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Category Archives: cool

Just happened upon a sweet and simple geobrowser called Flash Earth…very smooth and easy to understand. Added bonus for me is that it links to high-res images of my favorite field area that are available only in Yahoo and Bing Maps:


Seems my pals at Google still just don’t care about SE Oregon. Anyway, I found the site by perusing the details in an exif header in one of my geotagged photos. Was checking that out in Irfan View, a program I was aware of but hadn’t tried yet. Turns out, it is well worth a look:



Which led me to the GeoHack wiki:



The internets are amazing, no? Totally cool.



Posted via email from Fresh Geologic Froth

I spend a lot of time studying the middle reach of the Owyhee River in SE Oregon…both in the field and in the office. You may know that I am in love with the LiDAR data we recently got from this area. Here is another reason:

Failed margin of Pleistocene intra-canyon lava flow.

Failed margin of Pleistocene intra-canyon lava flow.

Check out this image of a catastrophically failed margin of a ~60 ka intracanyon lava flow. In this image I simply combined the high-resolution NAIP imagery with the LiDAR data by altering the transparency of the imagery. It is not draped, just an overlay, but it looks pretty amazing. Check out the pressure features on the lava and, or course, the plexus of brittle fractures in the wasted margin of the flow. The large cracks that are so clear on the image are spectacular and mildly frightening  in the field. Bascially, the area is an amazing mess. Check it out some time if you are in to that kind of thing. This summer I will be taking the UNR geology field camp out here.

Lambert Rocks area, Owyhee River, Oregon

I am damn happy to report to you that the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Portland, OR (October 18-21) has given a nod to the geofroth. I teamed up with some folks smarter and nicer than I (always a good approach) to devise some session proposals about digital methods in geology. It worked! There will be two sessions. One is a Pardee Keynote Session on Sunday Afternoon (Oct. 18) entitled:

Google Earth to Geoblogs: Digital Innovations in the Geosciences

This session is being developed by Me (UNR/NBMG), John Bailey (UAF; AVO), Ron Schott (Ft. Hays State), Mano Marks (Google Geo), Glenn Richard (MPI / Stonybrook / SERC), and Peter Selkin (UW Tacoma). This session will be consciously and blatantly unconventional with a few talks, possibly a discussion or two, and will ultimately transmogrify into a interactive session with displays and tutorials of Google Earth applications and kml programming; examples and demonstrations of gigapixel photography (ranging from the do-it yourself to some amazing examples by professionals from xRez; stellar examples of using GE for education and outreach; and demonstrations of some of the other things that you may have read about at Geologic Frothings. We are also planning on unleashing a geo-mashup  on the masses willing to attend. Oh yeah, and there will be free (frothy) Oregon microbrew, but don’t tell anybody.

The aforementioned cast of characters have been let loose by GSA to build the keynote as they wish. Please plan on stopping by if you are attending GSA. It will be fun even if it doesn’t work.

As for an alternate venue for direct participation, the same crew (only in a different order) are heading-up a technical session entitled:

Digital Innovations in Geoscience Research, Education, and Outreach

If the sound of this warms the digital part of your heart then please submit an abstract. Abstracts are due August 11, 2009 so you should have plenty of time to get your act together.
Come and help us bring geology into the 21st Century.

By the way, my proposal to GSA for the keynote originally had the term Geoscience 2.0, but the selection committee didn’t get it…and not because they thought it should be 3.0!

Faithful readers–you may recall a previous post when I expressed utter amazement at a field-hardy digital pen that really works. I still use the thing regularly, but have some minor issues with the ink cartridge…more on that later…maybe. Anyway, maybe that idea scared you.  Hold on, though. I recently came across a truly non-field-hardy digital pen that works so well that I have begun to write tons of stuff down that I may not have chosen to previously. It can be coupled with an OCR program that works surprisingly well (better than the MS OneNote version, at least). It is called the Pulse Smartpen and I recommend that you try it out.  This thing works well enough for me to tell perfect strangers about it. It actually has the capability of simultaneously recording audio which is then time-stamped with respect to your note-taking. I have not exploited that application beyond experimentation while goofing around with my kids, but the potential for recording key lectures, brainstorming sessions, and (please no!) faculty meetings is pretty obvious. Below is a snippet of some of my amazingly insightful note-taking and the ocr program’s surprisingly good attempt at deciphering it:Kyle's amazing notes


Why would you want one of these? Why not is really the question. For one thing it is a pen…you probably use those. For another, it is a digital pen! It creates backup just by being used. Also, you can be truly untethered from your laptop at a meeting (I abhore using a laptop during a meeting and am sure that many people that do are surfing the internet).

Here’s what I don’t like about it…the cradle. Small, but not great. I would rather be able to use a direct connection with the usb cord. The thing can fall out of the cradle very easily, but it downloads quickly. The price is better than you may expect and it has a good hand-feel. It also allows for the use of a variety of inexpensive generally conventional notebooks.

I do have a couple of new toys for the digital mapping crowd, but I only have time to post a totally cool aerial image of a part of Nevada that I am working in:

Effects of flooding on alluvial fan along the east shore of Walker Lake, Nevada

Effects of flooding on alluvial fan along the east shore of Walker Lake, Nevada

This image of an alluvial fan along the east shore of Walker Lake, Nevada is totally cool, no? Check out the way the flood interacts with the array of recessional shorelines that record the demise of the lake. Gotta grow alfalfa to feed cows to feed people, right? Surely they grow some other stuff upstream…In any case, the geomorphic signature of lake shrinkage is striking and, combined with the natural demise of the lake since the late Pleistocene, provides an obvious succession of timelines in the landscape that are quite useful for constructing a chronology of events.

