Dynamic Evolutionary Map

My dissertation project, which re-envisions avian evolution using a map-based metaphor, is viewable here. Most visualizations of evolution use tree-based visual metaphors to represent the relationships among different groups. However, tree-based visualizations can foster misconceptions among viewers- for example, that species at the top of a tree are more “advanced” than those depicted on lower branches.

This visualization, which I am calling a dynamic evolutionary map, depicts the evolution of birds with the movement of dots across an evolutionary landscape. As you interact with the diagram, you can move forward and backward in time from the origin of birds to the present, and learn about some of the evidence for evolution along the way.

The dynamic evolutionary map synthesizes theories from cognitive science, new media studies, visualization research, and evolutionary biology, and applies new media tools to a traditional science communication challenge. This project demonstrates that these theories can be used to guide the construction of a visualization for communicating a scientific concept in a way that is both novel and grounded in theory.

Screenshot of the DEM.