Open house shares best of Bureau of Geology offerings

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The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources celebrated Earth Science Week with an open house Oct. 17, which welcomed students and the public at large to come see what the bureau has brewing.

Greer Price, bureau director and state geologist, said the bureau has held the open house at least four years now, and this year's event saw the most visitors yet. He noted they had more publicity for this year's event than in the past, plus the open house fell on the day just before the annual 49ers celebration over the weekend. He noted it was the perfect activity for alumni who arrived early for 49ers weekend.

"This is the best turnout we've had yet," Price said.

"Mapping Our World" was the theme of Earth Science Week 2013, according to www.earthsciweek.org, and promoted awareness of the many uses of maps and mapping technologies in the geosciences. Displays at the Bureau of Geology's publication office reflected that theme, featuring GIS mapping of earth and water.

Mike Timmons, associate director of mapping programs at the Bureau of Geology, explained the bureau maps the distribution of rocks on the landscape, as well as faults, folds and other geological phenomena that might deform rocks and minerals. He said the mapping helps geologists predict the locations of mineral deposits, as well as aquifers.

Computer terminals displayed the Arc GIS, or geographical information system, program, which the bureau uses to create the maps. Timmons had 3-D glasses on hand, which made the images on screen look like real mountains and valleys. He explained plotting points and lines in the Arc GIS program differs from making marks in a drawing program, for instance, because there is a full database behind the images on the screen.

"Every line hosts a huge amount of information," Timmons said.

The bureau hosted open house displays at its different offices around the campus, including the publications office where the Arc GIS and hydrology displays were, as well as the Mineral Museum, which is in a different building on the New Mexico Tech campus. Price remarked it will be nice to hold the event all in one building, which the bureau will be able to do once its new building is completed. He added the bureau has five or six analytical laboratories spread all over the campus, which will be consolidated within the new building.

Price said the bureau hopes to start the new building before this Christmas. It is expected to be complete by February or March 2015.