Towards Making Data Bases Practical for use in the Field
Abstract:Geological, geochemical, and geophysical research is often field based with travel to remote areas and collection of samples and data under challenging environmental conditions. Cross-disciplinary investigations would greatly benefit from near real-time data access and visualisation within the existing framework of databases and GIS tools. An example of complex, interdisciplinary field-based and data intensive investigations is that of volcanologists and gas geochemists, who sample gases from fumaroles, hot springs, dry gas vents, hydrothermal vents and wells. Compositions of volcanic gas plumes are measured directly or by remote sensing. Soil gas fluxes from volcanic areas are measured by accumulation chamber and involve hundreds of measurements to calculate the total emission of a region. Many investigators also collect rock samples from recent or ancient volcanic eruptions. Structural, geochronological, and geophysical data collected during the same or related field campaigns complement these emissions data.
All samples and data collected in the field require a set of metadata including date, time, location, sample or measurement id, and descriptive comments. Currently, most of these metadata are written in field notebooks and later transferred into a digital format. Final results such as laboratory analyses of samples and calculated flux data are tabulated for plotting, correlation with other types of data, modeling and finally publication and presentation.
Data handling, organization and interpretation could be greatly streamlined by using digital tools available in the field to record metadata, assign an International Geo Sample Number (IGSN), upload measurements directly from field instruments, and arrange sample curation. Available data display tools such as GeoMapApp and existing data sets (PetDB, IRIS, UNAVCO) could be integrated to direct locations for additional measurements during a field campaign. Nearly live display of sampling locations, pictures, and comments could be used as an educational and outreach tool during sampling expeditions. Achieving these goals requires the integration of existing online data resources, with common access through a dedicated web portal.