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Get to Know the Great Lakes through FieldScope

Get to Know the Great Lakes through FieldScope

New Interactive Mapping Tool Offers Great Lakes Exploration and Data Sharing


By Stephanie Ariganello, Michigan Sea Grant

If you were to pour out a bucket of water in your yard, do you know where it would eventually go? Great Lakes FieldScope, a new interactive mapping tool, will help you explore what happens to that water.

Great Lakes FieldScope is an interactive tool for exploring, sharing and analyzing real-world data, including observations from students as well as scientists. Using FieldScope, students, teachers, enthusiast and natural resource professionals can work together to share, analyze and interpret data.


Users can explore rivers and lakes, watershed boundaries, water depth, political boundaries, elevation and land cover. FieldScope participants can upload their own field data — including photos, measurements and field notes — and compare it with data collected from other areas.

Organizations have used FieldScope to engage citizen scientists in documenting and studying topics such as water quality and biodiversity. FieldScope is also a simple way to publish existing data, making valuable information available to the public in an easy-to-use interface.

“With something like FieldScope, you’re really only limited by your imagination,” said Elena Takaki, FieldScope Program Manager with National Geographic Society. “There are so many different ways you can explore. And with the interplay between the data and the different layers, information can be combined creatively to investigate answers to real world questions.”


While the Great Lakes FieldScope project launched in 2013, the Chesapeake Bay FieldScope project has been live since 2008. Michigan Sea Grant worked closely with National Geographic to create the Great Lakes version. Sea Grant led the development team, helping to determine which layers should be included, assessing and testing the site, generating outreach and education about the resource, and hosting a series of instructional webinars.

The Great Lakes tool has some unique features, including layers that highlight the Areas of Concern and known spawning sites for different fish species throughout the region. Takaki said the National Geographic FieldScope program intends to partner with organizations in different geographic areas, creating a rich fabric of citizen science-generated content and connecting people to natural resources in their areas. 

FieldScope launched in conjunction with an update to Teaching Great Lakes Science, a web-based curriculum resource with lessons, related activities and data sets. The resources are easily incorporated into the classroom and are multidisciplinary, addressing science, technology, engineering and math subjects.

A mobile app is currently in development and will allow for uploading data to FieldScope from a phone or tablet while out in the field. Phase II of Great Lakes FieldScope will include a software update and other enhancements, making it easier to navigate and explore.  

As for that bucket of water — are you up for the challenge? Check out Great Lakes FieldScope or another FieldScope project near you to explore where what water might go. If you need a hint, refer to the Introductory Guide to Great Lakes FieldScope.


More Resources

Guide to Great Lakes FieldScope

Teaching Great Lakes Science


Getting to Know Great Lakes FieldScope Recorded Webinars:  Part 1, Part 2 


Great Lakes FieldScope is a collaborative effort of National Geographic Education, Michigan Sea Grant, the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Great Lakes Science Center.


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