Cross-department collaboration tells the true story of the SoundGuardian

soundguardian_DNRPKing County Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) is a treasure trove of untold stories. Employees across four divisions work hard every day carrying out a broad mission to foster environmental stewardship and strengthen communities. It is hard to stop progress to recount our adventures and triumphs.

But when it was time to chronicle a legendary journey, employees across DNRP pitched in to help.

The County’s Environmental Lab has monitored streams, rivers, and Puget Sound for over 40 years.  Field scientists sample, survey, carry out special projects, and respond to environmental emergencies.  Routine water quality monitoring tracks the health of Puget Sound and inform decision makers.

Crew setup_DNRPIn 2015, King County commissioned a new research vessel to carry on this crucial mission. The previous vessel was a converted fishing boat that could no longer do the job after 40 years. With the new vessel, field scientists do more work in a day, run in bigger seas, and collect even more data than before. The Lab is now equipped to continue their critical work year round for decades to come.

We knew that this story needed telling, and we had a new communications tool to do it justice: GIS-based Story Maps. Story Maps combine location, text, and visual media in a three-dimensional narrative. 

The Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) stepped up to lead the storytelling effort, with the Lab, Water and Land Resources (WLR) and DNRP. Peter Keum of WTD’s GIS group navigated the Story Map platform. Peter helped communicators shape the story to the format. Peter’s entire group- and his wife, an artist- pitched in to review along the way.

The Lab’s Field Science Unit (FSU) gave us context and content. They let us ride along on marine runs, viewing and documenting their work. On the water, Kimberle Stark, WLR marine biologist, filled us in on monitoring and special projects. Tim O’Leary, DNRP videographer, documented the run and interviewed scientists. Matt Manguso, on a special assignment from Solid Waste Division, shot photos and developed text for a Web landing page.

Bob Radio_DNRPFSU Supervisor Ben Budka provided input, and insight throughout. He sent presentations, photos and underwater video. He politely corrected our creative nautical terms.

Back at the office, Paul Israel, on assignment from Parks, edited photos and videos. Saffa Bardaro, WLR Communications Manager, and Logan Harris, DNRP Public Affairs, added polish to the Story Map.

Everyone scrambled to launch it during Earth Week. Fred Bentler, DNRP’s Web lead, made sure it happened with a landing page in place when we were ready to hit “publish.”

We learned the pluses and minuses of the Story Map platform. We know a lot more about the Environmental Lab’s work. We know this Story Map only scratches the surface of their mission. Our most valuable lesson is about DNRP employees: when it is time to feature one of our great stories, they’re all in.

To read our story map about the SoundGuardian and the work this vessel does, the crew that runs it and the valuable data it collects click here.