In Portland

Writing this from my room at the fabulous McMenamin’s Kennedy School (the only hotel I’ve ever stayed in with chalkboards in the rooms, four bars, and a movie theater…) after a rather successful Pardee session at the 2009 GSA. Among the highlights:

  1. There seems to be a growing push for a sort of crowdsourcing in geology – harnessing the potential benefit of “many mappers” (Declan De Paor‘s term). Kyle House alluded to this idea in terms of collaborations and the Nevada Digital Dirt project, Declan and Steve Whitmeyer will be testing it out in a field course, and Ian Jackson is trying to coordinate it on a global scale with OneGeology (link to the OneGeology portal – where all the cool stuff is going on – here). One of the coolest aspects of this is in disaster relief: Lee Allison mentioned the use of tweets, texts, and other rapid responses in evacuating people affected by typhoon flooding in the Philippines (see MapAction). I’m not sure where I stand on this – for some aspects of geology, complete crowdsourcing might be a catastrophe. Do I want the folks from the Creation Museum commenting on my 2.7-billion-year-old field site in Montana? But as far as crowdsourcing from geologists, it might be fun, unless it devolves into petty fights (as geology sometimes does – read Simon Winchester’s The Map that Changed the World). AGU’s Open Review seems a litle like this, only for publications, not maps.
  2. Mentoring via Twitter: Declan and Steve, always at the forefront of technology, are also trying to get geoscience faculty members to mentor field camp students via Twitter. As far as I could tell, the proposal was for students to tweet from the field, and for profs to comment. Which professors? Any professors. Is anyone here going to be up in the middle of the night when students are doing their field work in Ireland? I’m curious to see if he gets buy-in on this from faculty. The idea seems a bit idealistic: I don’t see much in the way of compensation for the faculty involved. On the other hand, it would definitely help to get comments in the field, in real time, from people who knew more then me. I’d have learned a whole lot more (and with less pain) in field camp if that had been an option. And I’d love to be able to tell the YBRA students visiting the Stillwater a bit about all those awesome igneous textures…
  3. Declan, again: “reading a map [without seeing the geology in front of you] is like reading sheet music without hearing the orchestra.”
  4. Ron Schott‘s MegaGigaExtravaganza – I think that and “The Ron Show” were what we were calling his presentation when we were planning the session – had plenty of oohs and aahs despite technical glitches. Some amazing GigaPan photos of Mount Rainier, lahar sirens in Orting, and other local features. But the most astounding thing, to me, was how well the geology of Mount Rainier showed up when draped over the topography. It’s really rather simple (Kyle described draping as “freeing part of your mind up to think about the geology”), but I was totally bowled over by how well the difference between the lavas and the Tatoosh pluton stood out. You could immediately visualize how the volcanic edifice was built on top of a (mainly) plutonic foundation. This immediate intellectual payoff is an excellent reason why virtual globes – as opposed to full GIS – should be something we show our students!
  5. I was in pretty much the same room all day. There was an environmental magnetics session in the ballroom in the morning, which was attended by the presenters and about five other people. I’m just starting to get back into the field after several years of non-research work, and it made me sad to come back to a discipline that didn’t look as energetic as it did while I was in grad school. This was through no fault of the chairs or the presenters: there were some totally fascinating talks, including some by up-and-coming students, that might really have piqued the interest of folks from outside the rock/paleo/geomag community. And I think I may have found one or two new collaborations because of the session. But, as far as I could tell, there was pretty much no one outside of our little mag-”club” in the room. Of course, it could be that it was Sunday morning, the first morning of the conference. But I couldn’t help feeling a little marginalized.

Anyway: join us for more of the Web-2.0 fun tomorrow at 1:30-5:00 PM in rooms B117/118/119 for the next installment of Technical Session T160: From Virtual Globes to Geoblogs: Digital Innovations in Geoscience Research, Education, and Outreach. And then 8PM at the Tugboat for beer with the geobloggers! (You might have to pull me out of Powell’s first…)