Create an endangered species story

Create and add data to your map

First, you’ll open a new map and add a layer from ArcGIS Living Atlas that contains data on endangered species.

  1. Sign in to your ArcGIS account.

    If you don't have an organizational account, see options for software access.

    If you encounter an error or are unable to sign into your account, remember that passwords are case-sensitive. If you forget your ArcGIS password, you can reset your password from the sign-in page. See Account troubleshoot for more information.

  2. At the top of the page, on the ribbon, click Map.

    Map on the ribbon

    A map appears in Map Viewer.

    Blank map in Map Viewer


    Depending on your organizational and user settings, you may have opened Map Viewer Classic. ArcGIS Online offers two map viewers for viewing, using, and creating maps. For more information on the map viewers available and which to use, please see this FAQ.

    This tutorial uses Map Viewer.

  3. If necessary, at the top of the page, click Open in Map Viewer.
  4. On the Contents (dark) toolbar, if necessary, click Layers, and in the Layers pane, click Add layer.

    Add layer button in the Layers pane

    A list of layers appears in the pane, allowing you to browse layers in your ArcGIS account. Since you want to add data on endangered species from a government agency that regularly updates its data, you will search ArcGIS Living Atlas for data to use in your map.

  5. In the Add layer pane, click My Content and choose Living Atlas.

    Living Atlas in the options of data sources to search

    ArcGIS Living Atlas is an ever-growing collection of reviewed and reliable geographic information from around the globe. It includes maps, apps, and data layers you can use, adapt, and analyze in your projects.

  6. In the search bar, type endangered species and press Enter. Locate the Critical Habitat for Threatened and Endangered Species layer by Esri_US_Federal_Data and click the Add button.

    Search endangered species and add the Critical Habitat for Threatened and Endangered Species layer.

    The layer is added to your map.

  7. On the map, zoom in to the United States to see the layer more clearly.

    Critical habitat data added to your map and zoomed in to the continental United States.

  8. At the top of the Add layer pane, click the back arrow.

    Back arrow at the top of the Add layer pane

    In the Layers pane, the Critical Habitat for Threatened and Endangered Species was added to your map as a group layer in the Layers pane. Group layers are like folders that contain multiple layers.

  9. In the Layers pane, click the arrow to expand the Critical Habitat for Threatened and Endangered Species group layer.

    Critical Habitat for Threatened and Endangered Species group layer expanded

    The group layer contains four layers. There are layers that include data represented by lines and polygons. The layers also include information about proposed habitats, meaning they are still in the process of being officially adopted by a governing body to be declared a critical habitat for endangered species.

    For this tutorial, you will only use one of the layers, Critical Habitat - Polygon Features - Final, so you will move it out of the group layer then remove the group layer.

  10. Drag the Critical Habitat - Polygon Features - Final layer above the group layer.

    Critical Habitat - Polygon Features - Final layer dragged out of the group layer.

    The Critical Habitat - Polygon Features - Final is now separate from the group layer. The group layer has a distinct white rectangular border but now only contains three layers.

    Critical Habitat - Polygon Features - Final layer is moved out of the group layer

    Now that you have moved the layer you're interested in out of the group layer, you no longer need the group layer nor the layers within it, so you will remove them.

  11. Point to the Critical Habitat for Threatened and Endangered Species group layer, click the Options button, and choose Remove.

    Click Remove on the Options menu to remove the group layer and the remaining layers within it.

    The only layer in your map is the polygon layer for finalized threatened and endangered species.

    Critical Habitat - Polygon Features - Final is the only layer in the Layers pane.

    For this tutorial, you will choose one endangered species to feature in your story.

  12. Use the zoom and pan tools to zoom to the southern part of Arizona.

    Map zoomed to the state of Arizona.

    You see that there are two colors representing different areas on the map. To better understand what the two colors mean, you will view the legend.

  13. On the Contents toolbar, click Legend.

    Legend on the Contents toolbar

    The Legend pane shows you that the red areas represent critical habitats for endangered species, while orange represents critical habitat areas for species that are threatened, that is, are at risk of becoming endangered.

    Legend for the Critical Habitat - Polygon Features - Final layer

Next, you will prepare your map to use in your story.

Filter to show one habitat

Now that you have a layer of all the endangered species habitats in the country on your web map, you will filter the layer to show one species’ habitat you want to feature in your story.

