MapMaker: Pristine Seas

MapMaker: Pristine Seas

National Geographic’s Pristine Seas initiative explores some of the ocean’s wildest places and works with partners to inspire the creation of marine reserves. This layer shows the locations of Pristine Seas’ expeditions and the areas of the ocean that have subsequently received official protection.


5 - 12+


Biology, Ecology, Conservation, Earth Science, Oceanography, Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Physical Geography

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This resource is also available in Spanish.

National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala launched the Pristine Seas initiative in 2008 to catalyze the protection of the ocean’s last wild places. In the years since, the project has carried out dozens of expeditions to research and explore the ocean, contributing to the creation of more than 20 marine protected areas (MPAs) around the world.

This map layer includes two types of features: sites of Pristine Seas expeditions that have received MPA designations (represented by polygons—a GIS term for a shape used to show area); and sites of Pristine Seas expeditions that do not, or do not yet, have MPA status (represented by points).

Explore this layer by panning around the map and zooming in on particular oceans or regions for a closer look. To challenge yourself, see if you can find Ascension Island. Hint: it’s in the Atlantic Ocean! Then, use the scale at the bottom of MapMaker to calculate an estimated area for the MPA.

The actual area of Ascension’s MPA is more than 445,000 square kilometers (about 170,000 square miles). Does that sound like a lot or a little? If you’re less familiar with this part of the world, you can improve your understanding by comparing its area to the areas of places you know better. The U.S. state of California, for example, is 423,970 square kilometers (163,696 sq mi), and the United Kingdom is 243,610 square kilometers (94,058 sq mi). So, Ascension’s MPA is slightly larger than California and nearly twice as large as the United Kingdom!

The ocean is vast, and much of it remains unprotected. That is why Pristine Seas, through exploration, research, and partnerships, continues to support the creation of MPAs.

Media Credits

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Gabe Brison-Trezise, National Geographic Society
Educator Reviewer
Anita Palmer
Last Updated

September 28, 2023

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