Atlas: Drawing Our Landscapes

The release of our latest Pontchartrain Estuary Atlas (Year: 2017)

Overview Map color

The Pontchartrain Estuary may be a mystery for some, but for us, it tells a story that we're gradually unraveling.


We spend a lot of our time out in the field collecting data and sifting through the numbers at our desks, all to better understand what's happening around us in our estuary.

This winter, we released our first ever Pontchartrain Estuary Atlas (Year: 2017). The atlas transforms our individual data points into a narrative that spans a year. The series suggests current estuarine trends and possible future conditions. Altogether the 36 maps that make up the atlas tell an accurate story of our estuary and deepen our understanding of where we call home.

The concept of an atlas of maps is an old tradition, once used across the scientific community and by millions of families taking road-trips across America before the age of Google Maps.

The U.S. geological survey has a geologic atlas for the whole country, but the best local example may be Harold Fisk's maps of the Mississippi River produced in the 1940s. A quick google search for "Harold Fisk" will bring up several images of beautiful and equally colorful maps that track the meandering of the Mississippi. Fisk's atlas tells a complicated story of the mighty river that was too active to stay in one place and recalls the story of the humans that had to deal with and eventually "tame" the wild river.


An excerpt from Harold Fisk's work tracking the change in course of the Mississippi River. "Fisk had a deep appreciation for the art of wandering the archeological sites of the old Mississippi. For his investigation, Fisk traveled 650 miles from Wycliffe, KY, all the way to Head of Passes at the mouth of the Mississippi, searching for signs to indicate the river’s path over thousands of years." - A Cacophony of Time: Harold Fisk’s Mississippi River Maps by Tori Bush

When staring into a Harold Fisk map, or any other elegant atlas, it is easy to forget that these accurate illustrations represent real environmental factors that impact daily life.

At the foot of the Mississippi, we live surrounded by an estuary. In this environment, salt and freshwater are regularly mixing, creating habitats of change. As a result, the things we depend on can be hard to keep track of, whether they be crabs and shrimp, recreating spaces, or land viable for swamp restoration. A thorough atlas can provide a valuable overview of these changes and can help us plan for possible coming trends.

At PC, we understand the Pontchartrain Estuary as a whole better than anyone else. In our 2017 Atlas, we illustrate a story of change across several aspects related to salinity, including wetland type, swamp restoration suitability, oyster habitat suitability, hypoxic developments, and shrimping and fishing activity. Take a look for yourself.