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EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S MESSAGE Geological Mapping The Future of

Aaron W. Johnson, MEM-2783

Every day, geologists utilize bedrock geological maps and other derivative geological maps as part of the projects that we are pursuing. These maps provide basic information that allows us to better understand and characterize the sites, hazards, or exploration targets that are at the core of our work projects. Most of these maps were created by geologists with their ‘boots on the ground’ using the traditional tools of the mapping trade: a Brunton Compass, hammer, hand lens, and base map, and more recently a GPS unit of some kind. Increasingly, field geologists have incorporated technology into the mapping process, mapping directly onto a tablet com- puter in the field, rather than a paper map, and using LiDAR enhanced elevation data whenever possible.

This advancement in technology has been accelerated, in part, due to the release of the final revision of the National Enhanced Elevation Assessment on March 29, 2012. This assessment was performed by Dewberry, a professional ser- vices firm that counts market research among the services that are offered by the company. The report, commonly referenced as the “Dewberry Report,” was sponsored by members of the National Digital Elevation Program, local and tribal govern- ments, and private and not-for-profit organizations. Among the findings was that enhanced LiDAR coverage across the United States had the potential to generate an economic impact of $1.2 billion to $13 billion per year, once the national program was fully implemented. This program, called 3DEP and adminis- tered by the United States Geological Survey, has benefited greatly from the information contained within the Dewberry Report. The benefits of quality LiDAR data on a national scale ARE obvious for those of us who work in areas where enhanced elevation data are critical to project success. The Dewberry Report made those benefits clear to decision-makers, many of whom are not in fields in which the applications of LiDAR data are immediately obvious. As a result, the 3DEP program has received broad support both from federal legislators in control of the purse strings, and within the USGS.

Similar information is not available to document the impor- tance of bedrock geological maps, and all of the derivative maps that are made possible by bedrock maps. As a geologist who has spent many hundreds of hours making geological maps and training students to make maps, I am disappointed to find that the importance of geological mapping has not been documented in a fashion similar to the Dewberry Report for elevation data. At this time, there appears to be no systematic study that documents the return on investment in terms of economic impact of geological maps. In my personal experience as a field-based technical consultant, the geological map and its derivative products (karst potential, depth to bedrock, soil, etc.) were the first resources that I procured when our company started a new project. The most trusted sources for those maps were the various State Geological Surveys, the United States Geological Survey, and maps that were part of Master’s and

30 TPG • Jul.Aug.Sep 2018

Doctoral theses. In several cases, these maps helped us to more tightly focus our fieldwork, and served as a reference when we conducted high-resolution, site-specific mapping.

The profession IS taking steps to better communicate the importance of geological mapping. The American Geosciences Institute recently initiated the Geodata in the Economy Survey to make a first pass at understanding the uses and impacts of geological maps in the United States economy. This survey is being distributed as broadly as is possible. AIPG is assisting in this effort, and I encourage each of you to complete the survey.

Image from National Geologic Map Database, USGS and the Association of American State Geologists (AASG).

In addition, the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP) remains relatively healthy. While the bud- gets for nearly all federal programs were reduced in President Trump’s proposed 2019 budget, the reduction to the NCGMP budget was a much smaller percentage than most, indicative of the importance of this program. The NCGMP provides sup- port for geologic mapping throughout the United States and its Territories through its three primary programs, FEDMAP, STATEMAP, and EDMAP. To learn more about each program, visit

As technology advances, geological maps will become more interactive, combining the power of large databases with the graphical capabilities of powerful computing technology. These advances will provide working geologists with access to exponentially more and higher quality data as we work to provide resources and to help to insure the health and safety of the public. While having access to enhanced maps and additional data will make our jobs easier, one thing remains clear: the bedrock geological map will still be the foundation of our field projects.

I wish each of you a safe and productive summer.

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