Test Design Lighthouse

The Bioregions Discovery Tool was developed as a new open-source online mapping tool that can be used by anyone who has internet access to map their own region. Developed to facilitate the delineation of bioregions that are meaningful to a broad spectrum of users around the world, the tool draws on global datasets to allow examination of a range of vulnerabilities such as climate change, development pressure, water resource limitations, and food scarcity, among others.


These data - compiled for the first time ever in this tool - are summarized at the level of the bioregion defined by the user, not based on national or other jurisdictional boundaries by which datasets are commonly delineated. The tool was introduced to the members of a growing international resilience network prior to a three-day convening of resilience leaders hosted by Ecotrust in September, 2011, in Portland, Oregon. During the convening, the Bioregions Discovery Tool was demonstrated as a way for community leaders to consider the importance of natural features when conceptualizing a region.


In 2012 progress was made to refine and expand the tool through feature enhancement and new feature development, and user engagement in testing and feedback. The project team has made significant progress in terms of upgrades and new feature development. However, aspects of soliciting user input have taken on a different context based on the initial outreach and needs assessment of the potential users. This has delayed our ability to complete the solicitation of user contributions and data development as outlined in our original project timeline, as well as the release of the new version of the tool (Version 1.1) as planned. The current end date of this project is December 31, 2012.


Work completed to date:

  • Bioregion feature: We have developed, tested and implemented a feature that allows users to hand-draw their bioregion boundaries in addition to the option of using a model-driven approach and improved the modeling approach to be more sensitive to specific parameters.
  • Sharing: We have developed, tested and implemented a feature that allows users to enter “story points” - specific locations in which users can enter information, links to websites and /or upload images.
  • Networking: We have completed development, testing and implementation of a feature that summarizes story points as well as shared bioregions (bioregions that overlap) along with other data such as vulnerabilities to climate change, development pressure, water resource limitations and others. Registered users will be able to see who has contributed information and start a dialog.
  • Reports: We have begun development of new features that will allow users to export the reports for each bioregion in a common format such as PDF.
  • Usability: We finished streamlining the bioregion creation process, updated user-help documentation, and are in the process of creating a short help video for users. An official project page will introduce the public to the purpose and use of this tool.
  • Soliciting user contributions: We have engaged an initial group of partners in creating bioregions as well as in contributing knowledge of their region. We have worked with this group in identifying usability issues (particularly in rural and less developed regions) as well as to seed the tool with information pertaining to their region. As this information grows we plan to engage other users working in overlapping areas to also contribute data.


Next steps

Once we have finished the work in progress (December, 2013) we will begin a marketing strategy in which we will attempt to mobilize existing networks by enabling open id login that will allow users to access the bioregional tool from their Facebook, Gmail and or Twitter accounts (among others). This will allow us to leverage existing platforms to engage with a broader audience. As the user base grows, the tool will become of greater utility to new and existing users and the amount of information will be driven by its user base. This in turn will grow the number of connections that can be made through input of story points or new bioregions. Following the completion of these steps, the project team will continue to engage specific community members in ongoing practical usability testing while providing support to users in defining and sharing bioregions. Ecotrust intends for the Bioregions Discovery Tool to be available for the long term, and since the majority of the content will be user driven, the success of the tool is directly related to the number of users and the degree to which they are engaged.




Project partner:

Ecotrust (ET)

Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center

721 NW Ninth Avenue, Ste.200

Portland, Oregon




Bioregions Discovery Tool

Visualizing assets and vulnerabilities in bioregions around the world



Report 2013