JournalMap is a scientific literature search engine that empowers you to find relevant research based on location and biophysical variables as well as traditional keyword searches.

All publications are geotagged based on reported location information and plotted on a world map showing where the research was conducted allowing you to easily visualize the research occurring in specific areas and show you where data gaps might exist.

In addition to being able to search for literature geographically, JournalMap opens up the possibility to search for literature from similar areas. In many parts of the world, there has been little formal study of the structure and dynamics of local environments. However, research that has been conducted on landscapes that share similar soils and climates can, in many cases, be relevant to these understudied regions.

JournalMap allows you to refine your searches using geographic data layers like:

  • precipitation
  • temperature
  • growing-degree days
  • aridity index
  • elevation
  • slope
  • surface texture
  • depth
  • biome
  • landcover type

Where do these data come from?

The locations representing published studies in JournalMap come from the articles themselves. JournalMap uses geographic coordinates as they were reported in the original published paper. We standardize the coordinates to be in a consistent format (geographic, decimal-degrees), and attempt to correct errors in the reported coordinates when found. Also, study locations are represented at the level of precision with which they were reported in the original publication. Some authors report coordinates with a high level of precision, but some report only very general coordinates. Also, while most studies take place over an area (and this area can be very large in some cases), a single point location for a study (or a single point for each study area) is most commonly reported. At this time JournalMap is using only a single point to represent an article, but we will expand it to incorporate bounding boxes other polygon areas soon.

JournalMap contains article records from large geotagging efforts as well as those submitted by users. In both cases we use a combination of automated and manual techniques to determine the geographic locations of studies. Approximately three-quarters of studies published in the past five years included geographic coordinates. In many cases these coordinates can be detected and converted automatically. When coordinates cannot be detected or when only place names are reported, articles are geotagged manually. In the event that articles are geotagged incorrectly - due to errors in reported coordinates or geotagging mistakes - we have tools to correct these locations.

Why do this?

Scientists and resource managers struggling to deal with rapidly changing environments and evolving threats need quick access to relevant research and descriptions of natural systems. The advent of semantic and aggregation searching (e.g., Google Scholar, Web of Science) has made it easier to find useful literature across disciplines and publishers. However, the ability to find out what is known about a specific ecosystem, species or landscape is hindered by current search technologies that rely on keyword, topic, text, and author searching – concepts of publication cataloging and searching that date back to the late 1800's. Much of the published research conducted on ecosystems around the world is tied to specific places, and these locations can be exploited to search for literature based on geography in addition to traditional searching.

Who we are

JournalMap is a cooperative project between the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, NM and the Idaho Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. It is a component of the Landscape Toolbox. JournalMap application development was done by the team at The Other Firm.

Project Acknowledgments

The ideas behind JournalMap evolved from discussions with many different collaborators over a number of years.

We are deeply indebted to Robin Metz, Ellinor Karl, and Jacob Karl for their help in compiling the initial set of articles and coordinates that became the JournalMap. Laura Martin and Erle Ellis provided a large set of geo-referenced literature records that were included in their 2012 Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment article. Genevieve Tucker, a student at New Mexico State University has invested many hours in geo-referencing articles and cleaning the resulting data. We greatly appreciate her work.

Finally, the original idea for JournalMap was derived from a large number of conversations and related efforts. These include discussions among staff at The Nature Conservancy, Idaho Chapter starting in 2010, a Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment paper written by collaborators at CONABIO and the Jornada in 2010, and a 2011 demonstration of an environmental similarity search tool developed by German Baldi.

JournalMap uses some source code modified from Geolucidate for recognizing and reformatting geographic coordinates in article geotagging. The original Geolucidate code was written by Kurt Raschke © 2010.

Publications & Related Efforts

JournalMap Publications

The following publications describe geographic-based literature searching and feature JournalMap:

  • Karl, J. W., J. K. Gillan, and J. E. Herrick. 2013a. Geographic searching for ecological studies: a new frontier. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. DOI:
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2013.05.001
  • Karl, J. W., J. E. Herrick, R. S. Unnasch, J. K. Gillan, E. C. Ellis, W. G. Lutters, and L. J. Martin. 2013. Geo-semantic searching: discovering ecologically-relevant knowledge from published studies. BioScience. DOI:
  • DOI: 10.1525/bio.2013.63.8.10

Related or Similar Efforts

Several other sites that are pursuing the geo-referencing of published studies (or their data) or that provide tools for analyzing geo-referenced literature.

  • GLOBE: Global collaboration engine - an online collaborative environment where land change scientists and researchers can synthesize and integrate local and regional case study data to assess the global relevance of their work.
  • Pangaea: Online, open access data publisher for georeferenced earth-system research data. Used to archive datasets associated with earth system science journals

Supporting Publications

The need for and foundations of geographic-based literature searching has been established, in part, by the following articles:

  • Fisher, R., B. T. Radford, N. Knowlton, R. E. Brainard, F. B. Michaelis, and M. J. Caley. 2011. Global mismatch between research effort and conservation needs of tropical coral reefs. Conservation Letters 4:64–72. URL:
  • Hughes, T. P., A. H. Baird, E. A. Dinsdale, V. Harriott, N. Moltschaniwskyj, M. S. Pratchett, J. Tanner, and B. L. Willis. 2002. Detecting regional variation using meta-analysis and large-scale sampling: latitudinal patterns in recruitment. Ecology 83:436–451. DOI:
  • DOI: 10.1890/0012-9658(2002)083[0436:DRVUMA]2.0.CO;2
  • Jetz, W., J. M. McPherson, and R. P. Guralnick. 2012. Integrating biodiversity distribution knowledge: toward a global map of life. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 27:151–159. DOI:
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2011.09.007
  • Karl, J. W., and J. E. Herrick. 2013. Rangeland Mashups and Wikicology? Implementing collaborative internet technologies for rangeland management. Rangelands 35:1–11. DOI:
  • DOI: 10.2111/RANGELANDS-D-12-00069.1
  • Karl, J. W., J. E. Herrick, and D. Browning. 2012. A strategy for rangeland management based on best-available knowledge and information. Rangeland Ecology & Management 65:638–646. DOI:
  • DOI: 10.2111/REM-D-12-00021.1
  • Martin, L. J., B. Blossey, and E. Ellis. 2012. Mapping where ecologists work: biases in the global distribution of terrestrial ecological observations. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10:195–201. DOI:
  • DOI: 10.1890/110154
  • Shapiro, J. T., and A. Báldi. 2012. Lost locations and the (ir)repeatability of ecological studies. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10:235–236. DOI:
  • DOI: 10.1890/12.WB.015
  • Van Vliet, N., O. Mertz, A. Heinimann, T. Langanke, U. Pascual, B. Schmook, C. Adams, D. Schmidt-Vogt, P. Messerli, S. Leisz, J.-C. Castella, L. Jørgensen, T. Birch-Thomsen, C. Hett, T. Bech-Bruun, A. Ickowitz, K. C. Vu, K. Yasuyuki, J. Fox, C. Padoch, W. Dressler, and A. D. Ziegler. 2012. Trends, drivers and impacts of changes in swidden cultivation in tropical forest-agriculture frontiers: A global assessment. Global Environmental Change 22:418–429. DOI:
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.10.009

Project Partners

Project Staff

Jason karl
Research Ecologist, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Jornada Experimental Range

Jeffrey gillan
College Assistant Professor, New Mexico State University

Bob unnasch
Director of Science, Idaho Chapter of The Nature Conservancy