USGS Scientists Participate in 2005 Annual Meeting of the Digital Library for Earth System Education
A diverse group of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) participated in the Annual Meeting of the Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE) in St. Petersburg, FL, July 9-12. The theme of the meeting was "We are DLESE: Enhancing Library Quality for Our Diverse Community." Participants discussed various aspects of Earth-system education and presented reports on the digital library's current state, as well as plans for building and evaluating the quality of the library. The meeting program included keynote and science speakers, workshops, field trips, discussion groups, and design-review sessions.
Participants from the USGS included Robert Ridky, the National Education Coordinator from the Office of the Director, along with Theresa Burress, Jim Flocks, Dennis Krohn, Kristine Martella, Chris Polloni, Kathryn Smith, Yvonne Stoker, and Ann Tihansky, representing offices in Reston, VA, Tampa and St. Petersburg, FL, and Woods Hole, MA. The USGS participants brought a wide range of expertise to the meeting, with backgrounds in such diverse areas as geology, hydrology, geographic information systems (GIS), and outreach education. USGS GIS resources presented at the meeting included the Tampa Bay Data and Information Management System (DIMS) and the National Water Information System (NWIS). Methods for providing standard geologic information in a digital format for the DLESE library were also presented, along with standard Web resources for topics that include karst geology, marine and coastal geology, and geophysics. The USGS also hosted a session on three-dimensional (3-D) visualization techniques for viewing geologic and geographic data.
Chris Polloni, Ann Tihansky, Theresa Burress, and Dennis Krohn presented a workshop entitled "3-D Visualization Techniques," which gave participants hands-on experience in 3-D visual-imagery software. The visualization tool, known as the GeoWall, provides users with a better understanding of geologic features through its depiction of 3-D imagery. Users of the program don 3-D ChromaDepth® glasses and control a motion-sensing joystick to "fly" through vivid landscapes that are color coded by depth. Landscapes created using data from the Puerto Rican deep-sea trench provided a spectacular example of how data can be converted to a spatial image for data analysis, as well as for education about tectonic and submarine Earth processes. Those who navigated their way through the extreme terrain of the deep trench earned a certificate of accomplishment. The interactivity of the GeoWall creates an immersive learning experience that increases understanding of spatial concepts.
Ann Tihansky and Bob Ridky led a group of 25 teachers to Citrus County to show them how ground-water resources function in karst regions. The group visited caves and sinkholes in the upland recharge area and explored the swamps and springs of the discharge area along the coast. Participants learned about ground-water movement and enhanced porosity of the limestone due to dissolution processes. They also witnessed firsthand effects of seasonal rainfall associated with Hurricane Dennis. Water levels were higher than usual, and storm surge in combination with the heavy rainfall caused minor flooding that made for a truly memorable hike through the coastal swamp.
Kathryn Smith and Kristine Martella introduced DIMSa Web site, digital library, and Internet map server that provides information about the Tampa Bay estuary and ongoing science and data-collection efforts. DIMS is part of the larger Gulf of Mexico Integrated Science project, which combines data about the ecology, hydrology, chemistry, and biology of local habitats along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. Web-site users can browse through data and maps from many individual areas along the coast, including the bay estuaries of such cities as Tampa, Sarasota, and Pensacola, FL, Mobile, AL, and Galveston, TX. The maps can show things as simple as political boundaries and streets and highways, as well as more complex information, such as oil-and-gas data and depositional systems.
"The idea is to let scientists share data with each other, as well as with the public," said Martella. "The IMS [Interactive Mapping System] is helpful because you can overlay different data sets and come up with your own map [of an area]." The IMS Web sites (see links at URL http://gulfsci.usgs.gov/) allow users to view, query, and analyze data. Web users can overlay different data layers to develop customized views suitable for printing.
Jim Flocks presented a workshop entitled "Accessing InformationMaking Scientific Data Available to Researchers and the Public." The goal was to broaden participants' knowledge of how to add information to database and GIS systems, as well as how to search for resources within them. Participants were also taught how to extract data from non-digital figures and maps for use in digital formats.
Yvonne Stoker led a group through a live access of the USGS National Water Information System (NWIS), where all USGS surface-water, ground-water, and water-quality information is stored. Her lecture, entitled "USGS NWISWebWater Resources Data for the Nation," taught participants to navigate through NWISWeb, which provides updates on water data from more than 1.5 million sites around the country. These data include real-time measurements of water flow and levels in streams, lakes, and springs (surface water), water levels in wells (ground water), and chemical and physical data for stream, lakes, springs, and wells (water quality). Although Hurricane Dennis disrupted the weather for the conference, it also gave participants in Stoker's presentation the opportunity to use NWISWeb to track tides and see how much they rose as a result of the hurricane. "They then worked on their own areas of interest," noted Stoker. "One participant from Alaska wanted to know if the USGS had water-quality data for a particular stream; another was interested in data in the New Hampshire area."
Although the workshops were geared toward educators and scientists, all who attended gained knowledge about some intriguing and progressive science subjects. Many of the programs were focused on expanding public knowledge. "All of the activities encouraged participation," said Chris Polloni, "so it was difficult to be shy around this group of Earth-science educators and data providers." The USGS provided some great tools and information and new ways to approach scientific learning. Along with the lab presentations, field excursions gave participants memorable and unique experiences. With their passion about Earth science, USGS employees certainly are helping to stir interest in Earth education.
in this issue:
2005 Meeting of the Digital Library for Earth System Education