2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 278-1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM


WILSON, Michael C., Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Douglas College, P.O. Box 2503, New Westminster, BC V3L 5B2, Canada

In the past decade the global human population has become more than 50% urban, whereas in 1900 only 10% lived in urban settings. Geology grew as a hinterland science, benefiting greatly from the mapping and description of outcrops in areas of minimal human disturbance. Resource exploration and exploitation tended also to be away from urban centers. In urban settings geologists and geological engineers have made strong contributions in geotechnical areas and studies of geological hazards, but new opportunities are emerging. As urban populations become increasingly diverse, they are less likely to share history but they do share the environment, including geological sites that can contribute to a sense of place. In addition to the distinctive landforms that may be widely recognized, a surprising amount of geological information can remain intact in small areas of undisturbed deposits between buildings, under pavement, and in parks. Temporary excavations in urban areas can provide important information for finescale mapping of surficial and bedrock units and allow discovery of fossils and other datable materials, but might only be accessible for a few hours. Geotechnical information collected by consultants for clients may remain in confidential reports. Urban geological surveys are therefore a growing need, involving the cooperation of government and regulatory professional agencies, private consultants, educational institutions, and repositories for samples and data. Such agencies or task forces must have rapid-response capabilities to maximize value from temporary exposures. Scientific and interpretive importance should be considered as part of the process of designating important heritage sites in urban centers (as, indeed, elsewhere). The urban geological landscape of Metro Vancouver is briefly discussed in this light, including geoheritage sites with meanings for First Nations and non-indigenous populations, examples of geological hazards, resource exploitation conflicts, and research and educational opportunities. Urban geology is an area for which “citizen science” and “crowd-sourcing” should be viable strategies to help promote program continuity and public awareness.