2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 30
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


STILES, Cynthia A.1, BARAK, Phillip W.1 and NATER, Ed2, (1)Soil Science, Univ of Wisconsin - Madison, 1525 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706-1299, (2)Soil Water and Climate, Univ of Minnesota - Twin Cities, 1991 Upr Buford Circle, St Paul, MN 55108, castiles@wisc.edu

The Virtual Museum of Minerals and Molecules is a free web-based educational resource (http://www.soils.wisc.edu/virtual museum/, www.soils.umn.edu/virtual_museum/) that provides a novel approach to visualizing molecular structures within web-based platform. The museum has, since its inception in 1998, increased viewership to a rate of ca. 100-250k unique visitors per year and has been among the top website picks of many scientific educators. Much like a real museum, this virtual resource has wings, galleries and special areas that contain more than a hundred “displays” of inorganic and organic compounds of interest to earth scientists, ecologists, and environmental scientists. To assist in visualizing a world imperceptibly small and dimensionally complex, each display consists of an interactive 3-D model with highlighting buttons of specific moieties and components as well as informational text. The displays very much helps with the visualization of complex materials in a user-friendly fashion, thus its appeal to a broad audience. In the near future, we will be revamping the museum by moving away from the use of proprietary, Windows-only, MSIE-only CHIME plug-in downloaded from a separate site to a self-contained Java-based shareware product available to most users and compatible with current operating systems. Updating efforts are also under way for the current displays to include more information, as well as constructing virtual “tours” that cover topical collections and geographical contexts. Process models for reactions such as sorption/desorption and ion exchange will be included. We will also be working in soil and mineral micromorphology to enhance the practical side of the collection as well, showing how to recognize features in the natural world. The usefulness of this resource is that it is widely available, is system compatible, and provides a colorful and practical way to envision the molecular components of our world.