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Improving community visualizations of existing climate actions and improve participation in, and access to, existing climate actions.

Santa Cruz, California

Featured image for the project, Improving community visualizations of existing climate actions and improve participation in, and access to, existing climate actions.

Santa Cruz Climate Action Stories ESRI screenshot.

Images improve cultural understandings of complex, nuanced information. There has been a trend toward using stock images in journalism. These images feed into a larger system of media representations that shape the cultural understandings of health issues and both behavioral and policy responses. Our team is experimenting with improving the systemization through which we create public health messages across media platforms by using online maps (Geographic Information Systems (GIS)) to group stories about community responses to environmental health solutions. We expect that including geospatial information and sector-related tags to sort images and stories by sector will improve message specificity and provide reference material for more highly produced media content. Microtargeting images and messages to specific audiences can allow for message tailoring to specific geographic regions, sectors, and intersections of both. GIS examples can then be used as reference material to feed into other media types such as journalism or narrative media content. We are expanding on these methods using a geospatial-based tool to improve the visualization of regional climate regional solutions. 


During Phase One, our team accomplished three primary goals that will help our team expand upon previous work. First, we built a new copy of the geospatial interface that we had previously explored with two pilot examples so that it would be available for a larger, more robust scale of climate action examples. Second, we assessed the landscape for partnerships to help us to help us appropriately scale and collect climate action stories. Third, we developed two exploratory partnerships, one with the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC)  and one with the Entertainment Partnerships team of the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

The Association of Science and Technology Center team, working under the Seeding Action initiative, proposes to collect and develop the interface in conjunction with their network of science center partners. As of February 2023, 51 science centers and museums have joined Seeding Action. The Entertainment Partnerships team of the Natural Resources Defense Council interfaces with commercial production teams such as their 2024 Sundance Film Festival program The Last Laugh: Comedy in the Age of Climate Change. The participation of this media training program serves to help us collect the GIS climate action examples with media production teams who need examples of regionally specific climate action examples to incorporate in scripted media. 

The two pilot efforts—one by a California Central Coast team and another by a group in Oxfordshire, UK—have provided a proof of concept by using GIS to invite community members to share positive climate-based actions, which are then showcased on an interactive map. These projects provide users with a link to a form for them to submit images and descriptions of their actions, as well as their locations. For example, users have uploaded images of a community garden, use of public transportation, and zero-waste repair shops and markets. Their entries are added to an interactive map which others can use to explore the types of actions taking place, with tools to toggle between categories such as building electrification/efficiency and transportation. In this way, community members can learn more about the people taking local actions, and where actions are taking place. 

The existing prototype is a highly adaptable platform. For example, the portal to share actions can be included as a link or QR code on websites or social media posts, shared during in-person or virtual events, added to fliers and distributed throughout a community, or loaded on tablets that are available to visitors. The current link is hosted here. Our outputs from Phase One are the new GIS database tool and the two working partnerships. 

To get to this stage in the project, the biggest change that we’ve had to make is the flexibility that we need to have to work with our nascent partnering organizations. The speed which the project moves at is dependent on the trust and interest in not just the leading organizations, ASTC and NRDC, but also their component science museums and media producers. I expect the next stage of the project to be equally delicate in how we cultivate those relationships. Our hope is that once this becomes a working system of community partners that the mechanical story collection and sharing becomes less dependent on individual participants and a more robust iterative feedback system.  


About the Community

Santa Cruz Regional Climate and Health Equity Partnerships will be an advisory committee for the Climate Action Plan for the City of Santa Cruz. Our goal is to develop a framework for regionalizing climate action. The CHEP framework includes a geospatial mapping tool and synchronized messaging system to improve coordination among climate, health, and equity efforts. Through a network of communities sharing the CHEP framework, we hope to improve both regional coordination and visualization of climate, health, and equity issues. We plan to synchronize efforts so that we can more rapidly move climate, health and equity projects into service. Importantly, the CHEP framework can be customized for any region and at any scale.

About the Project

The Community would like to improve visualizations of existing climate actions and engage the wider Santa Cruz population so that they can actively participate which will result in higher levels of engagement leading to positive climate actions.


  • Create an easy to use online app that allows people to upload photos & short description to share climate action
  • Allow organizations, community efforts and collective actions to be displayed
  • Display data on a map as a living display that can be searched and queried.


