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2021 ArcGIS StoryMaps Challenge Update!

As a National Geographic Young Explorer, I served as a judge for the 2021 ArcGIS StoryMaps Challenge for Restoring Our Ocean in November. The amount of dedication to critical issues facing our ocean and the unique and creative storytelling made my role as a judge extremely difficult but very rewarding.

One of the benefits of being a judge is that I had the immense honor and pleasure to meet the 1st place winners of Track 1 High School Students and Track 2 College Students & Young Professionals at the end of December via Zoom.

Both Leah Fulton and Aiden Lo are impressive, inspiring, and kind changemakers that are working on expanding the knowledge of others through their projects. While speaking with them, I found myself in the middle of both of their life paths. Adrian will be starting college soon at Duke, and I already know he will have an adventurous time. Leah is starting her work post-masters degree, and I was comforted by her words of wisdom regarding school. Meeting Leah and Aid was something I will never forget. The youth and power of educational opportunities is something we as a society often don't appreciate. Thank you to National Geographic for constantly providing opportunities for the youth to get involved. Beyond proud to be a National Geographic Young Explorer! #GenGeo

Take a moment to learn more about the Esri 2021 Storytellers of the Year and prepare to be inspired!


“The entire story was a call to action; the Xiaoliuqiu, Sea Turtles, and Us author took us on a personal journey from beginning to end.” Alex Tait, National Geographic Society First place—Xiaoliuqiu, Sea Turtles, and Us by Aiden Lo, Taipei Fuhsing Private School in Taiwan Xiaoliuqiu, Sea Turtles, and Us unanimously took first place as a powerful example of visual storytelling. The journey begins when Aiden observes an entangled sea turtle during a diving expedition. We follow Aiden in discovering how humans and sea turtles can better coexist. The story includes quotes, video interviews, and even Aiden’s personal podcast, which together position readers as participants in the conservation journey, rather than simple observers. Second place—Treasures of the Deep by Hannah Osborne, independent entry from the United States What is bright yellow, 32 inches long, and eats using a total of 18 lips? A gummy squirrel! A clever story, Treasures of the Deep features the gummy squirrel as protagonist and includes an impressive breadth of deep-sea mining research. We follow the author Hannah 17,000 feet below sea level and discover that the gummy squirrel’s home, on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, is a treasure trove of precious minerals. Hannah makes the plea that, “as we pursue greener energy sources with deep sea mining, we need to make the effort to ensure we are not destroying the organisms and ecosystems that call the deep-sea mining beds home.” Third place—An Altered Arctic by Chloe H. and Cariena M., Henry Doorly Zoo Academy in Omaha, Nebraska, in the United States In An Altered Arctic, classmates Chloe and Cariena tell a well-researched, winning story about the impacts of climate change on Indigenous Alaskan communities. The students leverage ArcGIS StoryMaps features like express maps, map tours, slideshows, and timeline blocks to visually communicate environmental and social justice impacts on Indigenous heritage, culture, and ways of life.


This challenge was an opportunity to translate local initiatives to a global audience and encourage this generation, and future generations, of ocean conservation leaders to get involved where possible.” Leah Fulton, a 2021 Esri Storyteller of the Year

First place—The Tale of Lost Fishing Gear by Leah Fulton, Dalhousie University in Canada

Driven by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, The Tale of Lost Fishing Gear surfaces an often-hidden source of marine debris: ghost gear. Defined as abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear, or ALDFG, “Ghost gear is recognized globally and nationally as one of the most important marine debris issues to support sustainable and healthy oceans.” The story reveals geographical hotspots for missing or lost marine gear through interactive maps and includes a compelling call to action through engaging digital media and interactive storytelling with ArcGIS StoryMaps features.

Second place—Healing the Scars of the Land by Jesse Bridge, independent entry from Australia

Healing the Scars of the Land follows the path of land-based pollutants from local rivers to the ocean. While introducing the negative impacts on the land and Great Barrier Reef, the narrative centers on local partners who support conservation efforts and includes beautiful Traditional Owner artwork that represents the collective partnership.

Third place—Seagrass: A Struggling Ecosystem in a Unique Perspective by Tyler Copeland, University of Central Florida in the United States

The innovative story Seagrass: A Struggling Ecosystem in a Unique Perspective, which includes extensive research by author Tyler Copeland and colleagues, highlights the power of drone technology, citizen science, and GIS (geographic information systems) applications in restoring and conserving seagrass beds. These tools offer a closer look at coastlines and the impacts of a warming ocean, displayed seamlessly through a rich blend of ArcGIS StoryMaps features.


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