Accessing the new Geo-Cyberinfrastructure for Undergraduate Research
By Jeff Ryan, University of South Florida and Dave Mogk, Montana State University, Bozeman
Geoscience Information portals (focused on geoscience data management and oversight - an incomplete list):
A comprehensive inventory of geoscience-focused data sources and tools has been compiled in the Using Data in the Classroom portal (developed for the National Science Digital Library). An associated site, Data and Tools has developed DataSheets which concisely describe a particular scientific data set in a way that is useful to educators interested in teaching with the data set, with tips and strategies for effective instruction using these data sets. These DataSheets provide a foundation and jumping-off point for training students in data interpretation, a critical research skill.
Here is a partial list of data sources that have wide application in geoscience research:
- Integrated Earth Data Applications: IEDA is a new NSF-funded cyberinfrastructure facility, emphasizing marine datasets, based at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, formed through the melding of the Marine Geoscience Data System (focused on bathymetric and geophysical data) and EarthChem (focused on rock geochemical data, and itself a consortium on data repositories).
- UNAVCO is an NSF-funded facility devoted to the collection and stewarding of global geodesy data. UNAVCO supports a national community of geodesists and is community-governed. Most recently, it has become the facility responsible for the management and support of field-based LiDAR instrumentation and (along with GEON) a repository for LiDAR data.
- The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) is a Federally-supported consortium of institutions focused on the collection and stewarding of seismological data.
- UCAR, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, is a consortium of institutions, including the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) that provides both data and computational resources to the national atmospheric science community.
- The CUAHSI Hydrologic Information System is an Internet-based system for sharing and stewarding hydrologic data, that is managed by the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science (CUAHSI).
- GeoStrat is an NSF-funded portal and repository for sedimentary and stratigraphic data, as well as a resource for visualizing these data. It is a part of the National Geoinformatics Community
- EarthScope is an NSF-supported facility and data portal focused on the structure and evolution of the North American continent. EarthScope is a community-governed research enterprise, with a National office at Arizona State University. UNAVCO and IRIS are primary EarthScope contractors.
NASA Mission Data Portals:The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was the first Federal agency to develop and maintain Internet-based, publicly accessible data portals for its mission data. NASA maintains websites for all its current and past missions, which include access to mission data. A wide range of these repositories have been developed, some of which have been archived by the US Geological Survey after a particular mission ends. Some examples include:
- The THermal EMission Imaging System (THEMIS) on the Mars Odyssey orbiter is providing a growing repository of daytime and nightime infrared images of the Martian surface. One can download raw image strips or processed composite images of key geographic areas on the planet.
- The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter is providing a growing body of ultra-high resolution (~15 cm pixel size) photographic images of the Martian surface.
- The Compact Reconaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter is producing a growing body of visible-infrared imagery of the Martian surface toward "following the water".
- The Mars Orbital Camera Gallery at Malin Space Science systems and the MOC image Collection maintained by the US Geological Survey archive all the photographic imagery compiled by the Mars Global Surveyor probe.
Geospatial Information System Platforms for Earth and Planetary Datasets, and other Visualization Tools:A growing number of geospatial information platforms are now available that allow one to manipulate and visualize geoscience and planetary data in a range of different ways. Most of these platforms are interoperable - which is to say, one can port data from one to the other using common file types (shape files, kmz/kml, Excel data files), all of them provide access to "packaged" datasets of various sorts, and many of them allow one to port in one's own georeferenced datasets to overlay and compare with global databases.
The SERC site includes a number of collections focused on the classroom use of geospatial data:
- The Teaching with GIS in the Geosciences collection, focused on ArcGIS.
- The Teaching with Google Earth collection, focused on the use of Google Earth
- GeoMapApp is a map-based GIS platform focused on the visualization of marine datasets, served and maintained by IEDA at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. It provides access to a large number of packaged and visualized datasets, as well as to a range of data available from IEDA and other sources.
- The GeoMapApp page in SERC provides an introduction to the platform and links to a range of packaged activities that make extensive use of it.
- As well, there is a multimedia tutorial page within the GeoMapApp website that includes a number of step-by-step videos explaining the various functions and tools in the platform and how to use them.
- Virtual Ocean is a virtual globe-based platform, also maintained by IEDA at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. It is essentially GeoMapApp draped onto NASA's WorldWind open-source virtual globe template, and includes nearly all the functionality of GeoMapApp, but with better 3D visualization capabilities.
- ArcGIS Online is an Internet Mapping Server (IMS) version of the ArcGIS software that can be manipulated in a Web-based format without loading ArcGIS software onto your computer.
- Google Earth is a virtual globe GIS platform developed and maintained by Google, Inc. Geoscientists are making use of the Google Earth platform in a large and growing menu of ways, and many of the other platforms mentioned here (in particular GeoMapApp and Virtual Ocean) can be fully interoperable with Google Earth via the generation of .kml and .kmz file types.
- Glen Richard at SUNY Stony Brook maintains an excellent instructional page on Google Earth, its functions, and its use in SERC.
- Declan DePaor at Old Dominion University, with Steve Whitmeyer at James Madison and John Bailey at Univ. Alaska, have developed an extensive suite of laboratory activities and visualizations using Google Earth and associated applications (in particular Google Sketchup and the Google Earth API), which can be explored following the links on this page.
- The website for the recent Geological Society of America Penrose Conference: Google Earth: Visualizing the Possibilities for Geoscience Education and Research includes a listing of presentations on a range of Google Earth applications, as well as links to blogs and discussion pages about geoscience applications of the platform.
- JMARS is a map-based GIS platform dedicated to investigations of the compiled Martian imagery datasets, maintained by staff in the School of Earth and Planetary Exploration at Arizona State University. JMARS includes compiled datasets from every Martian orbiter from Viking to Mars Odyssey, and allows one to overlay and compare these global datasets as well as a suite of processed "compositional" global images. One can also use JMARS to pull together original image strips from the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey mission for detailed examination using the Frames layer.
The 'Planet' function in Google Earth (see also Google Mars for a map-based version) offers an alternative avenue into the Martian databases through the Mars virtual globe. One can view global MOC photographic images or MOLA colorized topography or daytime and/or nighttime infrared images as a base, and identify a growing menu of high-resolution THEMIS, MOC, and HiRISE imagery of the Martian surface for more detailed examination.
Tutorials Demonstrating the Use of Geocyberinfrastructure
Following the example of the Earth Exploration Toolkit which provides step-by-step instructions on how to access and use a variety of Earth datasets, we have developed a series of tutorials that demonstrate how to use:
- Teaching with the EarthChem Geochemical Database, including 9 worked examples of different applications.
- Teaching Mineralogy with the American Mineralogist Crystal Structure Databases and Visualization Software, with tutorials in the use of Crystal Maker and Crystal Draw, and applications to mineralogic thermometry and barometry.
- Teaching Phase Equilibria–with tutorials in the use of thermodynamic databases using programs such as MELTS, TWQ, PERPLEX, ThermoCalc, and Theriak-Domino.