Yale, Field Museum map species diversity in South American national parks

A new dashboard can give a highly focused look at the range of a single species, such as the Peru Pacific Iguana.
A new dashboard can give a highly focused look at the range of a single species, such as the Peru Pacific Iguana.

Park rangers, naturalists, tourists, educators, and land managers can now take a virtual tour of species diversity across three South American countries thanks to a new information dashboard created by researchers at Yale University and the Field Museum in Chicago.

The Biodiversity Dashboard lists almost 5,500 species found in and around national parks in three of the world’s most biodiverse countries: Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. 

We wanted to develop a tool for park rangers and land managers that provides the exact information they need to protect the species facing the greatest threat of extinction,” said Yale’s Yanina Sica, associate researcher in Yale’s Center for Biodiversity and Global Change, which is directed by Walter Jetz, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and of forestry and environmental studies.

Visitors to the dashboard can search, for instance, for the distribution range of the Peru Pacific Iguana in coastal Ecuador and Peru and overlay that information over the boundaries of nearby national parks. Land managers can use the information to recommend where the park could be expanded to protect the iguana and other species.

The Biodiversity Dashboard highlights the geographic range of a species of bird on a map of South America.
The tool allows park rangers and land managers to track the distribution of 5,500 species in three South American countries and help inform possible expansion of protected areas.

The new tool is an outgrowth of the Map of Life project spearheaded by the Jetz lab, which is attempting to map plant and animal species diversity in regions around the world and help guide global conservation efforts.

Sica and lead Map of Life engineer Ajay Ranipeta wanted to create a dashboard that would not only help park rangers and land managers see the distribution of species throughout regions of the three countries, but also provide an educational tool for students.

They hope eventually the new dashboard will be used around the world.

“From day one, we wanted to build a dashboard that can scale to additional places and taxonomic groups,” Ranipeta said.

The site will be officially launched in Spanish on April 29 and in English on May 1.


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Bess Connolly : elizabeth.connolly@yale.edu,