Real mapping at BGS

Howard, Andy. 2014 Real mapping at BGS. Geoscientist, 24 (1). 20.

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Recent issues of Geoscientist have devoted many column inches to the need for geological mapping skills, and more recently, Desmond Donovan has questioned whether new geological mapping is needed in the UK at all. If the process of mapping is simply to replace an existing geological map with a new one, showing more faults and more detailed stratigraphy, we'd be inclined to agree. However the skill commonly described as ‘geological mapping’ is really about acquiring and communicating a spatially constrained 3D understanding of the properties and structure of the geosphere, using all the field observations, subsurface data and skills at our disposal. It is also all about understanding the events and environments of the geological past as well as those operating now and in the future, which will help us manage resources, hazards and environmental change. It is about mapping and understanding the impacts we are having and their interactions with the landscape, the atmosphere and oceans, especially in cities. Most importantly of all, it is about working with the users of geological knowledge to ensure the delivery of environmental and economic benefits. The needs and priorities for geological mapping are driven not by a simple peer-group assessment of the quality and accuracy of existing maps, but by the gap between what we know, and what we need to know, as communicated by our clients, stakeholders and taxpayers. Those needs continue to change, so the law of diminishing returns does not apply. In this form, geological mapping is alive and well as a skill and priority activity in BGS. We continue to recruit geologists into our onshore survey, marine, groundwater, energy and international programmes, and candidates with 'mapping' skills remain at a considerable advantage in those recruitment competitions. Computers cannot replace those skills, but they are wonderful tools for assembling and analysing multidisciplinary data sets and communicating the results of 'mapping' as maps, models and a plethora of online services, products and apps. It is true that BGS is winding down its production of traditional, lithoprinted geological maps, but this is simply because there are now alternative and increasingly diverse technologies for delivering the results of geological mapping and ensuring that the outcomes meet society's needs. As we approach the 200th anniversary of William Smith's great map, to be celebrated by the Society in 2015, it is fitting to remember that Smith was driven by the needs of the industrial revolution. The map was the best technology at his disposal, not an end in itself.

Item Type: Publication - Article
ISSN: 0961-5628
Date made live: 17 Mar 2014 12:39 +0 (UTC)

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