The Launch of MapMorph
MapMorph: Teaching Human Variation is pedagogical tool for teaching the history and implications of race theory in biological anthropology, as well as the causative forces controlling human variation (climate and genetics). The website describes how climate is known to influence the human form, such as cranial size and shape and body ratios. This project changed drastically from its inception, but I hope that it will serve the intended audience. The target audience for this project is middle and high school students, as well as introductory college courses.
A large goal of MapMorph was to generate spatial visualizations for craniofacial morphological variation. Craniofacial morphological traits are commonly used by biological anthropologists to estimate ancestry based on the idea that hard tissue morphology will reflect soft tissue morphology (i.e. phenotype). Using data from the Macromorphoscopic Databank (Hefner, 2018), a worldwide databank for craniofacial trait data, a set of three maps were generated depicting the spatial distribution of three traits. In order to scale the project for the purposes of this fellowship, only Africa was mapped but more will be mapped in the future. The goal of the maps was to demonstrate that people traditionally classified as African based on the presence of once assumed discrete traits show a high degree of variation within these traits.
While the project changed during the course of my tenure, I gained experience in many of the skills I set out to learn through the CHI fellowship, including website development, coding, and data visualization. This project also gave me the opportunity to think more in depth about my own research and what I hope to accomplish with my research in the future.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with CHI and am very grateful for the opportunity. In the future, I plan to improve this project in several ways. First, I will completely redesign my project using a Bootstrap Framework so that it is more visually appealing. Next, I would like to create a way that users can navigate through smaller blocks of text at a time, limiting each text block to one concept so the reader is not overwhelmed. Finally, I will expand the data visualization component of the project to include more regions of the world to demonstrate how traits overlap between large groups of people with very different population histories.