Innovation watch

Drill down in the Amazon


In 2008, Gustavo Faleiros, a reporter at the Brazilian news outlet O Eco, sought a way to synthesize the massive amounts of data on the Amazon rainforest in an interactive, visual format. With an area spanning nine countries and 5.5 million square kilometers, the Amazon is the source of some of the most comprehensive data sets in the world. Plotting it on Google maps wouldn’t suffice. “How,” says Faleiros, “do you tell the story of this huge region to scale?”

On a fellowship from the International Center for Journalists, he worked with a team of Web designers to create InfoAmazonia (above), a site that merges the Amazon data into a single visual, allowing users to toggle between “layers of information”—wealth, deforestation, pollution, etc.

With more funding from ICFJ, he launched EcoLab in May, an incubator for environmentally focused data journalism. Next up: helping news outlets use what he’s learned to cover environmental stories.

Alexis Sobel Fitts is a senior writer at CJR. Follow her on Twitter at @fittsofalexis.