Alligator Bayou Wins Bizarre Map Challenge

By on 13 May, 2010

An alligator bayou has claimed the top prize in an unusual mapping contest. The Bizarre Map Challenge was devised by California’s GeoTech Centre and San Diego State University to generate interest in geospatial thinking.


The competition was open to US high school, college and university students. The challenge was to create a map that utilised real world data but had an unusual twist. The “bizarre” element could involve unusual map-making techniques or strange topics, or incorporate striking patterns.


The goal was to promote spatial thinking and increase awareness of geospatial technology in students and the public. It should also inspire curiosity about geographic patterns and map representation.


A panel of well known cartographers whittled down the entries to ten. The final winners were selected by a public vote.


The winning entry was created by Christopher Brown, a student at the University of Alabama. Brown used ERSI’s ArcGIS software, NOAA land cover data and Landsat satellite imagery to create his entry. It was a visual interpretation of French colonialism in coastal Louisiana, aka the Bayou. He titled his map “Alligator Bayou”.


“I-Spy”, a map illustrating the spatial distribution of ‘missed connections’, took second prize. It was created by Martha Schnure, a Middlebury College student who based her map on a popular column in a local Vermont newspaper. The column is a venue for individuals to post notes about people they have seen in public places and would like to meet.


“I decided to map the missed connections to see if there is any trend in where singles are meeting each other – and if there is any difference between the locations of posts by men and those by women,” Schnure said. “This is a bizarre topic because it is something we can all relate to – making eye contact and smiling at the cutie in the produce section – but it is something that is not taken seriously enough to be considered ‘data’, much less mappable data.”

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