By Tara Roberts
The Geologic Map of Idaho released in October 2012 is a beautifully detailed cartographic project
featuring colorful depictions of the state’s faults, rocks, sediments and geologic history – the result of 10
years of painstaking work.
But it’s also useful, and Idaho Geological Survey (IGS) employees are working to make this tool – and
many other maps – even more accessible for the general public, as well as governments, industry
leaders, contractors, engineers, scientists and more, by putting it online.
“What we really want to do is reach out to people,” says Loudon Stanford, digital geologic mapping
manager for the IGS, a public service and research agency at the University of Idaho. IGS is directed by
Idaho statute to collect, interpret and disseminate geologic and mineral data for the state.
Stanford is working to bring the Geologic Map of Idaho to the web. When it’s released [[in summer
2013, this digitized, GIS-enabled map will allow people to search among the layers of information
included in the print map, as well as new data.
The geologic map is just one of many digital projects at IGS. The agency has made more than 400 maps
and hundreds of publications dating back nearly a century available at www.idahogeology.org. These
documents provide valuable information for research, public inquires and exploration, Stanford says.
The site also features search applications using Google Maps that can locate all the gas and oil
exploration wells and thousands of mines and prospects in the state.
Stanford plans to eventually combine IGS’s completed quadrangles – finely detailed maps of smaller
areas, about 50 to 70 square miles – into a searchable map. When users query a large map for a
location, they will be able to easily jump to more detailed maps.
IGS’s current mapping projects, analog and digital, include creating high-quality, updated quadrangles
from across Idaho. These maps take months or even years to produce, depending on the detail and
And while the IGS staff is small, it creates 20 maps of varying size and detail each year.
Publishing all these maps online lets people keep up with the latest geological science, Stanford says.
Digitized maps include information such as rock and landform descriptions, as well as information
crediting the science behind the map and when it was created – allowing users to know they’re getting
the most current data.
IGS is a national leader in geologic digital mapping, including the development and use of data
standards. IGS digital data is integrated into nationwide geoscience online search applications.
Most of IGS’s maps appear online as PDFs, but Stanford would like to make all maps available and
searchable with no software in between.
“My goal is to make the site more and more useful for people,” he says.