Welcome to the Anthropocene: We are Living in the Age of Humans

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Why We Love It

Humans. There are so many of us on Earth and more on the way. How are we using and changing our Earth’s resources? What are we doing to conserve and sustain? This interactive story map answers such questions with stunning imagery and shocking statistics. Built in collaboration with the Smithsonian, it gives a global and local perspective on many important human issues. We love this map because it is an interactive atlas of human influences.

Why It Works

This story map uses the full breadth of the Story Map Journal template to both show information at a global scale and take us to specific locations that ground global themes in local context. The dark basemaps really let the colorful overlays shine, and the map projection is appropriate. This map works by showing how environmental challenges like deforestation and population growth truly know no boundaries, and how the planet has been forever changed by the activities of humans.

Important Steps

Compose your story. Every good map requires thought and preparation before diving into the building process.

Assemble your content. Collect and prepare the data, photos, and text that will be the essence of your story map.

Here we were looking at six global datasets best represented using an equal-area projection. We choose Winkel Tripel for its compromise properties, which weigh equal-area with readability at the poles, along with its familiarity.

Per the data resolution, we used the coarsest of the four to choose the visible scales. Global data work best at small and medium scales. Increase visibility for higher resolution data, and decrease if your data are lower res.

Web maps work best with high contrast and bright colors. Choose colors that pop off the screen and use the fewest classes possible. Also, use the fewest classes of data possible. Many classes with a detailed dataset makes for a messy map.

Choose an appropriate template. This story map uses the popular Map Journal template that allows anyone to create powerful stories quickly using the online builder.



We used data from CIESIN (population), Wildlife Conservation Society (human footprint), University of Minnesota Center on the Environment (agriculture) World Resources Institute (forests), Conservation International (biodiversity hot spots), and IUCN (protected areas).


Global statistics and data from a variety of sources were collected, simplified, projected and designed for display on the web. Specific locations were found to exemplify points and elements of the story.


This project took approximately two to three weeks to complete, using a primary author with support from a cartographer/GIS analyst.

Different Maps


To make it easy to compare different maps, it is important to use the same projection (and centering) for each section of the story.

Built-In Actions


Take advantage of the built-in actions which link words in the text body to locations on a map (the hyperlinks in the text).

Compelling Images


Use compelling images to draw attention to your story.

More Information

Map Author

Allen Carroll

Allen Carrol


I grew up in the Midwest, loving maps and having occasional bad dreams about twisters. Current passions: story maps, birds, family.

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