Mapping Biodiversity in America’s National Parks

Lab Reports, Maps
Grand Canyon National Park Image Credit: Getty


The United States is home to a wealth of species across its many different climates and ecosystems. More than 200,000 native species have been identified, but only around 21,000 of these species’ conservation status is known which leaves about one-third either vulnerable, imperiled, critically imperiled, or already extinct (Holsinger, K.E.).

This project aims to help visualize and introduce some of the biodiversity in America by mapping the species within its national parks using data from the National Parks System (NPS). By mapping biodiversity, the project also aims to help bring awareness to the vast number of species living within the NPS and serve as an educational resource.

Materials & Process

To construct the map, I utilized Carto, a location intelligence platform that allows users to create maps for spatial analysis. Microsoft Excel was used to clean datasets prior to importing into Carto. 

As the initial dataset I found on Kaggle was missing several national parks and its species, I downloaded the remaining species data through NPS’ Integrated Resource Management Applications (IRMA) Portal under NPSpecies. The Kaggle dataset also acknowledges using NPSpecies.

My process entailed the following steps:

  1. Conduct preliminary research on national parks in America to confirm total number of parks and its coordinates (Wikipedia).
  2. Obtain Biodiversity in National Parks dataset from Kaggle, which consists of:
    – species.csv
    – parks.csv
  3. Cross reference Kaggle dataset with preliminary research to determine any missing park and species data.
  4. Obtain missing park and species data from NPSpecies database and merge with species.csv file.
  5. Finalize files by removing extraneous columns and ensuring that only “approved” species were included.
  6. Import both species and parks CSV files into Carto to create map and conduct analysis.
NPSpecies database.

Results & Analysis

My preliminary research unveiled a total of 62 national parks within the United States and Territories and I intended to map a complete representation of all the species within the parks. As the NPS Species database is growing and evolving, it includes species that are “in review” and those that are not confirmed to be present in a park. NPS states that “a park species in review is provisional and needs additional evaluation to be considered approved” (NPSpecies User Guide, p.16). With this guidance, I decided to only include the species that were approved by NPS.

To highlight the biodiversity in American’s national parks, I decided to emphasize the number of species in addition to the different categories, such as mammals, birds, and reptiles. To do this, I first uploaded the parks CSV file as my first layer to initially map out all of the national parks. Then, I added a second layer with the species CSV file to map all the species in each park. I implemented the “feature count” and “categories” widgets to emphasize the total number of species and its various categories that it made up.

Map in progress with two layers and widgets.

To make the map more interactive and visually engaging, I set out to style each park’s point by value (number of species) in order help users easily discern which parks had more species as it is designated by the size of the point and the deeper color.

With these visual cues to help pique curiosity and interest, I made each point clickable by implementing the popup window feature to display the park name, state, and number of species. The widgets also added to the map’s interactivity as users can filter species by category and see which parks contain the selected categories. The feature count is also dynamic as it reports the total number of species on the map as the user moves through the map.

Final map

Link to final map:


Utilizing Carto to map out biodiversity in America’s national parks was an engaging way to gain an overview of the many species that live within the national park system. Its ease of use and user-friendly interface makes it the perfect tool to conduct spatial analysis, especially for beginners.

As my main goal for this project was to highlight and introduce users to biodiversity in America’s national parks, I envision next steps to include a more in-depth analysis of the variety of species in the parks. For example, the categories could be further broken down and basic statistics can be calculated which can then be visualized to help emphasize biodiversity in various regions. Each species’ conservation status can also be analyzed to assist in determining which areas contain a higher level of threatened species and if any correlations exist between the specific location and its conservation status.


Biodiversity in National Parks Dataset:

Holsinger, K.E.  Biodiversity in the United States, BioScience:[0256:BITUS]2.0.CO;2

NPSpecies Database:

NPSpecies User Guide: