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Library displays work of student cartographers

The Marriott Library is showcasing maps made by U student cartographers in a new display called “Geography is Everywhere.”

The display, which is located in the southeast corner of the third floor, exhibits six maps printed in full color and ranging in sizes up to 12 square feet. The maps were the culminating project for a cartography course taught by Ingrid Weinbauer. Each map was selected as exceptional work by the members of the Department of Geography, who hope the library display will attract more students to consider the cartography program.

One of the maps, “The Forgotten Water of Salt Lake Valley,” was created by Christopher Ward and shows the path water travels on its way to the Great Salt Lake. Inspired by a Green Urbanism class taken in 2011, Ward worked on his map over the course of 10 weeks. While he didn’t have an estimate for the number of hours spent on the project, he said it required “certainly more burning of the midnight oil than I expected.”

Ward chose the topic for his map after realizing that even after living in the area for over 25 years, he had no idea just how water gets from the creeks to the Great Salt Lake. After creating the map, he finally understood how the water flow in Salt Lake works.

“I often bike on the Jordan River trail. As I made this map, I discovered that I’ve unknowingly passed the confluences with the Jordan River of all seven major canyon creeks. I live just a few blocks from the combined outflow of Red Butte, Emigration and Parley’s canyons and have passed this point dozens of times. I had no idea,” Ward said.

Because students were able to choose the subjects for their maps, each project on display focuses on a topic of personal interest and curiosity for the author. Two of the other maps displayed in the library show the correlation between happiness and universal health care or the number of microbreweries per capita in the United States.

Ward’s water flow map was one of three from the library display that were also featured in “Maps on the Hill.” The annual event at Capitol Hill takes place each January, showcasing cartography work from students, government representatives and members of the private sector. The creators of each map presented information and answered questions about their research from elected officials and the interested public.

Benjamin Ritter, a graduate student in geography, produced a map of the UTA public transit network that was also presented on Capitol Hill. The map notes the UTA network provides an effective method of travel along the Wasatch Front from north to south but lacks in relative effectiveness from west to east.

Although many students only use maps to get travel directions or identify foreign locations, Ritter explained these basic uses are just the beginning for the practical applications for maps.

“People think that geography is just about maps or knowing where places are, [but] it is so much more. Geography also focuses on the social and physical processes that drive everything we see. Being able to examine these processes to get a better understanding of the physical and human-made landscapes is really phenomenal,” Ritter said.

“Geography is Everywhere” will remain on display to the public through May 5.

a.lillie@chronicle.utah.edu