Wednesday, November 30, 2016

GIS "Pro" Tips - Getting GPS Coordinates from an Address

While working as a GIS Specialist, there were times when I needed to know the GPS locations of a lot of places based on their physical address. The fastest and easiest way I found to do this was to use Google Maps.

Here is how:

Go to

Type in the address that you are interested in. Here I put the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Utah (my alma mater).

Then if you look at the actual web address you will notice there are two GPS localities listed. The blue circle (on the left) is the GPS address of the center of the page. If you shift the map, this will change accordingly. It is not necessarily the GPS address of the point you input, if the page loads with your location off center (as often happens). The red circled address (at the end of the web address) is the actual address of the point you input. To show you where you can use that, you can take the numbers and put them in ArcMap as seen below.

In the default toolbar, there is a button called "Go to XY". Click on it.

A box will pop up with Longitude and Latitude boxes.

Type in the second number first, this is your longitude. Include the negative sign if applicable. Then type the first number in the second box. This is your latitude. When you hit "Enter", a flash will appear on the map where your point is. It also converts the Decimal Degrees of Google Maps to Degrees Minutes Seconds. You can click on the "Add Point" above the coordinates to put a green dot in that spot. Then you have to zoom in manually.

And if you put in the second GPS coordinates, you will get a dot precisely where Google Maps puts the address, which is more often than not, correct. Although there are instances where this isn't always the case.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Drunk On Geology - Furnace Creek

The next up in our Drunk on Geology series is Furnace Creek Resort Merlot by J. Pedroncelli Winery

Following up our trip to Death Valley National Park, is wine from the park itself, Furnace Creek Resort Merlot. Furnace Creek Resort is the "fancy" resort within Death Valley itself near the Furnace Creek visitor's center, which is the location for the Hottest Place on Earth.

The picture on the front of the bottle is the artist Lynne Bolwell's interpretation of the Artist's Palette (pictured below) with a little bit of the Artist's Drive included. You can find more of Lynne's work on her facebook page, Here

The rocks in the area are composed of multi-colored ashes and claystones. The ashes are a variety of hues due to the different concentrations of heavy metals in them (like nickel, cobalt, etc.)

 The wine was created by J. Pedroncelli Winery for the Furnace Creek Resort to sell. Text from the back of the bottle:
"Sourced from selected blocks located in northern Sonoma County, these vines are sustainably farmed on the natural terraces that flank the valley and rise gradually into the steep hills above the valley floor."

 Glory shot of the wine.

Taking a sample.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures - Death Valley

My next post about the Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures is...

You can find more Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures as well as my Geological State Symbols Across America series at my website

Finishing our tour of the southwest's desert national parks was Death Valley. The hottest, driest, and lowest National Park. Also the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. We entered the park at the southern entrance, which enabled us to hit up Badwater Basin on our way into the park, since that was the main thing I wanted to see. Unfortunately, we were getting there right at sunset so the sun is in a lot of the photos, since we were on the eastern side of the valley.

 Drive by Entrance Sign shot.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Geology in Pop Culture - U of U Parking Garage

Back in 2012 (or about) the University of Utah decided that they wanted to build a parking structure next to the Sutton Geology Building. This was a rather contentious issue since we had a phenomenal view of the Salt Lake valley from our building and putting a parking structure right next to our building would not only block our view but would be a rather ugly eyesore to the campus in general. After much debate there were people from the department appointed to the committee to design the parking garage including myself as the Sutton Geology Building student representative and Marjorie Chan as the faculty representative. 

Even though one of the main concerns of the Geology Department was blocking the view, we also didn't want the parking garage to be, well, a parking garage. We wanted something that wouldn't be an eyesore to look at day in and day out for the students and faculty, long after most of them (including myself) have moved on. To do this I sent in my own ideas for what we would want for the building and the walkways that lay between the parking garage and the Geology Building. 

We eventually were able to work with the architects and the committee to get the parking garage to a height that would not impede the views from the 3rd or 4th floor of the Sutton Geology Building at all, which is more than any of us could ask for. However, their initial ideas for the walkway seemed pretty far from what we (Marjorie and I) thought were good ideas so we started kicking around ideas of our own. I thought a great idea would be to draw people in from the street via a braided river design that flowed into a meandering river. 

I used the above image (from as a baseline for what I wanted the walkway to look like.

I then drew this up, based on the construction drawings for where the Parking Garage (grey box on the left) and the Sutton Geology Building (grey box on the right) were located. I then traced in a walkway connecting the main walkways that were likely to not change in the area, adding in some small islands to emphasize the braided river scheme.