I have managed to steer largely clear of instant messaging (IM) for some time. This owes mainly to the lack of collaborators (beyond some family members) that are among the initiated. Well, it turns out that IM is pretty darn useful for communicating with colleagues,  particularly when you are both riveted to your computer screens working on a related topic (ideally, a geologic one). I have drowned in the Google Kool-Aid, so I obviously use Google Talk for this process. Recently, I had a friendly exchange with a colleague about getting some served imagery online. This has also been quite handy for quick, but mandatory queries about other topics with other collaborators. Sometimes a phone call takes too long and sometimes email languishes for days, why not try IM for some brief and instant results?

Fruitful IM Exchange about Geologic Mapping

Fruitful IM Exchange about Geologic Mapping

I added the Google Talk app to my Blackberry (yes)  in addition to a Google Map app that can show high-res satellite imagery keyed to my location (and, yes, I have used it in the field).  Recently someone at Google took the obvious step to approximate the combination of these two applications and developed Google Latitude. This application makes it possible (following a bit of setup) to make your location visible to a select group of collaborators. This has some pretty cool implications for mapping with a group. For one, if you are in an area with good coverage (and have an amenable provider) you can keep track of a mapping team and converse about what you may be checking out at the time. Of even greater interest is being able to remotely track a colleague who is in the field while you are in the office.

Google Latitude in my Neighborhood

Google Latitude in my Neighborhood

I recently approximated this approach with a combination of sms (text-messaging) and Google Maps. My geopal was down in southern Nevada looking for some key map units I had described. She sent me a text message requesting some coordinates. I was in my car more than 400 miles away, but headed to a coffee shop to log on to Google Maps, loaded the satellite view in the area and began to send key coordinates (decimal degrees if it matters) of key outcrops in the area as inferred from the imagery.  She hit the outcrops, took photos, geotagged them, and uploaded them to Picasa web albums that night. I checked them out the next morning. A sweet virtual mapping experience was had by all. Next time, we will try to directly incorporate Google Latitude into this process. We ran into coverage issues in this case, but it was still a success.

I recently came across Scribd while reading the New York Times online (during lunch of course). Turns out that this is a very useful site to store and easily share a variety of documents. Given my obsession with maps–both analog and digital–I investigated further and soon started uploading all of my maps that are worth uploading. It is simple to say the least. It also turns out that it is simple for someone on the other end to comment on your map, to download your map, and to send it to their plotter / tree-killer. You also have the option to make your uploads private so that you can only share a map, poster, document, etc., with selected colleagues.


The interface takes a few seconds to minutes to figure out. It is a cleaner, more efficient, and more user-friendly interface than the one hosted by my agency. It may not be for you, however. It also requires that you are willing to freely provide maps showing data that were compiled with (usually) tax-payer money. Hopefully the extreme budget crisis facing my state will not force me to pull down the free maps.  Check out my uploaded maps using the Scribd link in the right sidebar.

Of all the interesting things I learned at AGU a week or so ago, the utility of the Gigapan system for understanding and illustrating geology sunk in the hardest.

Ron Schott of Ft. Hays State University gave an excellent presentation that made this particularly clear. The gigapan system is elegant in its simplicity and it offers an avenue for simply depicting the elegant complexity (good one, no?) of huge geological vistas and outcrops. It even has an application for looking at very small things in a big way. Check out Ron’s blog for some details.

What is Gigapan? Well, it is a system for taking a panoramic photograph that is composed of many, many, small and detailed photographs. Presumably you have personally attempted to make your own pan photos, say, with a software package or with a built in camera function. Dare I say that you probably didn’t wan’t to try to stitch together more that 5, maybe 6 photos, right? You probably stopped at 3 or 4…like the image below:

The Gigapan cranks this technique up a giganotch by stitching together 10s and 10s of high-resolution images into a…wait for it…Gigapan. The image below is a faked example to illustrate the difference between your approach and the Gigapan approach:

So. Why would you want to do this? Well, for one thing, it is totally cool. For another, it offers an exceptionally efficient way for exploring a large outcrop or geoscape. Once you have taken this series of images, stitched them together, and uploaded the result to the Gigapan site, you can view it at all levels of resolution. In the case above, you can bask in the glory of the huge stack of intracanyon basalt flows on the Owyhee River. Then you can zoom in and look at the complicated cooling structures in great detail. Then you can zoom in and check out the contacts between the flows. While you are at it, you can check out the thin beds of gravels sandwiched between the basalts, etc. etc.

While you are looking at the details, you can pull out images that illustrate some of the aforementioned features. These high-res thumbnails can then be tagged and described for your colleagues to check out. They can then do the same thing and point out obvious stuff that you missed.

I already have my Gigapan gear en route. It works with my existing digital camera collection and is shockingly cheap. Stay tuned for some obvious examples of the application of this to geological studies. Also, stay tuned for the NeGIGAvada project…it is coming. Or should it be GIGAvada?

A highlight in anyone’s life, particularly a geomorphologist’s. More proof that digital video can really complement geologic field work. Love that waterproof camera.

In an ironic geomorphic situation, the Colorado River has formed a new rapid downstream from the mouth of the Grand Canyon near Pierce Ferry. Here, recession of Lake Mead has (obviously) induced incision by the river. The river adopted a new course that traverses some resistant beds in the Muddy Creek Formation. This video chronicles the vagaries of this rapid.