UW Helps Produce New Atlas of Yellowstone

May 8, 2012
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the features included in the new Atlas of Yellowstone, a project in which the University of Wyoming collaborated. (National Park Service photo)

A comprehensive, hard-bound reference book filled with colorful maps and data-rich graphics of the greater Yellowstone area has been published, in part through the efforts of the University of Wyoming.

The Atlas of Yellowstone -- published by the University of California Press -- is the product of collaboration among the University of Oregon, the National Park Service, Yellowstone area universities and other federal and private agencies. It documents in images and words everything from archeology to evidence of climate change in the Yellowstone area. Its topics range from Yellowstone art to the regional economy, and from vegetation to bison movement.

"Pulling together all these materials was a daunting task -- which explains why it has never been done before," says W. Andrew Marcus, a geography professor and associate dean of social sciences at the University of Oregon, and senior editor on the Yellowstone project.

"Making the first atlas of a national park -- for the first national park in the world -- required gathering data and stories from an army of Yellowstone experts, each of whom had a career of experiences to share," Marcus says. "It took over 30 cartographers and years of work to condense those rich tales into the 800 maps and graphics that tell the story of Yellowstone and its region."

In addition to its comprehensive reference maps, the atlas features thematic "page pairs" covering nearly 100 subjects. The page pairs feature sophisticated graphics depicting scientific data on subjects such as development at Old Faithful, potential wildlife habitat and the park area's wildfire history.

With about 200 research permits authorized each year in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks area, the new atlas was able to tap scientific data from multiple sources and present it with graphical sophistication.

While the atlas focuses on Yellowstone National Park, its maps and graphics cover the entire region -- including Grand Teton National Park -- and emphasize variations across space, connections between places and human interactions with the natural environment.

The University of Wyoming has been involved with the Atlas of Yellowstone project since its early days. Pete Simpson, the Distinguished Simpson Professor of Political Science and the university's vice president emeritus for institutional advancement, was a strong supporter of the project. Uniquely tied to both the University of Oregon, where he received his doctorate in history, and the University of Wyoming, where he is an alumnus and longtime educator and administrator, he has acted as a liaison between his two alma maters to bring the atlas to fruition.

Other Yellowstone atlas collaborators included Yellowstone National Park, Montana State University, the Museum of the Rockies and Big Sky Institute at MSU, and the Draper Museum of Natural History at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody. Funding partners for the project included the University of Oregon, Montana State University, the University of Wyoming, the Yellowstone Park Foundation and Canon U.S.A.

The project was led at the University of Oregon by Marcus and James Meacham, a senior research associate and director and co-founder of the university's InfoGraphics Lab -- a GIS and cartographic research facility in the geography department. Alethea Steingisser of the InfoGraphics Lab managed the book's production and Ann Rodman, Yellowstone's GIS coordinator, led efforts from the park.

They estimated that more than 100 experts contributed to the volume, and dozens of cartographers -- including many students -- worked on the project. It also required several trips to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

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