Being able to interpret meaningful information from datasets is a key role for scientists. It is also a very useful skill for students to be taught. This enables them to be able to conduct research themselves and draw their own conclusions. This is particularly important in a world full of ‘fake news’, where more and more people get their information from unreliable sources, such as through social media.
The USGS earthquake dataset allows you to change filters to find particular magnitude earthquakes or focus on a region of the world (accessed 8/6/2020).
There are numerous data sets that are freely available online from reliable sources that can be used for Earth Science projects. The United States Geological Society (USGS) has fantastic resources relating to natural hazards. As shown above, their earthquake data set is particularly useful for gaining more information about where earthquakes happen in the world. The data can be downloaded as a CSV file and plotted on Google Maps. This allows students to identify areas of high tectonic activity and see the relationship between earthquakes and plate tectonics. They can also learn more about earthquake frequency and magnitude in a particular region of the world.
For a comprehensive study of earthquakes, considering their hazards and mitigation engineering, visit WASP’s STEM Earthquake Engineering project
Data sets can be used to plot where volcanoes are located across the globe. (https://www.usgs.gov/atom/15347, accessed 8/6/2020)
Similar to earthquake data, volcanic datasets can be found online. One very useful table can be found on the Oregon State University website. This not only gives a list of all active volcanoes worldwide, but it also states the type of volcano they are and gives their exact co-ordinates. Again, students can plot these on a world map and find out more about the types of volcanoes which occur at different geological settings. They should find that stratovolcanoes are usually related to subduction zones, whereas shield volcanoes are usually found at divergent boundaries and hot spots.
For activities relating to volcanoes using datasets try the WASP STEM Volcanic Hazards activity.
Geoview outlines which resources have been found in an area (accessed 8/6/2020)
For projects involving identifying possible locations for particular resources, such as iron ore or oil and gas, in Western Australia Geoview.WA is useful. Geoview is a Geographical Information System (GIS) which enables the user to focus on regions of the state and add filters to find more about studies and surveys that have been conducted in the area. For example, you can look at the geological base map to find out about the rock types in the area, this can give information about the viability of finding particular resources in that area. Various geophysical surveys are also available to view, giving further information about the nature of rocks in the area. Geoview is used widely by the resources industry for initial desk studies into the viability of an area before further research is carried out.
- For activities using Geoview try our Using Online Databases activity or the WASP Searching for Iron Ore STEM activity.
- To learn more about how to use Geoview watch this short video tutorial.
The Geological Survey of NSW has combined many data sets and made these available on the MinView platform. Users can explore the geology of the state, look at different layers through time, mineral resources, mines and fossils. There are links to photographs of outcrops, rocks and fossils, as well as data from drill cores. Geological maps are available for the ArcGIS Explorer app on smartphones. Users can download a variety of maps of NSW including NSW Simplified Geology Map and Seamless Geology of NSW. These allow you to identify rock types and ages throughout the state.
There are numerous GIS’s with useful environmental information available as well. One of the most comprehensive is NASA’s Earth Observatory. The Global Maps section of the website allows you to look at different types of environmental factors, such as vegetation and rainfall, as well as atmospheric composition changes. The data goes back to 2000, so enables changes to be observed on seasonal scales and can show changes related to the El Nino effect.
- To learn more about El Nino watch the WASP El Nino and La Nina
Using GIS and datasets can help illustrate numerous areas relating to Earth, Space, and Environmental Sciences. They can show changes through time which can also help with making forward projections. Learning how to find the useful information in a large data set is a skill which can be practiced. This skill can be useful not just for scientific research but for finance, population studies and various other areas.
Further activities and useful websites:
- To practice using datasets to look at changes in sea level have a go at the WASP STEM Sea Level Rise Mitigation booklet.
- GIS Geography top 10 GIS Data Sources
- Australian Government Datasets
- Learn how to use MinView on your own computer