About the Mapper

  1. Description
  2. How to Cite
  3. Contacts
  4. How to use the Mapper
  5. Origin and History
  6. Acknowledgements

Description: The WDNR Fish Mapping Application is a web application designed to make precise geographic data on the distribution and relative abundance of Wisconsin fishes more easily accessible to resource managers, scientists, and the general public. The Mapper is a product of the Fish and Aquatic Research Section of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and is managed and hosted under a contract with the Center for Integrated Data Analytics of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS-CIDA). The Mapper produces detailed maps and tables of occurrences and relative abundances for all fish species (and hybrids) reported from the state. Maps and tables are generated from a regularly updated database of fish collections that includes a wealth of historical data (as far back as 1875) from a variety of sources as well as past and current surveys from WDNR.

How to cite the Mapper: WDNR Fish Mapping Application. 2013 (give current year). Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources map of distribution of WI fish species. https://cida.usgs.gov/wdnr_fishmap/map/. Accessed on (give date).

Contacts: Questions or comments regarding the data used in the Mapper should be directed to John Lyons, formerly WDNR, now University of Wisconsin Zoological Museum, at jdlyons@wisc.edu. Questions or comments regarding the appearance, structure, or function of the Mapper should be directed to the Webmaster at wdnrfishmapper_help@usgs.gov.

How to use the Mapper: The Mapper provides two options for accessing and visualizing fish distribution data. The first is a map that shows collection locations for one or more types of fish, and the second is a data file that provides collection data in tabular form. Results for either option are based on a query generating using the drop-down menus on the right half of the web page. These menus can be used singularly or in combination, and all are organized alphabetically. For one, two, or three fish species (Fish Series 1, 2, 3) there are menus for species (or hybrid) Common Name, Scientific Name, or Family to select the type of fish (all names based on latest American Fisheries Society standards); County, Ecoland (a WDNR division of the state into ecological regions for landscape management), or HUC Name (Hydrologic Unit Code level 8, a USGS designation of portions of drainage basins) to select the region of the state; Reliability, to specify the relatively certainty of the identity of the fish; and From and To boxes to specify the starting and ending dates.

To produce a map of query results, the user pushes the Update Map button, and any records in the database that match the query are displayed on the map. The relative size of the symbol for each Fish Series indicates the number of fish collected. Clicking on a symbol on the map opens a pop-up window that contains data on the general location, collection date, species, reliability, and number of fish for every fish collection done at the site. The user can zoom in or out on the map to vary the level of detail using the "+/-" buttons on the upper left of the map. The box on the upper right of the map allows the user to change the background map; add overlays for dams, lakes, larger streams and rivers; display HUC8 and Ecoland boundaries; and specify the Fish Series being displayed.

To download query results in tabular form, the user clicks the Export Data button. Data can be exported in either Microsoft Excel (xls) or tab-separated text (tsv) format. The resulting file can be saved and contains precise location information including legal description and latitude and longitude.

With one exception, all the data in the WDNR Fish Mapping Database are directly available to all users of the web site. The exception concerns officially designated State of Wisconsin Threatened and Endangered species. By state rule, precise collection locality data on Threatened or Endangered species can be released only to WDNR users and to those non-WDNR users who have a legitimate need for the data and who promise to keep the data confidential. Threatened and Endangered species data can be accessed via the Mapper but require a username and password. The dropdown menus for Common Name and Scientific Name include all the Threatened and Endangered species (indicated by (T/E) after the name), but queries involving these species will not return any records without the user first logging in under the proper name and password via the Log In button in the upper right of the website. Users who believe they are eligible for a user name and password should contact John Lyons, formerly WDNR, now University of Wisconsin Zoological Museum, at jdlyons@wisc.edu.

A video guide for using the mapper can be found on WDNR's YouTube channel.

The origins and history of the Mapper: Data on fish species occurrence and relative abundance have been collected from Wisconsin waters since the late 1800's. The first effort to summarize and map the distribution of Wisconsin fishes was the monograph by C. Willard Greene, "The distribution of Wisconsin fishes", published in 1935 in Madison by the State of Wisconsin Conservation Commission, a precursor of the WDNR. Greene's work, which was based on his Ph.D. thesis at the University of Michigan under the direction of the great ichthyologist Carl L. Hubbs, presented detailed species-specific distribution maps and associated text describing post-glacial dispersal patterns and noteworthy records for every species then known from the state.

