Sedimentary Geology Context and Challenges for Cyberinfrastructure Data Management

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 4:13 PM
Marjorie A Chan, Univ Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, United States and David A Budd, University of Colorado at Boulder, Geological Sciences, Boulder, CO, United States
A cyberinfrastructure data management system for sedimentary geology is crucial to multiple facets of interdisciplinary Earth science research, as sedimentary systems form the deep-time framework for many geoscience communities. The breadth and depth of the sedimentary field spans research on the processes that form, shape and affect the Earth’s sedimentary crust and distribute resources such as hydrocarbons, coal, and water. The sedimentary record is used by Earth scientists to explore questions such as the continental crust evolution, dynamics of Earth’s past climates and oceans, evolution of the biosphere, and the human interface with Earth surface processes.

Major challenges to a data management system for sedimentary geology are the volume and diversity of field, analytical, and experimental data, along with many types of physical objects. Objects include rock samples, biological specimens, cores, and photographs. Field data runs the gamut from discrete location and spatial orientation to vertical records of bed thickness, textures, color, sedimentary structures, and grain types. Ex situ information can include geochemistry, mineralogy, petrophysics, chronologic, and paleobiologic data. All data types cover multiple order-of-magnitude scales, often requiring correlation of the multiple scales with varying degrees of resolution. The stratigraphic framework needs dimensional context with locality, time, space, and depth relationships. A significant challenge is that physical objects represent discrete values at specific points, but measured stratigraphic sections are continuous. In many cases, field data is not easily quantified, and determining uncertainty can be difficult.

Despite many possible hurdles, the sedimentary community is anxious to embrace geoinformatic resources that can provide better tools to integrate the many data types, create better search capabilities, and equip our communities to conduct high-impact science at unprecedented levels.