Lo and behold, after I submitted the above design to the architects and landscape person, they come back with the above image. Besides cutting the meandering portion of the river short, the design was identical to what I had worked up myself! Everyone on the committee loved it as well. 

Besides just the walkway, there was a matter of the facade of the building. What did we want to do? By this point Marjorie Chan was no longer able to be on the committee due to time constraints so the department chair, John Bartley, joined on in her stead. We talked it over and we agreed that looking out over the Salt Lake Valley, it would be nice to have a graphic illustrating the Basin and Range illustrating what you are looking at towards the west.

Based on that conversation, I came up with the above design. It was tweaked a little between John and I, but generally it remained the same. I designed a silhouette of the Basin and Range provenance from the Geology Building west to the Nevada state line. 

When looking from East to West (right to left on the picture above), the mountain ranges you can see are the Wasatch Mountains (which the Sutton Geology Building was located on), then the Oquirrh Mts, the Stansbury Mts, the Cedar Mts, the Bonneville Salt Flats, and finally the Deep Creek Mts, all the way at the border with Nevada. I tried to design the mountains and the valleys to emphasize the way that the Basin and Range formed, with the tilting of these massive blocks and the filling of sediment in between. I also wanted to highlight that the Bonneville Salt Flats are actually located above some buried mountain ranges that formed the same way. My biggest mistake was when designing the mountains, which was fixed by this image, the main Deep Creek fault actually tilted in the opposite direction, towards the west, from all the other mountains to the east of it.

This design the committee also agreed upon our proposal for the facade, and construction went ahead on the garage.

 October 3rd, 2014
 By this point, since I was no longer a student and on campus everyday, I had my advisor, Tony Ekdale, take some in construction images for me while they were building it. All of these images are from the Sutton Geology Building (3rd floor), looking towards the west.

October 6th, 2014

October 20th, 2014

November 7th, 2014

June 12th, 2015
 Big jump in time a few months. Most of the structure is installed.

August 5th, 2015
 The walkway has begun to be installed.

September 9th, 2015
 The walkway is done and the facade is mostly complete. 

November 18th, 2015
Project Complete!
 The facade from the Sutton Geology Building is complete with different colored "stain" used to emphasize the mountain segments from the valley fill.

 Partial view of the walkway and facade.

View of the meandering walkway.

 Better view of the facade.

Probably the best picture I got of the facade. I should go back and get a better picture on a sunny day.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Dinos in Pop Culture - Mixed Bag of Dinos

I have been going through my old pictures and trying to clean up what I still have left to blog from over the last few years. Here is a collection of some of my Dinos in Pop Culture.

Happy Holidays!!! Here is one of Walmart's blow up displays of a Stegosaurus from last year.

 Stegosaurus (the Colorado state dinosaur) also gets prominent display on the Dinosaur, Colorado.

 DinoMania hosted by the Museum of Moab in Moab, UT last year.

 My people have a costume now!

Dinoflagellates are single-celled organisms where some species  glow in the dark. This dino-shaped aquarium holds "dino"flagellates (get it?)!!!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures - Mojave National Preserve

My next post about the Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures is...

You can find more Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures as well as my Geological State Symbols Across America series at my website

During our tour of the deserts of the Southwest, we decided to drive through Mojave National Preserve on our way from Joshua Tree National Park to Death Valley National Park. Unfortunately the route we needed to take through the park took us across the western part of the park, where a lot of the most interesting things seemed like they were further to the east. Will have to hit this one back up sometime in the future.

 Southern entrance sign.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Drunk on Geology - Elements Cabernet

The next up in our Drunk on Geology series is Elements Cabernet Sauvignon by Artesa Winery.

The building blocks to modern chemistry and geology is an understanding of the elements of which everything is made up of. Identifying the original elements is a common theme that runs through many cultures in our past including the Greeks, Japanese, and Hindus.

Text from the back of the bottle:

"Elements Wines symbolize the philosophy that when the five basic elements are in balance, harmony exists, Metal: the minerality in the soil, Water: for the vines, Wood: the vines themselves, Fire, the sun that ripens the grapes, and Earth, the soil."

The image on the bottle not only represents a bunch of wine bottles stacked on top of each other but could also represent the layering of the original elements; Earth on the bottom, Metal in the middle, Air and Water on top. 

