Internship project for the Orlando Wetlands Park (spring 2010)

Project Overview
This internship project involved creating two HTML-based clickable maps for the Orlando Wetlands Park (OWP) website. The OWP is a water treatment wetland and city park run by the city of Orlando, located in Christmas, FL. It takes treated wastewater from the Orlando metro area and runs it through a series of ponds, in which the vegetation take up remaining nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous. The water is then discharged into the St. Johns River.

Photo by Bob Rope

The clickable maps highlight natural resources in conjunction with park locations, make the website more interactive, and teach visitors about the park. They serve as a “virtual tour” of the park, which is useful for education about park resources. Also, the part is closed for several months during the winter, so they let people learn about it when access is normally restricted.

This project was done to fulfill the course requirements of ENG 6947 (Internship in Texts and Technology). It allowed me to work with a government organization interested in public education to use the Internet to facilitate their public outreach, which is one of my interests. It also let me expand some of my skills with graphics editing and HTML coding. Finally, I was able to create an interesting project that will let me share information about one of the natural areas I enjoy visiting in the Orlando area, but which is not very well-known to many people.

I used a satellite photo of the park and to make a base map.

Satellite photo, colorized by Bob Rope.

While this photo was already colored to separate water from vegetation, it was too detailed to use as a base map. The base map was created by tracing over the satellite photo in Adobe Illustrator.

Photo by OWP staff.

I ended up making two maps. The first was a general overview to the park, highlighting some of the different habitat types, nature trails, and educational facilities. I used a combination of aerial photos and landscape photos to highlight a diversity of features. For example, there is a black vulture roost in the park that creates a really interesting experience to walk past. It’s interesting to get up close to this many of these birds.

Despite the number of photos I used, there were still several sites that I did not end up highlighting, so I tried to create links in those locations for the second map, the wildlife map. By spreading out the links, I was hoping to create the impression that there were interesting locations to visit all over the park. Typically, park visitors will focus on a single trail (for OWP, the “birding loop trail,” located north of the park entrance) and not travel to the more distant areas of the park.

For the wildlife map, I located the links in habitat types that those plants and animals were likely to be found in (e.g., ibis in marshes and barred owl in forest). One of the drawbacks of this type of map is likely to be that people will go to a site on the map, not see a featured animal there, and be disappointed. This sort of disconnect from an understanding of the mobile nature of wildlife is fairly common in park settings; many urban- and suburbanites are more used to encountering wildlife in zoos or on roadsides than in nature.

The maps are posted at the Friends of the Orlando Wetlands website, run by the OWP’s volunteer group. Overall, this project provided an interesting practical application of some technical skills and theoretical design ideas for me. Check it out!

Pika Perspectives: Strategies for Climate Change Communication (fall 2009)

This is the introduction to Pika Perspectives, a group project on best practices for design of climate change websites.

…In his book, Persuasive Technology, B.J. Fogg discusses interactive computing systems and their design. As persuasive technologies, these computing systems are often designed to change people’s attitudes or behaviors. There is no doubt that the emergence of the Internet, as a popular computing system, has led to the increase of websites designed to persuade and motivate individuals to change their attitudes and behaviors.
Many organizations devoted to climate change issues have benefited from the Internet “boom” and have designed websites to persuade users to act or think a certain way about climate change. Unfortunately, due to poor website development, some climate change websites have not been able to successfully relay their message.
Since website development impacts a website’s credibility, usability, and the ability to persuade a particular audience, it is important to establish certain criteria that all effective and persuasive websites should have.

To learn more about our criteria for best website practices, see our criteria page. We also provide examples of good website design and a short animated video of how to improve an existing site.