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De Paor is Co-Author of GSA Today Cover Article

Declan De Paor

Old Dominion University geophysicist Declan De Paor is a co-author of "The Digital Revolution in Geologic Mapping," which is the cover story for the April/May issue of GSA Today.

This magazine of the 22,000-member Geological Society of America features a single peer-review science article in each issue and the research of ODU geoscientists has been selected twice for display in the last two years.

Geobiologist Nora Noffke, associate professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences, made headlines in October 2008 with her study of ancient microbial life on Earth.

The other co-authors of the current article are Steven Whitmeyer and Jeremy Nicoletti of the Department of Geology and Environmental Science at James Madison University.

The researchers document cutting-edge approaches to geologic mapping and map presentation that they developed during recent field work in western Ireland. New technologies and instruments that make this possible are explained in detail in the seven-page feature.

Central to the authors' presentation is how mobile computers and software with integrated GPS (global positioning system) are used to record and interpret geologic data in the field, and how digital field data and map interpretations are then presented in virtual 3-D terrains using Google Earth.

Mobile computerized equipment for field work has become more rugged, they say, able to "handle driving rain and minor plunges off of outcrops."

They add that a significant advantage to digital field work is the ability to easily assemble draft versions of geologic maps, which can be continually evaluated and modified during subsequent days in the field. "We strongly advocate this iterative method of field mapping, having developed and tested it over several years of field courses and field research projects," the article states.

Last year, De Paor's work involving 3-D terrains using Google Earth made him a winner in the international "KML in Research" competition sponsored by Google Inc. (See:http://www.google.com/educators/kml_contest.html.)

KML stands for Keyhole MarkUp Language, a computer programming dialect of Extensible Markup Language (XML) designed for virtual globes such as Google Earth and NASA World Wind. De Paor invented a way to use KML to create 3-D data visualizations and models of the Earth's internal geology and geophysics, and this method is used to create emergent geological cross sections featured in the GSA Today article.

This year, he received a Google Faculty Research Award of $38,000 to help support ongoing work with his graduate and undergraduate research assistants.

In related research funded by the National Science Foundation, he, Whitmeyer, and Janice Gobert of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, have sought to discover whether - and, if so, how - student learning is enhanced by 3-D visualizations.

De Paor is a research professor of geophysics in the Department of Physics at ODU and the director of the university's Pretlow Planetarium. He is an elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America.

This article was posted on: May 12, 2010

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