Generating a customised Google map of zoo locations from a spreadsheet

In searching for a quick and effective way to map the members of the organisation I currently work for I came across a very useful tool from the Google Earth Outreach department. The Spreadsheet Mapper tool allows you to generate the code that Google Maps and Google Earth both use to display information. Very clear instructions are provided, but it basically boils down to the following steps:

  • Open the spreadsheet in Google Docs, select the basic configuration options and then publish the spreadsheet as a web page from Google Docs
  • Add the geographical coordinates (latitude and longitude) of each point you want to map along with whatever data you want to display in the balloon that pops up
  • Update the layout templates provided so that the information is displayed in the way you want it to appear (this takes a little bit of time and some knowledge of html is helpful)
  • Republish the spreadsheet regularly to check your progress and view the results in Google Maps.

KML, which is the markup language used, doesn’t seem to be very forgiving of errors. I found it was quite easy to “break” my map if I added a tag in the wrong place when adjusting the template tabs, for example. But if you take your time, and check the results of each change made as you go, you can generally find the error causing the problem.

The map I created shows all of the members of EAZA, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. The placemarker icon I used came from the Map Icons Collection which allows you to generate placemarkers in just about any colour. This allowed me to take their “zoo” icon and generate various versions to represent the different categories of membership.


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