  1. On the map, if necessary, zoom in to the southern part of the state of Arizona.

    Southern area of the state of Arizona

    You observe that the largest endangered species habitat area is in the southern part of the state.

  2. Click the red habitat area in the southern part of the state.

    Pop-up for the jaguar's habitat in southern Arizona

    A pop-up appears with information about the habitat. This area is the critical habitat for the jaguar, which has an endangered status.

    Layers from ArcGIS Living Atlas are often configured with pop-ups that include formatted and useful information about the data it is showing, including links to more resources.

  3. In the pop-up, click the More information about threatened & endangered species link.

    The Threatened & Endangered Species page appears on the Environmental Conservation Online System website, operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

  4. For the Additional Search Tools, in the search bar, type jaguar and choose Jaguar (Pantehra onca).

    Search jaguar under Additional Search Tools on the Threatened & Endangered Species page

    The Species Profile for Jaguar (Panthera Onca) page appears. The page contains information and images about the jaguar that can help you create your story.

  5. Return to your browser tab or window with Map Viewer.

    Next, you will use Filter to only show the jaguar’s habitat. You can use filters to present a focused view of a feature layer or an imagery layer in a map. By limiting the visibility of features or images in a layer, you can reveal what's important to you.

  6. Close the pop-up.
  7. On the Layers pane, ensure the Critical Habitat - Polygon Features - Final layer is selected.

    Critical Habitat layer selected in the Layers pane

    The blue bar appears next to a layer when it is selected in the Layers pane. If the layer is not selected, the Settings toolbar will be inactive.

  8. On the Settings (light) toolbar, click Filter.

    Filter on the Settings toolbar

  9. In the Filter pane, click Add expression.

    Each expression includes a field name, an operator, and a value to set the filter.

  10. Under Expression, click the field selector (the first drop-down menu).

    First drop-down menu under Expression in the Filter pane

    The Replace field window appears. You can use this window to choose the field by which you want to filter the layer.

  11. In the Replace field window, in the search bar, type name. In the list of results, click Legal Common Name.

    Search for name and attribute Legal Common Name located in the Replace field window.

  12. Click Replace.

    The second drop-down menu is the operator selector. You will accept the default operator, which is set to is.

  13. Click the value selector (the third drop-down menu), and search and choose Jaguar.

    The expression is now complete. The three parts of the expression you entered filters all the data in the layer. First, you indicated that the field you want to filter based on is the Legal Common Name. Next, you kept the operator as is. Finally, you chose the Legal Common Name you want to display. The filter you set tells the layer to show only the area for the species whose name is Jaguar.

    Expression is complete and preview of filter applied to map visible.

  14. At the bottom of the Filter pane, click Save to save the filter.

    Now that the critical habitat layer only shows the habitat for the jaguar, you will update the layer name so it more accurately reflects what the layer is showing. This can be especially important if you plan to share this layer. Since you will be using this map for a story, it will help your readers better understand the map if the layer is accurately named.

  15. In the Layers pane, for the Critical Habitat - Polygon Features - Final layer, click the Options button and click Rename.

    Rename in the Options menu for the Critical Habitat - Polygon Features - Final layer

  16. Rename the layer Jaguar Critical Habitat and click OK.

    Layer renamed Jaguar Critical Habitat.

    One final touch to prepare your map for the story is to update the basemap. The default Topographic basemap includes many details that are not necessary to your story and draws attention away from the critical habitat area. You will choose a basemap that has a simpler design and also adds color so your story will be engaging.

  17. On the Contents toolbar, click Basemap. In the Basemap pane, choose Modern Antique Map.

    Modern Antique Map in the Basemap pane

    The basemap updates on your map.

    Map basemap updated and ready to share to story.

    Next, you will save the map.

  18. On the Contents toolbar, click Save and open and choose Save as.

    Save as on the Save and open menu

  19. In the Save map window, enter the following:
    • For Title, type Jaguar Habitat.
    • For Tags, type jaguar, story, endangered, arizona, pressing Enter after each word.
    • For Summary, type Map of the critical habitat for jaguars in southern Arizona.

    Save map window with parameters entered

  20. Click Save.

    The final step you will do to prepare your map to add to a story is to set the share settings so anyone can view the map.

