EC3 Fieldtrip: 2-7 August 2015/ Yosemite NP and Owens Valley



EC3 Fieldtrip: 2-7 August 2015

Yosemite NP and Owens Valley


The intention behind the EC3 field trip was to get together experts from different geological domains (tectonics, geochemistry, etc.) and computer scientists in the context of the NSF  Earthcube program and community.

13 Computer Scientists, mostly with a background in Semantic Web or Software Engineering, and 24 Geologists from schools and national labs in USA and Europe participated.

Challenges regarding interdisciplinary work which were to be addressed on the trip:

  1. The field sciences present specific challenges regarding data management and incorporating the digitization of analog data into the workflow of field-based scientists.


  1. Developing data standards that are helpful for the future of geoscience investigations. Collecting samples without metadata is a valueless effort and currently there are not sufficient standards regarding metadata collection for sample collectors. *** We were working with observational data during that time and trying to think about its size, documentation and format to come up with some ideas for solving this challenge.


  1. How to enable computer and data scientists to design  appropriate data management systems that incorporate field data.  


  1. Traditional methods of measurement or new methods? How can computer scientists ensure that their software tools for recording measurements are as reliable as traditional methods? *** We used many apps on our phone to measure dip, strike, etc. Then compare the results with the results of using traditional compasses.


Short Trip Report:

First day:

We had a meeting in the evening after all travelers arrived in Reno, NV. During that meeting participants introduced themselves and Matty Mookerjee  who is an associate professor in department of Geology at Sonoma State University and also a committee member of EC3 project, talked about the goals of the trip which was to work towards addressing the challenges above. We spent the night in Reno.

Second day:

We drove to Yosemite and arrived there around noon. Then, after having lunch, our 5-days adventure started. We hiked at an elevation of 10,000 feet above sea level.

Yosemite National Park


We did lots of field work there. In fact, in groups of 5-7 people with interdisciplinary composition , we learned how to use a compass to measure strike (a line representing the intersection of a bedrock with a horizontal plane) and dip (the steepest angle of the bedrock with a horizontal plane. We went back to White Mountain Research Center where is called WMRC, for dinner at 6 p.m. and then the most important session of the day, “discussion”, started.  This second night discussion was about introducing some Geo Applications like the following

  • Strabo app (which is still being prototyped and being developed as a part of an NSF-funded project)
  • FieldMove (developed by Midland Valley)



Field Work


Third day:

We started hiking around 8 a.m in Owens Valley, and had some geology lectures about the earliest emersion of that area and the location of the oldest border of the west part of the US with the ocean.









After having lunch, we went to visit some sedimentary rocks with faults in them. In this part, Computer Scientists were asked to paint what they were seeing in that rock and to also point out what seemed important to distinguish that rock from others.











The night discussion time was used for some lectures to introduce the semantic web and formats of collecting data, by Cliff Joslyn (Chief Scientist for Knowledge Sciences at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Seattle) and Daniel Garijo(Ph.D. student in Universidad Politécnica de Madrid).



Fourth day:

Almost the whole day we were in Deep Strings Valley to do various types of field work like testing acid on different rocks and observing the reactions, working with ruggedized computers, locating ourselves on topological maps and so on.


In groups of 6 or 7 people, we brainstormed to propose some use cases for the future. Geologists talked about their needs and CS people proposed corresponding applications. Then all groups presented their proposals  and others started ranking them based on their field. For example, CS people used yellow and blue colors and Geo people used red and green colors. The exercise helped in getting to understand natural differences and synergies between the fields.

I think that this was one the most useful night sessions of the field trip because it established concrete collaboration ideas, and several of the ideas which emerged may actually be worth pursuing as collaborative projects.


Fifth day:

This was a very interesting day. We went to Mammoth Lakes and learned from Matty Mookerjee about how to collect sample.

 Then we started brainstorming about the main challenges discussed at the very beginning.  Amanda Vizedom, Ontologist at Criticollab,  and Marshall Ma, Associate Research Scientist in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, had very useful talks there.


Sixth day:

Back to Reno!


EC3 was a kind of valuable and beneficial experience for me as a first year PhD student who is at the beginning of at least five years of dealing and struggling with data, especially Geo data. It was valuable because it made me to not being only a data consumer for my researches and benefits; instead, made me to try thinking about its current formats, challenges in collecting,, the quality and possibility of its reusability by next generations, and … etc. This trip gave me this perspective that if computer and data scientists come up with the idea of a solid data management system for field data, they can avoid redoing many research in future along with losing many worthy data.  Although, experiencing field works is exciting for both geo and computer people and has its own adventures; I as a CS person, think that it was much interesting and useful, if we had more discussions about the challenges before we getting so tired of field works.