Geological field mapping involves not only the basic recording of field observations, but also the interpretation of a wide range of both direct and indirect evidence of the stratigraphy, structure, properties and genesis of the rocks and superficial deposits in the area being surveyed. Confidence in interpretation is highest when the mapping geologist has access to a wide range of existing ‘prior’ information about the geology, topography, environment, land use and archaeology. With traditional, paper-based records, geologists have been able to carry only a small subset of this prior information into the field, forcing much of the interpretation to be completed either at the field base or in the office following completion of a fieldwork campaign. New mobile computing technologies are now enabling geologists to access, visualise and interrogate large, spatially-referenced datasets in the field, enabling new interpretations to be made in direct context of prior knowledge, and avoiding inefficient repetition of earlier observations.\ud \ud New, workflow-based digital mapping systems are now being deployed by the British Geological Survey (BGS) in both UK and international geological mapping projects. The BGS Virtual Field Reconnaissance (VFR) system enables the survey area to be recreated and visualised in an immersive 3D virtual environment. This enables project teams to work collaboratively to test and annotate the existing geological interpretations, ensuring that subsequent fieldwork focuses efficiently on addressing gaps in knowledge and understanding. Use of tablet PC-based field data recording allows the geologist to take this annotated prior knowledge into the field, together with a wide range of other baseline data such as digital terrain models, orthophotos, boreholes, geophysical data and remote sensing imagery. New field observations and interpretations are recorded using Geographic Information System (GIS) software on the tablet PC, returned to the office for further refinement in the VFR system, and then incorporated into new digital geological maps and 3D models. \ud \ud Deployment of the digital mapping systems in BGS has required design and development of new IT systems and substantial investment in digital capture and spatial referencing of existing prior information in the form of paper records. The growing availability of high speed wireless internet access and web-based 3D GIS systems and search engines will continue to revolutionise geological field work by providing geologists with access to the huge resource of contextual knowledge on the World Wide Web. This will not only enable more refined and reliable interpretations, but also broaden geologists’ awareness of the wider environmental context and record new, scientifically cross-cutting interpretations that broaden the relevance and application of geological survey data.\ud \u
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