me in scoping any new project area in Lingit Aani is to assemble all historical photography. Earliest aerial cartographic missions were by the US Navy, in 1929 and 1948. An introduction to these resources is in Historic photo missions.

Toggling through the resulting time series, preferably as same-aligned ‘pageflippers’ on successive pages of a pdf, helps to understand how landforms and plant communities change. Next, I layer-on all the standard points, lines and polygons: Lingít place names, channel-types, geology, for example. Preparing a talk for the Wildlife Society on Focus and breadth, it occurred to me that while scientists ‘focus,’ a naturalist aspires to be broad. And one of the best ways to spread out our Strevelerian peripheral vision is to dabble in ‘foreign disciplines’—through the constellations of map layers prepared by experts.

A plea for graphicacy

If I could give one piece of advice to a high school student contemplating a career in forestry, fisheries, wildlife biology, geology, or any social science with a geographic component, it would be to take a course in GIS, the way we make ‘intelligent’ maps. Demand for facility in GIS will only increase through coming decades.

In Map-making with children, a book that’s been important to Discovery naturalists since our founding, David Sobel pointed out that that graphicacy—logical partner to the other ‘acy’s of liter-, numer- and articulacy—has been better understood and nurtured in Britain than in the Americas. When you can’t explain something verbally, so, draw a diagram or map in the mud, or pull out your phone to show the picture you took, you’re practicing graphicacy.

Allow me just one example of “ill-graphicacy,” as annoying to the cartographically fluent as illiteracy is to the well-read. This malapropism displays reliance on secondary sources; ie, everyone else says it, so it must be correct.

Satellite images?!  Hmmmm. . . .Even knowledgeable bio–&-geologists routinely refer to online app-imagery as “satellite” photos. Whether from Google Earth, BING, or ArcGIS Online, they are rarely from satellites. An obvious clue is tree-lean. On true satellite imagery, or even very high plane-base photos such as the Navy 1948s or NASA 1979s, tree crowns are centered and ‘straight-up appearing. In contrast on an orthomosaic, stitched from photos taken only a few thousand feet up, trees around the edges of each image will appear to lean

In this section

Accretion on Taashuyee (Mendenhall wetlands)

Vegetation-&-rebound study for Southeast Alaska Land Trust (SEALT) In 2003, Discovery Southeast mapped tidal and supratidal habitats on the Refuge…

2004, update 2023 | Richard Carstensen | 39 pages

Avalanche mapping

Releases in Nettleslide (Behrends path) & Last Chance Goatwatching in winter leads inevitably to fascination with avalanches. Yesterday, Feb 12,…

2022 | Richard Carstensen |

Fish Creek walkthrough

Focus group tour On Thursday, August 26th, about 30 masked aficionados of dynamic Fish Creek delta assembled on invitation from…

2021 | Richard Carstensen, Bob Armstrong | RC-59 pages: BA vid-links

Chilkat Atlas introduction

Introductory pages to Greater Chilkat Watershed atlas As we flesh out the atlas, here’s a preview of where it’s heading.…

2021 | Richard Carstensen | 7 pages

Wetlands Month features Mendenhall Wetlands

Frontyard wetlands in StoryMaps Every May is American Wetlands Month, and this year, it’s especially interesting for residents of Áak’w…

American Wetlands Month features Taashuyee

Our frontyard wetlands in StoryMaps For several years I’ve been wanting to dive into ArcGIS StoryMaps, cartography for one and…

2021 | USFWS | ArcGIS StoryMap

Nature near the schools 1991 Auke Bay powerpoint.

Materials from the Eisenhower Math and Science series In October, 1990, with Cathy Pohl and Gretchen Bishop, I gave a…

1991 | Carstensen, Pohl, Bishop | workshop materials

Nature near the schools 1991: Mendenhall River powerpoint.

Materials from the Eisenhower Math and Science series In February, 1991, with Gustavus master-naturalist Greg Streveler, Discovery director Cinda Stanek…

1991 | Carstensen, Streveler, Stanek & Merli | workshop materials

Nature near the schools 1991: Glacier-Floyd powerpoints.

Materials from the Eisenhower Math and Science series In October, 1990, with Discovery director Cinda Stanek and naturalist Steve Merli,…

1990 | Carstensen, Stanek, Merli | workshop materials

Nature near the schools 1991: Downtown Schools powerpoint

Materials from the Eisenhower Math and Science series Discovery Southeast was born at Harborview Elementary, under the tuteladge of master-teachers…

1991 | Carstensen, Streveler & Pohl | workshop materials

Digital Fish Creek

Hydrology in the point cloud. Maybe it’s all those years stippling scenes and species portraits, point by point with double-ought…

2020 | Richard Carstensen | 2-minute slideshow

Glacial & cultural history of northern Lingít Aaní

A fireside presentation My talk at the Visitor Center in February, 2020 explored the past 20,000 years of glaciation and…

2020 | Richard Carstensen | 27 minutes

Hammered gems & unproductive leftovers.

In 2008, Bob Christensen and I were 3 years into the Ground-truthing Project. During those 3 years, the Forest Service…

2008 | Carstensen & Christensen | 30 pages

Ground-truthing Project final report, 2005

The Ground-truthing Project, sponsored by Sitka Conservation Society, ran from 2005 to 2010. Kenyon Fields at SCS administered the program,…

2005 | Carstensen & Christensen | 63 pages

Clickable map of Southeast provinces

Hover over each numbered province; a click takes you to that sub-category

Richard Carstensen | 1 page

2003 winter newsletter: A deer’s map of the forest

New ideas about forest structure Seeing the forest through a deer’s eyes. Thoughts on forest structure and habitat values, resulting…

Winter 2003 | Richard Carstensen | 12 pages

Bedrock geology ArcGIS Online

Bedrock geology for Áak’w & T’aakú Aaní. Units based upon a shapefile by USGS, but color coded by 6 broad…

2015: update 2022 | Richard Carstensen |

Montana Creek Map Series

This document assembles aerial imagery and other GIS-based maps of Montana Creek for use by teachers in class and field.…

2013 | Richard Carstensen | 22 pages

Surficial geology, ArcGIS Online

View larger map To begin mapping surficial geology in 2015, I used landform types and color-scheme from R.D. Miller, USGS,…

2015: update 2022 | Richard Carstensen | Arc Online