2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 29
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


AKCIZ, Sinan O.1, SHEEHAN, Daniel2, NIEMI, Nathan A.1, NGUYEN, HongLinh Q.3, HUTCHISON, William E.1, CARR, Chris E.4, FULLER, Eric3, HODGES, Kip V.1 and BURCHFIEL, B. Clark1, (1)Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139-4301, (2)Academic Computing, MIT Information Systems, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02193, (3)Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, (4)Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, akciz@mit.edu

Academia is still hesitant to collect and record field data digitally, although there is widespread acknowledgement that digital methods will one day replace traditional paper media. High equipment costs, lack of geologists with the necessary computer skills, and the worry of teaching software skills instead of field data collection skills have been the biggest concerns in the minds of many earth science faculty. GIS, which shared many of the same initial concerns, has made it to most earth sciences departments around the country, and has already proven its usefulness. We, and several other institutions, believe that the ability to create, edit, and view GIS files in real time while in the field is the next logical step that needs to be taken. Digital field equipment should be rugged, and not be bulkier then a mapping board and field notebook. The visual interface should be as simple and logical as possible in order to make the transition from traditional paper mapping to direct real-time digital mapping easier. The system should require no prior computer skills, although this is rarely a problem with current students, a fact missed by many of us. To achieve digital data collection, we have developed an economical integrated field mapping system supported by a GPS and a digital camera. We use handheld computers with off-the-shelf GIS software, and have created simple, customized, self-explanatory data entry forms which ask questions relevant to creating a proper geologic map, regardless of the map area. A wireless digital camera transfers photos to the handheld computer, where they are annotated with image editing software and geographically 'hotlinked' in the GIS. Although bugs remain in both the commercial GIS software and our customized forms, geological field data collected with this set of digital field tools greatly enhances the presentation of the overall geology of the map area and leads to a better understanding of the map area by both students and faculty. Our system does not require any special computer skills of the end-user, but a thorough understanding of GIS is helpful; thus we suggest GIS instruction be included in the preparation for a digital field course. Development and customization within the commercial GIS software requires significant GIS experience, as well as Visual Basic programming skills.