GSA Topical Session T140: Geosciences and Web 2.0 – Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Web Video

Yup, that’s right… I’ve gone and volunteered to chair a topical session at GSA this fall in Denver.

Professional geologists, geoscience educators, and interested amateurs explore the ways that “Web 2.0″ technologies are currently being used, and how they might be leveraged in the future, to build richer online community in the geosciences.

Web 2.0 technologies – and I intend to interpret that fairly broadly – are changing the way that networked communities interact and share information on the internet today. I want to use this session to bring together those of us who are already experimenting with these technologies in the geosciences to discuss our successes and failures and our ideas for the future. The session will necessarily follow GSA’s format for an oral session, but I would like very much to gather all of the speakers and interested parties into a less formal “unconference” type discussion, if possible.

Look for information on submitting abstracts in the April edition of GSA Today. And please ping me in the comments if you’re interested in participating, even if its not with a talk.

Chalk it up to Geological Ignorance

Looking up from the Cretaceous Seafloor
Andrew Alden, our geology guide at, does some of the most consistent quality geology blogging I know of… and he’s been doing it for much longer than most of us.

John McPhee does the greatest geology writing hands down (and has the Pulitzer Prize to prove it). As I’ve suggested before, I wish he blogged – I just can’t get enough of his writing.

So when Alden pointed out McPhee’s latest piece in the March 12, 2007 New Yorker I was ecstatic. I rushed over to the library this afternoon to read the article – and indeed, McPhee is at the top of his form in “Season on the Chalk” [Thanks for the link, Andrew!]. I won’t spoil it for you – rush out and read it yourself.

My glee at learning of McPhee’s article however, was somewhat tempered by Alden’s surprising mention that “Chalk is largely unknown in the United States”. As a Kansan I live on a seabed of Cretaceous chalk. Indeed the very same sea (temporally) that deposited the Chalk Cliffs of Dover was busy laying down a similar blanket of the powdery stuff right here in the heartland of America. Having read both articles now I am (mildly) glad to report that the confusion is not on the part of the esteemed writer, but instead on the part of the geologist (ouch). Chalk it up to a west coast mindset – great geology out there (I’d know – it’s where I did my Ph.D. field work), but it’s hardly representative of the entirety of the United States.

Maybe Andrew needs to watch a little NCAA March Madness… Rock Chalk, Jayhawk! Indeed. :-)

I know I’m giving Andrew Alden a hard time here, but I’d also invite him to come visit western Kansas after the GSA Meeting this fall in Denver to see some chalk in its natural habitat. (John McPhee’s invited, too!) Until then I’ll invite him (and all of my readers) to take a virtual field trip to the Castle Rock badlands in Gove CountyGoogle Earth Placemark where one can see good ‘ol American chalk in all of its glory.

[Update 3/22/07: This great blog post about the Niobrara chalk just showed up on my radar today.]

Castle Rock badlands, Gove County, Kansas

Citizen Science Journalism

Yesterday an anticipated, but nevertheless dramatic geologic event occurred – a lahar roared down the slopes of Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand. I first caught the news via a Technorati blog search on the term “geology” which pointed me to a post at NZ Weather (which, in turn, points to some good local news sources). Shortly thereafter I found an AP story picked up by Yahoo News. What particularly intrigued me was the spectacular b-roll (unnarrated video) footage of the lahar courtesy of AP Video (link no longer available [Chris Rowan found it – different source, same b-roll, still no way to buy it]) that accompanied the original story. That video has since been supplemented and narrated and can be viewed here. The unnarrated b-roll, though, is what really captured my imagination. It contains some spectacular helicopter footage of the lahar in progress and the tephra dam that failed at the summit crater lake. The educational uses would be amazing! I want that footage!

So, what did I do? I went to the AP Video website to see if I could purchase it. What a waste of time! As far as I can tell AP is uninterested in making money off its footage when it comes to the little guy – all I can see are offers you’d need to run a full blown news organization to buy. Now obviously AP got that footage from someone else, and I’d be just as happy to pay that person or organization for the use of that footage, but I have no idea how to track the original source down. (Any ideas? Post ‘em in the comments.) Why is this important? Well, I could probably find some way to rip AP’s video, maybe strip the audio, and reuse it myself. That might even be legal (fair use) if I was doing it for just my classes here at Fort Hays State University, but the moment I post it to the web on my blog it’d be a clear copyright violation – even though it’s not for profit and my intent would be to educate. It’s no mystery that current US copyright law has become an abomination to the Founders intent in the progress clause (“To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” – US Constitution Article I, Section 8). But until we can get that fixed, I’d really like to have some legal way of procuring this video for educational (but not strictly classroom) use, and making it available under a Creative Commons License.

So how does this relate to citizen science journalism? Well, I love blogs, and one can do a good job writing up this story in the way a traditional newspaper would publish it (i.e., words and still images). In fact, Ole Nielsen over at Olelog did a fine job of that. But this is the sort of geologic phenomenon screams out for video coverage! At one time I had hoped that Science Network TV (“CSPAN for Science” – NOT!) would cover breaking science news like this, but they’ve been a great disappointment for me when it comes to geology in the news (heck, geology period). So while they’ve dropped the ball, citizen journalism has taken off, thanks to blogs and vlogs. And I want to do my part. So can somebody tell me how I can legally procure a copy of that raw video footage? – because there’s not much geology that exciting here in Kansas that I can shoot myself.