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Jasper Ridge Story Map, connecting nature with art through digital storytelling of Searsville Lake

Jasper Ridge Story Map

Over the course of my first year at Stanford, I became increasingly interested in how people interact with their landscapes. I came to Stanford set on majoring in earth systems, but I accidentally fell in love with art history when I got here. As I navigated my first year, I began to contemplate how the sciences and the humanities overlap more than I ever realized. This became especially apparent during the BIO 105: Ecology and Natural History of Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve course. Not only did we learn about the social history and anthropology of Jasper Ridge, but our instructors Cindy, Rodolfo and guest faculty members, were always emphasizing how we could best convey our scientific information to real people as leaders during our tours. I was especially inspired by Laura Jones’ lecture on the history and anthropology of Jasper Ridge that it drove me to contact her about potential project ideas.

After meeting with her and other Jasper Ridge docents who were also doing projects in social history, I decided on a project. I chose to create a new concept and interactive map of Searsville Lake that would blend the elements of ecology and environmental change while including the human use and their stories. During the early stages of the project, I realized that my perspective as a young person was a huge asset in developing this new digital project. No one had attempted to build an online and interactive map and this was something I knew I could pursue and complete – the project combined the sciences and humanities. It was challenging at first but as soon as I started playing around with all of the incredible features of ArcGIS Story Maps, it all started to take shape. Using this new platform, I was able to combine the features of a traditional map with the history of Jasper Ridge

Jasper Ridge vegetation map

Part of Katherine's digitial story map showing the different vegetation groups found on Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. Click on the image or here to view the Story Map


BIO 105: Finding a sense of place through knowledge and diverse faculty

I am from Salt Lake City, and walking up into the foothills or driving 20 minutes to hike in the mountains is something I really missed when I moved to Stanford. When I read the course description of BIO 105, the idea of taking a course that integrated spending and learning outside in the field every week really appealed to me. I loved the idea that an entire biological preserve could be my classroom. Regardless of whether I’m leading a tour, I still tell many people about the lessons and concepts I learned during this course. A lecture that really stood out to me was our plant anatomy class taught by Human Biology professor, Katherine Preston. I had never dived that deep into the anatomy, ecology, and evolution of flowers, and this lecture open a whole new world to me. I felt genuinely awed and excited learning about the different parts of a flower. Another lesson was of course Laura Jones’ lecture on the archeology and anthropology of Jasper Ridge and the preserve’s relationship with the Muwekma Ohlone tribe. I found it particularly interesting to hear about her role as the University Archaeologist for Stanford University. Finally, every life story told to us by our lecturers had a profound impact on me. I realized that life does not move in a straight line, but genuine passion leads people to amazing things. I wish every class had that as a requirement, professors sharing their life stories. I think you get so much from understanding the lives of the people you look up to.

Katherine Nolan

Katherine's passion for the outdoors started in Utah, her homestate.


Discovering, learning and sharing: our duties as new tour leaders of Jasper Ridge!

I noticed from the very first day at Jasper Ridge, that the other students in my BIO 105 cohort were curious and passionate about the preserve. Though we covered so many different fields of study, everyone was always so fascinated to learn new things about each topic. It was obviously noticeable that we were all extremely genuine learners and discoverers. This was clear while hearing everyone’s presentations at the end of the year. I was so impressed by all of my peers’ projects and how innovative and unique they all were. I felt so lucky to be a part of this group, and to share that sense of wonder and excitement during while learning inside and outside the classroom. This goes for the wider Jasper Ridge community. I truly feel privileged to be a part of a community of people who care about the environment and who are always excited to increase our understanding while sharing that love and knowledge about Jasper Ridge with others. People are genuinely warm and friendly and I think that stems from everybody being so happy while working and helping others at Jasper Ridge.

Bio 105 class at Jasper Ridge

Katherine partticipating in BIO105 activities with her fellow classmates.

Click here to view the Story Map

Katherine NolanKatherine Nolan, is an alumn of BIO 105 class (’19) and undergraduate at Stanford University.