  • City of Santa Cruz
  • News writers and local press
  • Local television stations (KSBW and?)
  • Local radio stations
  • Library
  • NGO
  • Physicians
  • Local environmental groups in Santa Cruz:
  • Unions

The project outputs will consist of:

  • A set of tools, processes and concepts for achieving the outcome that both work well in this region and can be readily adapted for other regions, or networks.
  • A working model
  • Real-time ESRI links, and connecting the ESRI links to MAH and SCMNH websites as well as schools and libraries.
  • In-person displays as well as through web-sites and social media
  • News articles reporting though local papers on positive outliers using this data.
  • Research paper published (in support of expanding this further)
  • Presentation at AGU (suggesting SY019)



  • Improved visualization and higher participation (improved policy support). Inclusion of journalism/museums/schools in a feedback loop of community participation in climate engagement.
  • In time, every segment of the community has had exposure to aspects of the climate crisis of particular relevance to them, with the messaging, modalities and in formats or venues, that are best suited to both motivate and enable the most needed responses from them in their region and sector.



  • A model that governments can readily adopt that enables open-access, real-time, reliable, evidence-based, authoritative, visual, accessible, crowdsourced information and stories about climate and health impacts—including hopeful stories, co-benefits of integrated action, and inclusive opportunities to be a part of community-level solutions. This model would also be directly relevant to UN-level ACE networks that are interested in scaling solutions, sharing ideas, and normalizing best practices. Other entities such as Universities and businesses can also adopt the model
  • Curriculum and learning material revision so as to teach skills involved in mapping localities and other systems

Timeline and Milestones

Our original timelines were intentionally loose to accommodate the flexibility needs of our volunteer team and the required partnership development and relationship building with leader organizations.  

Work Completed: 

  • Team discussion to scope work – biweekly meetings of the whole team. (4 months) 
  • GIS Prototype Construction – Sarah constructed the prototype with small, focused team meetings with Emily and Aviva. (8 months) 
  • Community Feedback and testing – the whole group submitted responses to the prototype and provided feedback for improvements. (1 month) 
  • Looking for test partners – exploring options once the site was live to identify the best possible test partners for story example collection (5 months) 
  • Meetings with media partnerships – these happened throughout the entire period, as these are relationship dependant. Emily attends a quarterly stakeholder meeting convened by media partners and one on one meetings with individual groups including non-profits, researchers, and studio staff. (ongoing) 
  • Draft funding proposal – Rose and Emily write a draft funding proposal to seek additional project support for participant science museums. (2 months) 


Phase Two: Next steps 

  • June 25th, 2024 – Hollywood Climate Summit: This is an opportunity to check-in with media partners, and the NOAA program office to share the Phase One successes and to see if there are any present opportunities to collaboration. The 2025 Hollywood Climate Summit would be a good time to roll out the database tool for media partners, if we have sufficient participation by then. 
  • June 5th, 2024 – Emily and Rose meet with Rick Stulen to explore if the Quest Science Center is interested in creating  
  • July 17th, 2024 – ASTC/Seeding Action Stakeholder Meeting – presenting the platform and resource kits to Seeding Action participant institutions and trying to recruit a test set of participants (hoping for 5-10 institutions) 
  • September, 2024 – Follow-up with Seeding Action participants to collect feedback. 
  • September/October, 2024 – Emily and Rose rework the draft funding proposal based on the first set of feedback.  
  • Further goals for Phase Two: Running the prototype with a larger set of science museums, connecting those results to narrative media programs, generating news articles reporting though journalism outlets on positive outliers using this data, a research paper published describing the experiments results, and presentation at AGU. 

Project Team

Community Leads

Emily Coren, Stanford Psychiatry and Psychology, Science Communication

Krista Myers, MS, Louisiana State University, Earth Science

Nathan Uchtmann, Physician

Nightingale Uchtmann, Nurse

Jennie Dusheck, MA, Author, Freelance Science Writer & Editor 

Nancy Glock-Grueneich, Participant in the Santa Cruz Climate Action task force

Aviva Wolf-Jacobs, PhD student, Spatial Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California


Community Science Fellow

Jason Maitland

Collaborating Organization(s)

  • Museum of Art & History (MAH), Santa Cruz
  • City of Santa Cruz
  • Climate Alliance, Santa Cruz
  • Santa Cruz Climate Action Network
  • Santa Cruz chapter of the Sierra Club
  • Equity Transit
  • Friends of the Rail Trail
  • Coast Connect
  • Santa Cruz Progressive Alliance
  • News writers, local press (Sentinel, Good Times, Lookout Local, SC Local, San Lorenzo Valley Post, Scotts Valley Banner, The Pajaronian, Monterey Herald…
  • Local television stations (KSBW and?)
  • Local radio stations
  • Library
  • Santa Cruz Art league
  • Action for Climate Engagement
  • CA Public Health, Climate Health and Equity
  • Santa Cruz Climate Action Network
  • Citizens Climate Lobby, Santa Cruz Chapter
  • Save Our Shores
  • UCSC Sustainability Dept
  • City of Santa Cruz Climate Action Task Force