  21. On the Contents toolbar, click Share map.

    Share map on the Contents toolbar

  22. In the Share window, click Everyone (public) and click Save.

    Everyone (public) selected in the Share window.

You have added a layer from ArcGIS Living Atlas, filtered the layer to focus on the critical habitat for the jaguar in the southern part of Arizona, and updated the basemap to a more simple, but colorful design. Your map is ready to share as a story using ArcGIS StoryMaps.

Create and add content to your story

As the GIS user, you used Map Viewer to design and visualize data in a web map. To share your map, you can create a web app so your audience can view and interact with the map, without needing any experience with all the tools available in Map Viewer. Web apps such as ArcGIS StoryMaps additionally provides context for the map with text, multimedia, and other interactive functions to inform, educate, and inspire people about a wide variety of topics.

In this section, you will use ArcGIS StoryMaps to build and design a story to share about an endangered species in Arizona: the jaguar.

  1. On the Contents toolbar, click Create app and choose ArcGIS StoryMaps.

    ArcGIS StoryMaps on the Create app menu

    The story builder launches in a new window and your map appears, already added to the story.

    Story editor opens with your map already added.

    You'll start by giving your story a title.

  2. Click Title your story and type The Jaguar: An endangered species in Arizona.

    Title added to the story.

    Next, you will add text to build a narrative for your story.

  3. Point to the blank space above the map and click the Add content block button.

    Add content block button above the map

  4. In the options that appear, choose Text.

    Text option in the Add content block menu

  5. Copy and paste the following text into the Text block:

    Jaguar (Panthera onca)

    This text is a heading, so you want to format it to be larger and more bold than paragraph text.

  6. Highlight the text Jaguar (Panthera onca). In the text editor toolbar that appears, click Paragraph and choose Heading 1.

    Setting text to Heading format

  7. Use what you have learned to add another Text block below the heading text and copy and paste the following text:

    The jaguar is a large cat with a yellow to light brown coat, spotted with black rosettes or rings along the back and sides of its body. Most of the rings have an inner tan color, with 1 or 2 black spots. A jaguar's legs, head, and tail have smaller, solid black spots, with black bands towards the end of its tail.

    Paragraph of text added below the heading text.

    Adding images provides more context for your story and serves as an engaging visual for any text you use in the story.

  8. Download the file. Extract the contents to a location on your computer, such as your Desktop or Downloads folder.

    The .zip file contains a folder with images of jaguars you can add to your story.

  9. In your story, point to the space between the paragraph text and the map, click the Add content block button, and choose Image.

    Image option in the Add content block menu

  10. In the Add an image window, click Browse your files.
  11. Browse to the jaguar_images folder you downloaded and choose the image jaguar.png.
  12. Click Add.

    The image is added to your story.

    It is important to ensure you cite and give credit for any images you use in your story, so you will add that information to the caption of the image.


    Getting proper permissions is important. Whenever you author a story, be sure you have permissions to use content. Do not use material you are not legally entitled to use. The world is full of open source content, which refers to something people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible. Consider using content that is licensed under Creative Commons, a non-profit organization that grants licenses in a standardized way for use of creative work under copyright law, or seek written permission from authors and creators before publishing their content to your story.

  13. Below the image, click Add a caption for this image and type or copy and paste the following text:

    Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Credit added to caption for image.

    Next, you will add more narrative text to describe where jaguars are located.

  14. Use what you have learned to add the following paragraph of text below the image:

    The Jaguar has been on the List of Endangered Foreign Fish and Wildlife since 1972. The species historical range included Arizona, California, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas. Now, they are only found in southern Arizona and the border between Arizona and New Mexico.

    Adding links to narrative text increases the ways your audience can interact with the story, so you will add a link so your audience can learn more about the jaguar's endangered status.

  15. Highlight the text List of Endangered Foreign Fish and Wildlife since 1972, and in the text editor toolbar that appears, click Link and choose Web page.

    Text highlighted and link in the text editor toolbar

  16. Paste the link and click Apply.

    The text is now a link users can click to learn more information.

Design and style the story

Now that you have added the images, text, and a map to your story, you will further design your story so your audience can understand and follow the story in a clear and engaging way. First, you will adjust the appearance of the map.

  1. Point to the map and click Edit.

    Edit on the map

    The Adjust map appearance window appears.

