The Rise and Fall of Species Over Time

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
After doing the initial research on my project and exploring which invasive plant species were causing the most damage in the Bay Area, I took a step back from the data and code to think about the narrative of the project and the overall look and feel, and created mockups to show how the interface might be developed. 
Time and place are equally important keys to this piece, and I knew from the beginning that I would create a map that incorporates a timeline slider. The user will be able to click a play button that cycles through the piece, or may choose to drag the slider handle to a particular point in time.
In thinking about the essentials aspects of the project, I also determined that I wanted to highlight how the observation count for each species has risen and fallen. I drafted an idea for a chart below the main map that illustrates this dimension. It will allow the user to see the overall ebb and flow of species at a glance, but will also provide an entry point for obtaining exact figures. I'll most likely use Crossfilter.js to build out this piece.

In addition to the timeline and the chart, I want to construct a story and provide background on how the plants were introduced, what role humans have had in accelerating or decelerating their spread, and how the plants are changing the landscape. For this, I'll have infoboxes that provide narrative, with buttons to click through for each step of the story. I'll also highlight other components of the city that are affected or tied to the growth of these species, be it transportation routes, bodies of water, specific areas of land, etc.
The timeline and chart will be tied to one another, but the infoboxes will be a separate way for the user to explore the visualization.
Below is an example of how the Ice Plant story would begin, followed by a second infobox that furthers the narrative.


I feel there is an opportunity here too to present animations showing how the species grow, diagrams of their morphology, etc. 

I'll also use these boxes to highlight the native plants and animals that are being displaced by the invasive plant species.

I began work on including the timeline on the development site. It is about 80% finished. I've also spent time this week thinking about broader design considerations such as palette. 
I feel that my project is now more focused, but the other element I want to work on is thinking about how to include an abstract, artistic rendering of the data in my visualization. How can I incorporate it without busying the layout or confusing the user? One thought is to include a teaser of something more abstract in an infobox, which then opens in a new tab.
By next week, I want to nail down the story for each species that I'm showcasing. I'll finish building out the timeline, and will pull all of the species observation data for one of the case studies into the map. I'll work on the styling, and give more thought to how else I can present the data.