Re-organization of existing data sets at the Cornell Geoscience Information System

Cornell's current Solid Earth Information System (SEIS) is a GIS-based information system with menu-driven data manipulation, search, and plotting tools designed to be used by earth scientists in research and education. SEIS has been designed and developed by the GIS group at Cornell University, Institute for the Study of the Continents and Department of Geological Sciences and has been operational for many years. At the present time, SEIS has variable-scale data sets. The Middle East, North Africa, and the U.S.A. are covered at regional scales (~1:1,000,000) and the rest of the world is covered at smaller scales. Currently, SEIS runs on UNIX and NT platforms and requires ArcInfo® commercial GIS software. SEIS's internal data sets are held in four main categories: Geography, Geology, Geophysics, and Imagery/Grids. Access to data sets is provided through menu-driven tools that eliminate the requirement of being familiar with the ArcInfo® software. A version of SEIS is also accessible via the Internet at With a web browser, users can access, analyze, and plot any part of the data sets interactively for their own purposes.

In the first phase of the proposed activities we will re-organize the majority of these data sets and reformat them, if necessary, to be used in the NSDL system environment. An updated list and complete Metadata details about these data sets can be obtained at

Figure 1. An interactive web-mapping tool developed to access Cornell's Digital Geoscience Library.

Figure 1 shows an example map generated using this web-based mapping tool. A map of hill-shaded topography of the western United States along with plate boundaries and recent volcano locations is shown. User interactivity and being able to select data sets from the library and compare them against another data set are critical processes that any comprehensive digital library should provide to its users. In the example shown in Figure 1 the user displays topography and determines which topographic highs correspond to historically active volcanoes and maps them relative to major plate boundaries. In this case the user does not need to copy the data sets, find a program to display them, and/or deal with many other technical problems in dealing with different data sets. All the tools needed are in the system right under the fingertips of the users.
Another example of productivity tools is the Profile Maker that we have developed. Figure 2 shows an example use of this tool. A topographic cross section is extracted based on a user request, and the cross section is displayed in the web browser. In addition to topography, crustal cross sections including sediment thickness, Moho depth, seismicity, and any other third dimension can be extracted.

Figure 2. A web-based profile maker tool developed to extract cross sectional views of the data sets in the digital library system. Users are not only able to visualize the cross section, but also download the profile location and extracted values (in this case elevation).

In this portion of the proposed research activity, we will develop similar tools to manipulate, model, search, map, compare data sets in the NSDL library. Examples of such tools would be a global seismicity analysis tool, an earthquake locator tool, a tool for flood plain analyses in river beds and coastal areas, tools to study volcanism and its relation with plate boundaries, and ages of the ocean floor and plate tectonics. These are just a few examples of how new tools could help in educational efforts and make the content of the digital library more useful for students, teachers, and the general public. These tools would mostly be built using Java and would provide educators and students unprecedented opportunities to quickly and efficiently utilize the data sets and extract information and knowledge from these data sets for their needs. Since the tools would be accessible via a web browser, all schools and institutions regardless of their size and location would be able to access the same material as any other school or institution, eliminating potential biases that might exist in today's educational systems.