Outcrops on the Interweb

Callan wonders if Google Maps (or, indeed, Google Earth) could be used to create a spatial directory of interesting geological localities:

One thing that I found frustrating and limiting in my first few years of teaching was that there was no good single source to go to find out about relevant outcrops. It took time and experience to find out where the cool rocks were. Is it a good idea to put this information online in a publicly-accessible format so beginning instructors and interested students/amateurs can visit interesting outcrops?

I’ve picked up a truly excellent book out here which describes the general geology, and highlights particularly interesting outcrops, along the major highway routes here in South Africa – a wonderful resource for anyone interested in what’s going on in all those road-cuts. I’ve often thought that an on-line version which tries to do a similar thing – a kind of geo-spatial wiki – would be a wonderful resource: you can check to see if your journey takes you close to anything interesting, or look up information on something that you’ve just driven past, or even conduct virtual fieldtrips on other continents.
Obviously there are potential issues with geovandalism (and the exact locations of certain rare fossil sites should probably never be disclosed in this manner), but is this something that we should consider doing (or starting, anyway)? Ron surely has some ideas about this, if he hasn’t set something up already. Let me know your thoughts.

Categories: geology, public science

Comments (4)

  1. chezjake says:

    Rather than just a wiki, this seems like an ideal project for using a Wagn (sort of a cross between a wiki and a database).
    The software is free.
    http://www.wagn.org/wagn/Wagn.org

  2. Lassi Hippel‰inen says:

    You can use Wikimapia. Mark and tag interesting locations, and add a written description & maybe a few photos. The tags can be searched.
    http://www.wikimapia.org/

  3. Ron Schott says:

    I think it’s a great idea! Clearly any sort of site that we’d highlight would need to be able to sustain a surge of visits by rockhounds, so certain collectible localities or delicate unique exposures would have to be treated cautiously, but the more we can get folks out onto interesting geologic sites the more we’ll inspire future generations of geology students and taxpayers who value the science of geology.
    Where should we start?

  4. Kim says:

    Ron: we should start with Durango, of course. (I mean, come May and June there will be a new field camp pulled over at the roadcut on the edge of the interior seaway every week – every day, in some cases. I would love to see the collected wisdom of all the people who visit those rocks!)
    Chris: there’s a series of “Roadside Geology of X” books for many of the states in the US. But there’s a lot of outdated information in them. It would be nice to have something online that people could collectively update, wiki-style.
    One other problem might involve access to the land – in some parts of the US, the great stuff is either on private land or on an interstate roadcut. I guess the metadata could involve some information about whether the land is public, and whether a permit is necessary to visit it (which is even the case in some US National Forests), and whether there is adequate parking for large groups.