Australian Laureate Fellow Prof. Dietmar Müller and the EarthByte Group within the University of Sydney’s School of Geosciences are embarking on an ambitious new research program: building a Virtual Geological Observatory.
Fifty percent of Australia’s export income comes from the minerals and energy sector. Over three-quarters of these exports come from deposits discovered prior to 1980. Modern Earth Sciences has moved into an era dominated by information: data from satellites; data from airborne geophysical surveys; data from marine and continental geophysical surveys that probes deep into the Earth — data telling us how the Earth evolved and how the Earth moved through deep time to the present to attain its present configuration. This is a vast electronic resource, and we need new methods to mine it for useful information: methods that can deal with such multidimensional, global-scale, deep-time data; methods that will help to re-invigorate resource exploration and advance our understanding of the complex history of crustal dynamics.
The Virtual Geological Observatory (VIRGO) is planned as a knowledge-rich, 4-dimensional eScience environment that is compatible with international geodata standards. Knowledge about the geological features and processes underneath Australia will be generated by building a 4D model of the dynamic Earth. VIRGO will be firmly connected to international efforts for the construction of virtual observatories that enable skilled and unskilled observers to explore our world in entirely new ways. Through electronic interfaces with VIRGO, it will be possible to analyse observations from many different areas of the Earth Sciences in deep space-time. VIRGO will allow users to categorize, cluster, and extract features from large data sets using “visual knowledge discovery”: large-scale data analysis coupled with rich interactive visualisation, enabling users to quickly digest data and build understanding in ways hitherto impossible. VIRGO will provide specific “knowledge-exploration” pathways for policy and decision makers, educators and students, while at the same time delivering useful geoscience knowledge to users across the spectrum of expertise.
Australian Research Council
Prof Dietmar Müller