Building the INTERFACE Facility for Centimeter-Scale, 3D Digital Field Geology

The National Science Foundation recently announced that a national facility, INTERFACE (INTERdisciplinary alliance for digital Field data Acquisition and Exploration), will be funded to help geoscientists obtain high resolution and high precision, 3D surface data. Facility development will commence immediately and continue over the next 2.5 years as a collaborative research project involving the University of Idaho, University of Texas, Dallas, University of Kansas, Arizona State University, and UNAVCO, Inc. The INTERFACE team will be working closely with GEON to provide a one-stop shop for users at any experience level to obtain instrumentation, software, and instruction for the collection of earth surface data. The central tool employed is Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS), a form of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology, whose airborne application is being made available to the earth science community through the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM) and as part of the GeoEarthScope initiative.

alvord.jpgJohn Oldow, University of Idaho PI, indicated that “The INTERFACE project was developed based on the assumption that GEON would be the cyberinfrastructure partner for this effort. The partnership with GEON, and use of the LiDAR data portal, is essential for INTERFACE to succeed in its primary mission to collect and analyze TLS data.”

The overarching objective of INTERFACE is to provide the infrastructure to advance knowledge for geoscientists dealing with all aspects of exposed geology tied to location on surface of the earth. The facility will reduce existing barriers to the application of this relatively new application of TLS, which are: (1) availability of equipment and software due to high cost, (2) knowledge of rigorous data processing, and (3) lack of best practices for equipment use and project design. Over the next few years, INTERFACE will be reaching out to the earth science community with demonstrations of TLS applications and workshops to educate interested researchers. By enabling digital geology (not just digital geologic maps), the TLS facility will help scientists address problems in fundamentally new ways.