Saturday 19 February 2011

Missing out on Maps

Geological maps are hypnotic and beautiful creations, which happen to be practical – particularly in communicating geosciences. a while ago I joined a couple of fellow students in a windy tent in a muddy field as part of my university’s ‘outreach’ programme, the table was coated in rocks from the local region, but what got the most attention? The piece of paper – a map. People seemed to love seeing what their house was built on, see why their granddads house had sandy soil while theirs was clay... it was practical and interesting.  It related directly to their life, not a convoluted way of how a fossil lived.

The BGS provide a variety of mapping data to the public for free, at pretty decent resolution – fairly similar to that of published maps, via a service called ‘Open-Geoscience’ - which, as part of the BGS as whole is according to Alexa the 17,674th most visited site in the UK –  not overly impressive as a whole.

This is what is under people’s houses – so why isn’t this data used and looked more in daily life? How awesome would it be to have geological maps displayed in empty shop windows? Wouldn’t this inspire interest in the geosciences? There are few other countries that make such data available so easily – why aren’t the public embracing it?

Well, the first entry on a Google Search for ‘geological map’ is for the BGS, just not the brilliant resource above. It’s for a rather less useful mapping tool, a broad brush approach almost:

Which is nice, but gives rocks by ages, and at a countrywide scale, rather than what’s under someone’s lawn.  Instead, the 6th result, a BBC story on the accessible maps is the only way off Google to get to Open Geoscience – it is linked via the ‘make a map’ service . Alexa stats show the site has a bounce rate of 60% (i.e. 60% of people visit the site then move on) people aren’t interested in exploring the maze of the BGS; so they are missing out on a beautiful little gem sitting on the BGS site. Please BGS, help the public and get this great resource out there, easy to find onto Search Engines!