Friday, February 29, 2008

I love maps

There's something really satisfying about making a map.

I remember the first map that I made, for my introductory geology class... in Minnesota. We colored between topo lines. There was something really satisfying about it. At the time, I thought that I simply had never outgrown kindergarten, and that the physical act of coloring was the entire appeal.


Right now, I'm making simplified geologic maps for a talk that one of my students will be giving at Rocky Mtn GSA in a few weeks*. I'm using Illustrator**, not Rapidographs and colored pencils. I'm simplifying mapping done by other people. (And I'm going to remember to cite them in the captions. Makes note on importance of ethical professional behavior, especially while collaborating with a student.) And... I'm learning things.

The process of simplifying and coloring a map makes me think about the geology. Why is that metabasalt interlayered with the felsic gneiss like that? Why is the pluton shaped like that, anyway? Wow, is that really the only contact that isn't a shear zone?

My advisor taught me to color other people's maps - to photocopy journal articles, and color the figures, so that I would really see the spatial relationships. Tracing the contacts with my mouse has a similar effect.

And the purple blobs are quite soothing.

*I know, I could make her make her own maps. But I want copies to keep for future work, and she's working like a maniac on thin section photos and the powerpoint presentation. And we're co-authors on the abstract. I figure it's the least I can do.

**Yeah, I should get with the 21st century and learn GIS sometime. I know.

***Image modified from Gonzales and Van Schmus, 2007, Precambrian Research, v. 154, p. 31-70. And no, I'm not done editing it yet. Yes, I know it's missing a scale. And a location map. But it is very purple, which is the point at the moment.

14 comments:

Ron Schott said...

I'm yearning for a visual! Don't be such a tease! ;-)

Kim said...

Ok, fine... done. :D

(Blogging is a break from drafting, you know!)

MJC Rocks said...

Well, that's great! I thought I was the only one who felt a need to color in geological maps. I hated trying to interpret the inked lines, and I used up a lot of colored pencils when preparing assignments and theses. Thanks for the note!

Ron Schott said...

Much better!

It evokes memories of the bedrock geologic map of Mount Desert Island - crossed with Barney, the purple dinosaur or a blueberry pie.

Mmmmm, blueberries...

Kim said...

I've been thinking about how purple it is, and thinking that maybe I should make the Precambrian metaconglomerates and quartzites brown instead of grey.

I think maybe I was just hungry. MMmmmmm, blueberries.

Silver Fox said...

It's beautiful, and I love how maybe only one contact isn't a shear zone. And I still prefer the look and feel of hand-drawn maps - what century does that put me in? (Or what decade?)

John Fleck said...

One of my most remarkable experiences as a science journalist was a day spent wandering through a section in the Tusas Mountains of Norther New Mexico watching Karl Karlstrom make a map. It was amazing to see the way the act of making the map helped him come to understand the rocks

Kim said...

Silver Fox - I love hand-drawn maps, too. Some of them are really beautiful. (I, unfortunately, am a product of the almost-computer age, and I never learned to draft everything by hand. My PhD maps were all inked by hand, but all the lettering was done on a computer, printed on clear sticky paper, and stuck on by hand. I think it would have been more elegant if I had done it entirely by hand...)

John - That's funny. The other map I've been simplifying is the work of one of Karl's recent grad students. (And your comment reminded me that I hadn't credited him yet on the slide. I've fixed that now, though.)

Geotripper - after I learned to color other people's maps, I found it much easier to recognize mistakes. Or realize that units were missing, or that the structure couldn't possibly make sense as mapped.

saxifraga said...

I like the way you talk about maps. I also like the colouring part of working with maps, but I don't do it very much. I've never thought about colouring maps from journal articles.
My department with a more research oriented focus recently merged the regional geology mapping department (we're at a geological survey). The potential for integrated mapping and modern research topics seems endless, and it's been quite a surprise for me to realize how little use we made of that connection previously.

Elli said...

One of the things I love about how Tom Foster organizes the Petrology labs at UIowa is that the students are given a pile of numbered rocks, told to name them, and then place them on a "created" map where the outcrops are numbered. The students then have to draw contacts and come up with a geological history of the area that fits. Iowa may be flat and not that exciting for ig / met pet, but this is a great way to get the students thinking about spatial relationships through an entirely indoor based lab--and they have to color all of the maps :)

Kim said...

Elli - I made up a metamorphic petrology lab that involved looking at the Victory pluton thin sections, and putting the info on a map. My colleague who teaches optical mineralogy uses it sometimes here.

Chuck said...

Rotate 90 degrees to the left, and you have a fat seahorse.

Joseph said...

Hey Kim,

I feel the same way! Black and white geologic maps are incredibly hard to read. I map now for a living, and still draft all of my maps by hand before digitizing them-- not too fond of the PDA / tablet PC in the field thing... they lack the simple elegance and tactile pleasure of using a colored pencil (plus they're expensive, not that weatherproof for New England, and you can't see the whole map at once...)

In any case... great blog! It's a good read, and I'm glad to see you're still having a blast since I dragged you all over the Tusas looking for shortened pebbles all those years ago...

Kim said...

Hi, Joe! Great to hear from you. And that trip through the Tusas was the best nose-to-outcrop time I had had in the Southwest until that time. I wish I could have gone on the official field trip.