How to create a species distribution map in the Virtual Museum

Today, we provide the recipe for creating a species distribution map for a butterfly, the Painted Lady Vanessa cardui, directly off the current and live data in the LepiMAP database. You don’t need to login to access the maps. They are available to you, free of charge, anywhere in the world — AND the recipe is the same for ALL projects in the Virtual Museum.

Step ONE: Go to the Virtual Museum

Step TWO: Click on the LepiMAP logo (or any other project logo from which you want to extract a map)

Step THREE: Down the left-hand side menu on your screen, click on “Maps”. As in the picture below:

Step FOUR: Type any part of the scientific or common name into the search box to activate the name search. Then click on “Request summary” – you can get a distribution map for the whole of Africa too.

Our server searches the LepiMAP database to find the all the records of Vanessa cardui, and then creates the distribution map and displays it for you. This takes a few seconds. Once the map is displayed you can right click on it and select “save image as…”

On the distribution maps, the turquoise circles represent Virtual Museum records, uploaded by citizen scientists, and the orange squares represent mainly specimen records. When you look at the map, you can immediately see why we launched LepiMAP. It is instantly clear that there are lots of grid cells where the Painted Lady must occur, but for which we do not have records yet. Help us to refresh the data in the Virtual Museum.

You can make a difference for biodiversity conservation by uploading your photos to the Virtual Museum. The instructions on how to go about uploading photos to the Virtual Museum are here.


Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan is our communications, social media and citizen science coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. A citizen science project run by the Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town and funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. She also coordinated LepiMAP, which is the Atlas on African Lepidoptera. Megan is passionate about biodiversity conservation. She is a firm believer in the power of citizen science and getting the public involved in nature conservation.