The idea for Park Life came while I was casting around for a thesis topic for my Masters in Information Visualization from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). 


The Inspiration


I was on a camping trip to Assateague Island National Seashore, off the coast of Maryland, when it occurred to me that I should check out the National Park Service's website to see what data the NPS makes available. 

The NPS didn't disappoint.


In amongst files detailing park boundaries, geological surveys, inventories of fish, and visitor numbers, I found the Species Lists. Of course I downloaded Assateague’s file. After a quick clean to remove uncertainties, I learned that over 1,400 species call Assateague home. 1,400! I had been aware of maybe a dozen. Perhaps 20, if I thought about the bugs.

How unaware I had been of the life around me!

It struck me that the data sheet I was looking at represented a unique finger print of this place. One that had been almost entirely hidden to me despite my having spent numerous nights there. A finger print that is every bit as unique as the more familiar vistas of National Parks such as Death Valley, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Shenandoah pictured below.


Could I use this data to create a visual that would be as representative and unique as these photographic images, while also adding an extra layer of knowledge, appreciation, or wonder? A hidden layer of life, if you like.

Thus, Park Life was born. I defined the goal and audience for my visualization as follows:

Goal: To enrich the audience’s experience of National Parks by creating unique visual representations of the Parks that will allow the viewer to “see” the hidden life within the Parks, raising awareness of, and appreciation for, the wide and varied species that call the National Parks home.

Audience: Those who visit, cherish, or are otherwise interested in the National Parks