In Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the NGGDPP granted $814,921 to 22 states to preserve, digitize, and make more widely available a wide array of important geoscience data. Approximately 17,600 student hours will be supported using these funds. Since 2007, the NGGDPP has awarded almost $6.1 million to state geological organizations to preserve geoscientific assets. One state applied and successfully competed for the first time and will receive NGGDPP funds. Another state was awarded funding that exceeded the requested amount to enable the state to purchase upgraded scanning equipment to ensure appropriate preservation of fragile paper materials. Majority of the states are making strides to preserve and provide access to fragile and unique materials as evidenced by the proposed work and explanation of long-range data management activities and goals established by the states. In many instances, the state collections proposed for curation provide access to information that can no longer be acquired in the field due to development, urbanization, loss of access to property, and/or loss of public memory of geologically important sites. The well-organized and accessible collections from each state typically provide access to materials and data that would otherwise cost tens of thousands to millions of dollars to reproduce or recollect. Many states will scan and post digitized documents online for public access, enhancing knowledge and use of information at users’ convenience. Online availability of valuable information preserves unique and fragile materials by limiting handling and saves public resources by precluding the need to visit facilities to access the materials. All data preservation projects funded by the NGGDPP will generate metadata records describing rescued material. To enable and promote public discovery of these metadata records, they will be added to the National Digital Catalog. The societal benefits of the projects funded in FY16 primarily focus on preserving historical information and artifacts including photographs that record scenes, which may have been modified since their capture; aerial photographs, which provide information about landscape changes; mining documents, which may influence resource development and be used to mitigate existing hazards; and physical samples, whose availability saves recollection costs and enables further analysis.
Historic photographs inform studies of landscape changes
During the project period, several states (Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Virginia, Wisconsin) will scan and make digitally available historic photographs obtained during geological field work, including mineral, oil and gas resource, and geologic hazard investigations. The photographs capture outcrops, geological landscapes and structures, rock formations, pastoral scenes, and mine sites – many of which have been modified by vegetation overgrowth, urbanization, and landscape processes. These photographs provide historic information that may otherwise be unavailable for a variety of purposes, such as geologic investigations, planning and development, environmental compliance, hazard mitigation, and cultural and archeological research.
Notable interest in scanning and preserving historic aerial photographs has been expressed by multiple states (Kansas, Maryland, New Jersey). The aerial photographs can help to determine geophysical and environmental change through time within a temporal range that encapsulates much of the 20th century, most of which preceded the advent of satellite imagery. These aerial photographs provide important background information for land use planning, establishing environmental baselines against which to compare subsequent changes (for example, historic shorelines), and archeological insights about potential existence of cultural modifications (such as burial mounds) or property delineations. These photographs are scanned as high resolution image files, geolocated, and along with metadata describing the images, are posted online and made available for download by the public. These files and data are invaluable to a wide sector of users originating from the fields of engineering, land use planning, academia, geology, decision making, and others.
Mining documents inform research and hazard mitigation
Several states (Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee) will catalog, digitize, and provide access to exploration and mining-related documents and ancillary artifacts, including geochemical data, reports, field notebooks, physical samples, and maps. These readily-available mining materials and associated data provide insightful information for research, educational, and historical pursuits; save users millions of dollars in recollection costs; and help generate new exploration projects, which benefit the economy and resource development. The historic mining collections are used by a variety of users, including geologists, miners, academics, governmental agencies, archeologists, historians, environmental consultants, legal community, and general public for a variety of purposes. Historic mining information helps to identify hazards and informs mitigation strategies for abandoned mine sites. U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and state reclamation agencies frequently use historic mining information to investigate the location, depth, and extent of mines to plan land reclamation or re-development efforts. In Tennessee, historical field notebooks provided the only source of information for identifying unknown and abandoned underground mines, which have caused sinkholes in urbanized areas. Missouri’s efforts to preserve geologists’ field notebooks have yielded information for identifying areas contaminated with heavy metals resulting from mining activities.
Physical samples promote understanding of the Earth’s subsurface
Many states (Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Texas, Utah, West Virginia) plan to preserve, photograph, and create metadata for rock core and cuttings collections obtained during oil and gas exploration and development. The photographs and associated information will be posted on the Internet to enhance access and use of these collections. Users will be able to view photographed characteristics of the specimens without having to travel to the core facilities to physically view samples. The readily available information will provide the opportunity for researchers to learn about the existence of the samples, inform studies of the subsurface, and may direct further exploration activities, such as determining locations of future drilling operations for resource development.