    In this window, you can adjust many elements of your map and how it will appear in your story. You can choose which layers to make visible, set the zoom level of the map, and control which map features your audience can use and view, such as a search bar or the map legend.

  2. Click the Options tab and turn on Legend and Keep legend open.

    Legend and Keep legend open enabled on the Options tab in the Adjust map appearance window.

    The legend appears on the map. This will enable your audience to understand what the red area on the map represents.

  3. Zoom and pan the map so that the habitat area is centered.

    Map centered on jaguar habitat in the Adjust map appearance window.

  4. Click Place map.
  5. Under the map, add the caption: Map of the jaguar's critical habitat in southern Arizona. (ECOS, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service).

    Caption added below the map.

    Next, you will add credit and links to the sources where you obtained information and images of the jaguar.

  6. Scroll down to the bottom of the story, click Add a credits heading, and type Sources.
  7. For Content, type Critical Habitat for Threatened and Endangered Species, for Attribution, type

    Source added to the bottom credits section of the story.

  8. Click Add credit and add the following credits:
    • Jaguar (Panthera onca), Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS), US Fish & Wildlife Service,
    • Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons,
    • Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons,

    The source for the second image is for a banner image you will add later in the tutorial.

    You now have four sources for your report listed in your story.

    Four sources listed

    Next, you will add final touches to your story design.

  9. Scroll back to the top of your story and click Add cover image or video.

    Add cover image or video button at the top of the story

  10. In the Add an image or video window, click Browse your files. Browse to the jaguar_images folder and choose the jaguar_heading.png image.

    The image is added as the story cover image, and you have already added the citation for this image in your Sources section. Next, you will adjust the cover image design so that more of the jaguar is visible.

  11. On the ribbon, click Design.

    Design on the ribbon

  12. In the Design pane, for Cover, choose Full.

    Full cover design

    The cover image design updates and now the image of the jaguar is more visible.

    Cover set to full design.

    Next, you will set the Theme for your story. Choosing a story theme can update several design elements of your story, such as color scheme, font, and font style, all with a single click. You can switch between themes as much as you like while trying to decide which one is most aligned with your story, watching your content transform immediately.

  13. In the Design pane, for Theme, choose Mesa.

    Mesa theme in the Design pane

    The entire story theme updates and matches the design of the basemap in your map.

    Mesa theme applied to your story.

You are now ready to preview, publish, and share the story.

Preview, publish, and share the story

It's important to preview your story before sharing it. It is a helpful step to review the story for typos, missing alt text, checking that your narrative order makes sense, and catching any other needed adjustments before publishing and sharing. You might consider asking someone to help review your story and see whether they catch something you might have missed.

  1. On the ribbon, click Preview.
  2. In the Preview will reset undo history window that appears, clickYes, continue.

    The preview view of your story appears.

  3. Scroll through the story and ensure that the text, images, and map appear as you want them to. When you are done reviewing, click the Close preview button at the bottom of the screen.

    Close preview button

  4. On the ribbon, click Publish. In the Publish window, for Set sharing level, choose Everyone (Public), and click Publish.

    Set sharing level set to Everyone (Public).

    Your published story appears. Next, to ensure that you have set the share settings for both the map and story so anyone can view them, you will open your story in a new window in incognito mode.

  5. Copy the URL of your story, open a new browser window in incognito mode, paste the URL in the new window, and press Enter.

    For most browsers, you can press Ctrl+Shift+N to open a new window in incognito mode. If you are using a Mac, press Cmd+Shift+N to open a new window in incognito mode.

  6. Scroll through your story in the incognito mode window and ensure the story content and map are visible.

    You can share this link and share what you have learned about the jaguar.

In this tutorial, you prepared a web map, filtered a layer to show the endangered jaguar's habitat in the southern area of Arizona. You chose a different basemap for the map and set the map to be visible to everyone. You created and designed a story based on the map, added text, images, and credits to your story. You published the story and tested it in an incognito browser window to ensure it was available for anyone to view.

Now that you know the basic block elements of ArcGIS StoryMaps, you can use them to build any kind of story you want. For a challenge, try working through this tutorial again for a different endangered species or explore a different part of the country. You can also add more images and text to your story. Or try making a story for a completely different topic of your interest.

You can find more tutorials in the tutorial gallery.