Born to fly: The life, journey, and trials of a migratory bird

Country/area: Singapore

Organisation: Kontinentalist, Birdlife International, The Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 8 May 2020

Credit: Gwyneth Cheng, Siti Aishah, Joceline Kuswanto, Griselda Gabriele

Project description:

Leading bird conservation organisation BirdLife International and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force partnered with us to produce an interactive, map-based story starring the migratory journey of the spoon-billed sandpiper and its fellow avian voyagers on the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. Learn about efforts to conserve the species in this interactive, map-based data story. Blending storytelling with hand-drawn illustrations, the story encourages empathy and guides readers’ understanding of the importance of conservation in a natural, non-moralising way.

Impact reached:

The project aimed to draw attention to the importance of conserving migratory bird species and the wetlands they rely on. Through illustrative and interactive storytelling backed up by comprehensive datasets from Birdlife International and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force, the story kept readers engaged as they learned about real threats migratory bird species face and the efforts taken to protect them. The story received good attention amongst environmentalists and conservation groups, and was shared widely on social media.


Techniques/technologies used:

Datasets were provided by Birdlife International and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force, but further research was done to find suitable and relevant data from other research and non-governmental organisations. Illustrations were done with Adobe Photoshop.

Maps were made with Mapbox GL JS. We overlaid the story text over the map using Scrollama. This helps to link the story text to the map such that the text triggers different map functions like zooming in or out and/or changing the mapview as the reader scrolls through the story.

We also used Turf JS to animate the routes of the migratory birds. We combined Turf JS with Scrollama to create a “driven” route which extends the line drawn on the map depending on how much the reader scrolls on the page.


What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part about this project was in creating a narrative that was easy to understand around comprehensive datasets and complex concepts, and making sure that maps and illustrations would be helpful for the readers instead of being included merely for aesthetic purposes. As such, the web page design required a fair bit of discussion and correction, and smooth movements on the maps and other parts of the story also took a lot of fine-tuning before it was achieved.


What can others learn from this project?

Datasets derived from researchers or research organisations can be difficult to explain in a story meant for the layperson. Using illustrations, interactive visualisations, and maps can help readers understand a different perspective and keep them engaged. In the best case scenario, it might even inspire them to share it with others, spreading the story and its message to people who are not well-versed in the topic.

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