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Geology In The Digital Age

Geologists and computer professionals are building a huge database of New Zealand geological information which will tell us everything we need to know about our landscape, from gold and silver resources to landslides and earthquake hazards.

Led by Mike Isaac at the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, the research is using Geographic Information Systems to build computing power that will provide a digital geology database for the whole of New Zealand.

"Geographic Information Systems store data in a series of layers like rock types, fossil localities, active faults, landslides, mines, rivers and city limits," said Dr Isaac.

"These layers can then be combined and analysed so that complex questions can be answered quickly and easily."

The work is an investment in New Zealand's future by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. It is focussing on new field research where there is little or no information, or where major scientific advances are possible.

"We are also incorporating information from mining company reports, university theses, and previous publications," said Dr Isaac.

"The whole country is being covered, from the high peaks of the Southern Alps, to the extensive wetlands of Southland. This mammoth job has just passed the half way point, and is on track for completion in 2008.

"Our current data has been used by mining companies, oil companies, local authorities, insurance companies, the Department of Conservation, and other researchers in industry, universities, and research institutes.

"The information is now being developed further as a research tool - for example, to help model the earthquake ground-shaking hazard in Wellington city."

The study has produced full colour geological maps and booklets that are printed from the database. For further information:

Dr Mike Isaac, Programme Leader, Geology of NZ's Landscape, Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences. Tel 04 5704 725,

Madeleine Setchell, Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. Tel 04 498 7806, Mobile 025 40 60 40,

Madeleine Setchell Communications Adviser Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Tel 04 9177806 Mobile 025 40 60 40

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