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the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

Mapping Dragons

Photo of dragon at Gringotts Bank (fictional)
Dragons are known to guard high security vaults at Gringotts Bank, Diagon Alley, London. Luckily they escape only very rarely, as is pictured here in 1998 (c) Harshlight CC BY 2.0

Benjamin Town, GiGL Community Officer

Back in March 2019, the GiGL team were trying to think of a fun way to celebrate April fool’s day. What map could we generate and share with our community? After deliberating on the usual mythical candidates we settled on the idea of dragons; thinking to ourselves that there must be data out there that we could use to create a fun map, at least for the City of London’s dragon markers. A quick google later and, alas, no luck, so we squirreled the idea away to revisit another day.

Fast forward to 2020, again the team are brainstorming for April fools ideas. Little did we know that during the previous year Dragons of London had been created by the wonderful Hannah Chutzpah. Dragons of London is a project “dedicated to recording London’s unique biodiversity of architectural dragons – from church spires to local boozers, and everything in-between”. Like GiGL it uses a lot of volunteer generated data and hosts a wide range of community submitted images creatively classified by the field of ‘dragonology’ into groups and species. Whether you spot a splendid Ddraig Goch or a regal Red-Tipped Londinium, Dragons of London encourages you to snap a picture and get in touch.

After happening upon this treasure trove, GiGL got in touch with Dragons of London to see if we could collaborate on a map for the 1st April (conveniently also the birthday of Dragons of London). Sharing enthusiasm for dragons and having found a good enough excuse to play around with mapping them, we set to work to create the Dragons of London map. An example of what we hope can become an updatable map hosted on the Dragons of London website.

Map of dragons in London

In the process of creating this map, it was wonderful to discuss with Hannah how she came about collecting and managing the data. We were surprised to hear of the similarities between dragons and our own species dataset, we had both independently uncovered issues with validation, confidentiality and locations, seemingly taking similar approaches in tackling them. Who knew there was so much in common between dragons and dragonflies!

Our work with Dragons of London, first sprouting as a fun idea for mapping something unusual, has provide an introspective view on methods of managing data. In future this magical dataset will be used as a colourful example for explaining our species database, what we can do with it and how it can be displayed.

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