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Sarah Daniels – Mapping the path to sustainability

Sarah maps the story behind geospatial data to visualize environmental achievements and objectives. She is driven by the power of aesthetics, conservation, environmental, and scientific goals. Who doesn’t love a beautiful environment??!

Hi! Tell us a bit about your backstory

“Geographers have the overall view, everyone else has a perspective.” – This is what my uncle used to say when he taught me how to read an atlas properly. I was able to find out the most amazing details about how the environment and humans are connected just from the visual information on a page. This is how I found my passion in geography and ultimately in GIS, because maps can give everyone the overall view! Through my enthusiasm for the outdoors which I gained having spent the summer months of my childhood and youth in the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming, I learned the importance for environmental sciences, particularly the aspect of preservation.

So why are you passionate about this aspect of sustainability?

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” – John Muir.

My adoration with wilderness comes from a place of having experienced this sense of necessity. I also associate it with my fascination of my ancestor’s history. The stories, legends, along with the over-romanticized way of living of Native American tribes and Scottish clans have always captivated me. I’ve imagined many times walking through the nearly untouched wilderness of the past. From thick forests in mountain valleys, to the vast plains where wild buffalo once freely roamed, or between the towering red rocks in the Garden of the Gods in Colorado as well as the wind-swept mountains of the Scottish Highlands.

Preserving these special places is not only our responsibility, but also our duty and should become the ultimate legacy we want to leave behind. This is why I am dedicating my life to the pursuit of advancing environmental, conservation, and sustainable approaches through visualizing the urgency of protecting what we have left.

What’s next for you?

As a self-employed digital cartographer, I bridge GIS analysis and map design. I especially thrive when furthering projects for sustainability. Though, I want to be able to offer my community and my clients more than just maps for promotional purposes.

My goal is to create a comprehensive approach for clients and collaborate with digital designers, web developers, data scientists, ecologists, urban planners and more, to collectively harness the power of design-driven data visualizations to make planning for environmental goals enticing, thrilling, easier, and more actionable. I also aim to advocate for more and better designed green urban spaces, actions against littering, and social change – taking women’s safety seriously, inter alia, by designing safer public spaces (e.g., targeting sensible street lighting).

Sarah, what’s your one piece of advice for a sustainable future?

Be courageous!

Be courageous to think critically. Become a master of filtering the onslaught of information that is at the tip of our fingers today.

Be courageous to be the dumb one in the room. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It will open gateways for better communication.

Be courageous to be a teacher. ‘Be a teacher, please be a teacher! Share your ideas, don’t take your education for granted, rejoice in what you have learned and spray it!’ ~ As Tim Minchin once proclaimed.

Be courageous to be a role model. Recycle, ride a bike, pick litter during your walks, plant food in your garden or on your windowsill, reflect on your habits.

Be courageous to stay curious. It takes effort and practice to continuously listen and stay open minded. Stick with it, it pays off!

Be courageous to speak up. Promote compassion for others and the environment. If someone is being harassed, be brave and stand up for the harassed. And if someone is littering, call them out.

Be courageous to inspire others.

What would you recommend from RYVIAS for our audience?

Teach the value of community, the importance of thinking scientifically and critically, along with sharing the knowledge that no one is powerless or alone. We are in this together and we can achieve great things as long as we communicate with an open mind


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