Just like the Divining Rod previously, understanding where our science has come from helps us better to understand it in general. From these base "elements" we found that matter is made up of lots of different elements, which in turn helped Mendeleev develop the Periodic Table of the Elements.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Geology Through Literature - Paradise Lost

The next up on my Geology Through Literature thread is Paradise Lost by John Milton published in 1667. You can get my complete thoughts on the book/story over at my other blog - The Remnant, but for here I will just go into the geological or basic scientific aspects that are brought up in the story.

The geological content in the story is rather sparse but I did note one thing that I wanted to mention.

Book V
"Moon, that now meet'st the orient sun, now fly'st,With the fixed stars, fixed in their orb that flies; And ye five other wandering fires, that move In mystic dance not without song, resound His praise, who out of darkness called up light."
I highlighted this paragraph because the "five other wandering fires" refers to the five planets of the Solar System. That got me wondering, when were the planets discovered. If five planets (not including our own) were known by 1667, when did we know about them?

1st Planet Discovered - Earth. Year....duh.

2nd-6th Planets Discovered - Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn can all be seen by the naked eye. So it is impossible to determine exactly when they were discovered but they were known since at least the 2nd century BC (Sachs, 1974).

7th Planet Discovered - Uranus - March 13, 1781. Discovered by William Hershel who realized that it was moving with respect to the stars (meaning that it did not move with the stars. It was doing it's own thing).

8th Planet Discovered - Neptune - September 18, 1846. Discovered by Johann Galle and Heinrich Louis d'Arrest based on predictions by Urbain Le Verrier. Le Verrier predicted there must be another planet further out due to the eccentric orbit of Uranus.

9th Planet Discovered - Pluto - February 18, 1930. Discovered by Clyde Tombaugh who used eccentricities in Neptune's orbit to predict the presence and location of Pluto. It is now known that the "eccentricities" were actually just measurement errors and Tombaugh got lucky.

9th Planet Rescinded - Pluto - August 24, 2006
    - Due to the redefinition of what a planet actually is, Pluto's planetary status was revoked. You can read more about it here:

Through most of history our reliance on the stars for navigation and even for light during the evenings had provided us with the knowledge of 6 of the planets in our Solar System. Only two (based on the current definition of a planet) remained to be discovered.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures - Joshua Tree

You can find more Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures as well as my Geological State Symbols Across America series at my website

Continuing our trip across the Southwest, we came to Joshua Tree. Not actually knowing what a "Joshua Tree" was, I became enlightened. That and the desert landscapes are gorgeous here.

 Obligatory entrance sign. 
Joshua Tree NP has one main road that traverses the park. We started at the south end and traveled northwest. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Drunk on Geology - The Divining Rod Chardonnay

The next up in our Drunk on Geology series is Marc Mondavi's The Divining Rod Chardonnay by The Divining Rod wines

A "divining rod" is a "magical" stick, often in the shape of an "L", that helps the user find various things under the ground's surface including (most commonly) water, but also oil, gold, gems, etc. It is considered a "pseudoscience", since it doesn't involve an evidence based system of determination and instead uses the user's "feelings" to determine where to find what they are looking for. 

Even though the divining rod is basically guesswork at it's most glorified, it could be considered the first step along a long road for humanity to determine how to accurately and repeatedly find the location of valuable underground commodities, such as water and petroleum. It is a first step to the scientific method for exploration (try, repeat, doesn't work, move on to a new method). 

A divining rod, also known as a dowsing rod, had been supplemented today with modern geological techniques that help up understand the rocks and soil beneath our feet. Various tools including, drilling wells, fossil identification, seismic imaging, gamma rays, and a wide variety of other tools, help us to visualize the Earth. Combining this information with a complete understanding of plate tectonics and hydrocarbon formations allows us a modern day "dowsing rod", where we can more accurately determine the depths and locations of many underground "cash crops" including drinking water, petroleum, and precious metals.

 According to the back of the bottle:
"Marc Mondavi grew up in the Napa Valley learning about vineyards and winemaking. As a teenager he discovered he possessed an unexpected, mysterious talent - the ability to locate underground water using divining rods. This gift earned him the title "Water Witch" and enabled him to plant great vineyards throughout California. In fact, some claim that he "turns water into wine." To honor this often misunderstood art and the instruments that harness this power, Marc presents The Divining Rod wines - wines made possible by the natural and perhaps the supernatural!"
A pair of divining rods sport the top of the wine bottle. 

Although the divining rod is an arcane method of water location identification, it is important to understand where we came from as a species and how far we have evolved. From using essentially guesswork to being able to accurately pinpoint oil, gas, and water reserves, the divining rod was the first step along a very long road.