Illinois State Geological Survey
The ISGS, a division of the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability (INRS) at the University of Illinois, employs approximately 170 people over a range of geologic disciplines. It is one of the largest and most technologically advanced of all the US state surveys.
Over a decade ago, the Survey resolved to expand its detailed geological mapping program with a goal of developing a fully-computerized, 3-D mapping program. The ISGS initially assumed it could rely on existing software to meet its needs for various parts of our mapping workflow. While this was the case for initial 3-D mapping pilot studies, the existing software choices were found to be limiting and could not meet all of the ISGS’ long-term needs.
ISGS’s DIGITAL JOURNEY
Geologic mapping and research in geological surveys typically involves interpreting and defining the regional framework of geologic units, and doing this over scales that range from the individual outcrop to thousands of square miles. This type of work requires geologists to explore different interpretations on the origin and correlation of surficial and subsurface deposits. Geologists work with a wide range of different kinds of data (e.g., outcrop descriptions, water well drillers logs, stratigraphic borings, geophysical borehole logs, etc.).
Since the computerization of geology about 25 years ago, there has been a continual push to expand what can be done with computer technology. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are about 25 years old, and have brought sophisticated capabilities for creating and managing 2-D geospatial map information. While recent years have seen the development of high-resolution 3-D visualization within GIS applications, these packages still work primarily with 2-D spatial data types. GIS applications largely haven’t evolved into tools for creating and managing complex 3-D geospatial data.