Rocky Mountain Section - 64th Annual Meeting (9–11 May 2012)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


PAVLIS, Terry, Geological Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso, 500 W. University Ave, El Paso, TX 79968, LANGFORD, Richard P., The University of Texas at El Paso, 500W University Ave, El Paso, TX 79968 and HURTADO Jr, Jose M., Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso, 500 West University Avenue, El Paso, TX 79968,

New technology is transforming field-based research in the geosciences, yet many geologists resist using field computers, either because of reluctance to change or because of bad experience with early field systems. This problem is particularly acute in teaching geology field classes where it is important for students to develop an understanding of what the technology can do, but the costs of equipping students is often beyond department budgets. At UTEP we have moved to a nearly paperless workflow in our field research applications. We also have moved to a largely paperless workflow in our field geology classes, although it is not clear this approach is ideal and we are experimenting with the ideal period to transition from paper to digital mapping techniques. For the last 4 years we have used a system based on ArcPad software with customized data entry forms and layer definitions for two generic projects: basic bedrock mapping and metamorphic projects. This is a stable, well-tested system and the Arcpad files can be downloaded via the GSA website (Pavlis et al., 2010, Geosphere). New technology on the horizon, however, has led us to question continued use of Arcpad, largely because the software is limited to windows and windows mobile platforms whereas the best, and most economical devices available run on other platforms. We are presently experimenting with Fieldmove from Midland Valley ltd running on Windows tablets/notebooks as well as the open source GIS QGIS system which runs on linux, mac, and PC based systems and may soon be available on Android. We are also experimenting with new hardware and it appears new display technologies will vastly improve outdoor screen readability within the next year. Because of the rapid changes in this technology it is very difficult to pick a winner in software or hardware, but in any case, within a year it is clear that vastly superior systems will be available. It is hard to understate the impact these systems can have in the efficiency of field operations as the software improves and capabilities of the hardware improve. Those who have resisted use of this technology should look closely at developments and if they haven't jumped to digital mapping yet, the time has come--paper mapping is now as archaic as the plane table and alidade.