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INTERFACE

The acquisition and analysis of field data is the cornerstone of the solid earth sciences and these data provide the context and content for most inquiries in geological sciences. Geoscientists have traditionally collected these data by analog methods but the transition to a digit environment is rapidly gaining sway in the research and educational community. The growth digital acquisition arises from the need to present geoscience information in a geospatially referenced frame for data transfer, scale and projection manipulation, and registration between datasets; this approach requires a cyberinfrastructure for the earth sciences. Geoscientists of the future will collect field data in a digital environment, which will consist of: equipment for acquiring information in a digital and georeferenced format; software that allows seamless transfer, integration, and exploration of data, and; online processing for manipulation of large datasets generated or to be used in the field. To implement this vision of a digital future and aid the transition from the analog-dominated system of today, the INTERFACE facility was funded by the National Science Foundation to provide a pool of shared hardware and software supported with instruction by expert users. This facility provides the infrastructure to allow users to build and work in a digital environment that represents the earth's surface/landscape in 3D with accuracy approaching the scale of a centimeter.

The implementation of the INTERFACE Facility is centered on the development and accessibility of four integrated research and instructional components:
1) Measuring equipment.
2) Software necessary to import and attribute data.
3) A seamless process (workflow) to allow manipulation of the collected data in a user environment for analysis and integration with other information.
4) Instruction to researchers and students in the theory and practice of digital field data acquisition.

At present and for the foreseeable future, obtaining cm-accuracy spatial information requires using LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and GPS to make measurements, high resolution cameras or other sensors to take images, and specialized software to process the LiDAR and GPS data and integrate them with the imagery and geological attribution. The integration is tedious and inaccessible to most potential users because no workflow exists to collect, process, and combine the information. Further, there is no single place that researchers and students can access knowledge and expertise concerning the component parts. This proposal addresses each of these considerations, and when the components are in place, the facility will offer an integrated solution for geoscientists for advancement into the digital world. For practical considerations of use and cost, a methodology of choice for constructing this environment uses TLS (Terrestrial Laser Scanning) LiDAR combined with RTK (Real Time Kinematic) GPS to define the earth's surface, high-resolution digital photography to provide the base imagery, and GIS software to construct a georeferenced database to document geologic content.