This year has granted me the opportunity to work with various interdisciplinary scholars and explore how other disciplines interact with animal subjects. While touring MSU’s Museum of Natural Science Collections, we observed marks of DNA analysis in turtle shells created by one of the Master’s students at MSU (if anyone knows the name of this person, please place it in the comments). From my understand and short conversation of these objects, she tested the DNA in order to trace from where illegal commodities were coming, such as guitar picks created from turtle shells. I believe this project created a system in which one can compare DNA and thus locate the origin of the commodity, which had me thinking about how this project could be extended into data visualization. Are there more areas of the country in which illegal commodities are gathered and traded? Could this be implemented in order to bunker down on tighter restrictions? Would it help protect foreign countries’ natural resources? And what would be the demographic and ecocritical implications of this visualization?
While I am not well-versed in the technology that organizations such as CITES use (The Convention of International Trade in Endangered SPecies of Wild Fauna and Flora), I wonder whether extending the visualizations to the traveling public could help lessen the number of tourists who unknowingly buy these kinds of souvenirs or travel with illegal items. This kind of data visualization could be annexed to a project such as #Wildeye; a fascinating map I found similar to the one I imagined above. Launched in 2019, the Earth Journalism Network joined forces with Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism for the launch of #WildEye, a new digital GeoJournalism tool that maps and tracks data on Europe’s role in wildlife trafficking (https://internews.org/new-mapping-tool-tracks-illegal-wildlife-trafficking-across-europe/). More importantly, this project is open-source, freely available to those who want to use and share it. Designed for use by journalists, policymakers, and the general public, Wildeye uses search filters, tags, geolocation, and custom online map-making to enable users to track law enforcement interventions. The distinction or the addendum is that I do not believe it tracks from where these items or contraband are originating. While marking the court cases, arrests, seizures, and convictions are invaluable, I wonder whether it could be made more robust and create a visible impact on the supply chain if users could also observe the network from which these items are originating and traveling.