1 January 2018

State Geological Surveys using StoryMaps to tell geologic stories

Posted by Shane Hanlon

This is the first in a series of posts by Mike Conway about the use of StoryMaps to tell geologic stories.

like a boulder from a cliff that a river swollen by winter rains thrusteth from the brow of a hill, when it has burst with its wondrous flood the foundations of the ruthless stone” Homer, Iliad 13.125

2,800 years ago, Homer sketched this visceral and indelible picture of the awesome power of floods to sculpt landforms. Over the past 175 years, state geological surveys have collectively published thousands of geologic maps, reports, bulletins and newsletters. Unlike Homer, we struggle daily telling our geology stories in ways that engage and inform decision makers and the public.

Popularizing geology has been the bailiwick of writers, artists and poets. The works of John McPhee, Wallace Stegner, Simon Winchester, and painters Thomas Cole, Thomas Moran, and Frederic Edwin Church bring rock, soil and landscapes to life. A rare few geoscientists, e.g., Stephen Jay Gould, were sufficiently skilled to carve out a niche in popular geoscience writing.

That is changing. Earth scientists are committed now to bringing their stories to decision makers and the public. (The increasing competition for an ever-shrinking pool of resources can be a great motivator.) And the proliferation of digital technology and social media has amplified our ability to reach broader audiences.

Over the next couple posts, I’ll dive into StoryMaps, an ESRI-derived app used to tell geologic stories. Stay tuned!

-Michael Conway is a Senior Research Scientist with the Arizona Geological Survey