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A few months back I came across an interesting web application that allows you to control and visualise geological features in 3D space, all from a web browser.

It’s called Visual Geology Beta and it was created by Rowan Cockett, an undergraduate engineering geology student at the University of Calgary, Canada. It all started in MATLAB, and after approaching an introductory geology instructor, the application was put to the web.

The basic concept behind the visualisation object is to help the teaching of 3D geology. One of the most difficult tasks for any young geology student is developing their three dimensional abilities, and this program is a great tool for doing exactly that. Here I will give a few screengrabs from some of the 3D processes that can be executed.

beds

Here we have a dialog which allows the user to add beds of varying description and thickness. Colours, names and details can be edited to simulate real-world examples.

tilting

Here we add a hypothetical plane by which to tilt the strata. The orientation of the tilt plane can be modified using the dialog box (displayed).

tilted

And the result, a stratigraphic package with an orientiation of 46/090 (dip/dipdir).

folding

Fold generations can be applied to the model as well. In this example I have added a recumbent, tight fold generation to overprint the previous tilt episode. Specific fold characteristics can be manipulated including period, amplitute, shape and offset to generate particular fold styles. Fold interference patterns can also be produced by applying multiple overprinting fold generations.

folded

and the result, a tilted stratigraphic package which has subsequently been overprinted by a recumbent fold event (D1).

There are many more features that can be added to a model including:

  • Unconformities
  • Dykes
  • Faults
  • Thrusts
  • Topography
  • Stereonets
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Here is an example of a model with topography applied. From this it is easy to see how the application could be a powerful learning tool

Other features that can be of use include the cross section module. This gives a cross section through any designated slice of the cube and displays it above the object.

generate_cross_section

Applications in mineral exploration

Realistically, an application such as this has no significant potential in the mineral exploration industry. Commercial packages such as Leapfrog Geo provide much more powerful and realistic tools for modelling. However it is worth mentioning that the apparent dip calculator is useful, and I have personally used this in my work because of its accessibility online.

Overall this is an interesting tool that serves, in my opinion, as a tool for teaching and displaying geological concepts to student and non-geologist. But it’s cool! So if you have a spare half hour, go have a play here:

http://app.visiblegeology.com/

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