Putting Idaho on the Map
Claudio Berti has been working in the state of Idaho for only six months, but he sure knows his territory.
Berti is the digital mapping and geographic information systems (GIS) lab manager for the Idaho Geological Survey (IGS), a state agency associated with the University of Idaho’s Office of Research and Economic Development.
IGS is charged with collecting data on geology, minerals, energy, hazards, land resources and water resources for the people of Idaho.
“In a few words, we collect data from teams of geologists in the field, transferring it from paper to formats that can be shared with the public,” Berti said.
But like in geology, there’s more beneath the surface. On any given day, Berti prioritizes and divides a wide range of tasks among his staff to make this process seamless. Berti’s team processes all information from the field through several software programs that help digitize, categorize, standardize and encode data to nationally accepted GIS standards. Only then is it uploaded into a database for public use.
“Research institutions, governmental entities and professionals from construction, mining and engineering companies use our information,” Berti said. “But our first customer is the state of Idaho and its citizens.”
The public can peruse IGS information through a series of more than 500 geological maps and publications made available on the IGS website. Data from these maps are also synthesized into one interactive map where viewers can see oil and gas deposits, faults, hot springs, geochemistry and other aspects of geologic data. Users can even download the maps as PDF and GIS files, which can be used in combination with proprietary software or freeware to combine and view map data in layers – allowing users to compare the location of minerals with water resource data and other chosen information.
The map data is also sent to the much larger National Geologic Map Database published by the U.S. Geological Survey, which combines geologic map data across the United States.
Berti and IGS staff provide hundreds of other geology-related publications on Idaho that are freely available through the IGS website. These include historic reports on inactive and abandoned mining operations, technical reports and bulletins.
Berti, a geologist, said he enjoys the technical aspects of his work, particularly reviewing geologic maps to make sure the data is consistent, up to specification and representative of reality. He also helps colleagues who work in geology and geography validate datasets for publications and provides internships for U of I students through his office.
Scaling Up for the Future
While IGS has fully mapped Idaho on some level, only one third of the state has been surveyed in close geologic detail.
“IGS has mapped all of Idaho at least to the scale of 1:750,000. This is good for general information,” Berti said. “But a more detailed 1:24,000 scale is what you need to see the origin of the rocks, where the faults are, geologic hazards, water resource and flooding information, and other important details that the public and industries need for engaging in general planning, managing safety, developing infrastructure and accessing resources like water, energy and commodities.”
Berti, who has a passion for the outdoors and a love for unconventional work, shows excitement as he talks about the huge task of exploring the remaining two thirds of Idaho.
“Idaho is a fascinating state because there’s a lot of terrain that hasn’t been closely studied,” he said. “When a team goes into some locations, sometimes they’re going in for the very first time. It’s a frontier for geologists on the ground. Idaho is a very dynamic place for geology, too. It is so complex, complicated and diverse.“
Article by Phillip Bogdan, Office of Research and Economic Development