Greene's work remained the standard for nearly 50 years, until it was replaced by George C. Becker's monumental book "Fishes of Wisconsin", which was published in Madison in 1983 by the University of Wisconsin Press. This book, a classic of its type, summarized everything known about the fish species of Wisconsin, including detailed maps and text descriptions of distribution and relative abundance. Much of the information in the book was based on Becker's more than 30 years of fish collection and study.

As Becker was nearing completion of his book, the WDNR began an ambitious project to determine the distribution and relative abundance of fishes in all waters of the state. Under the direction of WDNR Research Scientist Don Fago, the Wisconsin Fish Distribution Survey (FDS) Project sampled a huge number of lake and stream sites during its active field period from 1974-1986, thoroughly covering about 45% of the state and providing more limited data from other areas. However funding shortages forced the premature ending of the Project before all areas of the state could be completely sampled. Project results were published in seven basin-specific WDNR Technical Bulletins and were then summarized in a final report by Fago in 1992 "Distribution and relative abundance of fishes in Wisconsin. VIII. Summary Report" published by the WDNR in Madison as Technical Bulletin 175. Each of these Technical Bulletins contained detailed distribution maps and summary statistics on occurrences for every species encountered.

As part of the FDS, Fago developed the first comprehensive computer database of Wisconsin fish distribution. During the 1980s, he pulled together as much of the available WDNR data as practical and also incorporated records from Greene and Becker and other earlier collectors. Fago and his assistants carried out the difficult and tedious task of determining and entering the exact location and coordinates for each collection. A user interface was developed to query the FDS database for distribution records. However, this interface did not have mapping capabilities and was only accessible to WDNR staff. Also, the only way to update the database was through manual location-determination and data-entry, a time-consuming and expensive process that had the effect of limiting additions to the database almost exclusively to collections of rare species or newly invading exotic species. Consequently, most WDNR collections, of which there were typically many hundreds per year, did not make it into the database.

To remedy this problem, WDNR Fisheries Management undertook a major effort during the 1990s to develop an electronic database to cover all of the agency's ongoing and future fish collections. A team of WDNR biologists led by Joanna Griffin worked closely with USGS computer and database specialists to build a standardized system for entering, maintaining, and analyzing all the fish data typically collected by the WDNR, including species occurrence and relative abundance. Nearly all WDNR fish collections are now entered into and housed within this system, termed the FM database. Sampling locations within the database are assigned precise geographic coordinates so they can be linked with mapping software, including internal WDNR GIS layers and map viewers, but there is no procedure within the system for directly mapping fish distribution and relative abundance. And the FM database is only accessible to WDNR staff.

During the early 2000s, a joint USGS-WDNR project, entitled "Great Lake Aquatic GAP" and led by USGS Geographer Jana Stewart with Research Scientist John Lyons representing WDNR, undertook an effort to generate predictive models of fish distribution in Wisconsin streams and rivers for use in stream classification and in exploring effects of land-use and climate change. As part of this project, they worked with USGS computer specialists, particularly Nate Booth and Kathryn Schoephoester, to develop a web-based mapper, termed the WDNR-USGS GAP Mapper, to portray the FDS database and several other smaller databases from non-WDNR sources. This mapper, which was accessible to the public, proved popular and began to be widely used outside the WDNR and USGS.

In response to this growing public demand, the WDNR created the WDNR Fish Mapping Application so that all of their fish distribution and relative abundance data would be available to users both inside and outside the agency. The WDNR Fish Mapping Application first came into being in the late 2000s and achieved its latest incarnation in 2013. To create this new web application, Lyons and Schoephoester and others took the WDNR-USGS GAP Mapper and added more data, improved the accessibility and functionality of the web site, and developed methods to add new data from both inside and outside the WDNR. In particular, they collaborated with Griffin to incorporate the distribution and relative abundance portions of the FM database into the Mapper. A procedure was developed by which all relevant fish collection data from the FM database are now added to the WDNR Fish Mapper approximately twice per year. Additional data from non-WDNR sources are also added on a regular basis. As a result, the WDNR Fish Mapping Application provides ready access to the most comprehensive and up-to-date information available on fish distribution and relative abundance in Wisconsin.

Acknowledgments: The WDNR Fish Mapping Application is based on WDNR databases and is hosted and maintained by the USGS under contract from the WDNR. Support for this site is provided by the WDNR and Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration, Project F-95-P, Study SSOT.