GEOL30400 Digital Geology and GIS

Academic Year 2022/2023

Geoscience involves the synthesis of spatial and temporal information about the Earth. The purpose of this module is to train you in how to obtain, organise, analyse, integrate and present geological data in a digital and spatial context. You will use state-of-the-art geographical information systems (GIS) to produce and analyse geoscientific maps, and you will use industry-standard desktop graphic design software to produce final publication-quality map products and related diagrams. You will also use desktop publishing and presentation software to practise disseminating your workings and interpretations. The course content will span the undertaking of pre-fieldwork desktop studies and base-map creation, the digitisation of geological field maps and cross-sections, and the interpretation of published geological maps in four-dimensions (3D plus time). The emphasis in this module is on your development of intellectual and digital skills that are highly transferable to any professional environment involving spatial and geoscientific data analysis.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of the module, you will have learned:
(1) Fundamentals of geographical information systems and their use in earth sciences.
(2) Where to find, and how to access, sources of geological or other geospatial data in offline and online repositories.
(3) Technical and digital skills in workflows required to construct and analyse geological maps.
(4) How to read and interpret published geological survey maps to deduce the geological history of an area.
(5) How to deduce and illustrate the 3D geological structure in a geological survey map area.
(6) How to integrate geological data with other geospatial and geo-scientific data sets (e.g. satellite imagery, geochemical data, or geophysical data).
(7) An outline of the geological and tectonic evolution of the British Isles, to put examples of published maps and project work into wider context.
(8) How to synthesise, illustrate and present various lines of geoscientific data by using graphic design and desktop publishing software.

Indicative Module Content:

Indicative Module Content (4 contact hours per week)

1 Introduction to Cartography and Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
Dr. S. E. Kelley – 09:00-13:00, Thursday 21st January
Two lectures covering the history and fundamentals of geodesy/cartography and geological mapping. Practical exercise on collecting hand-held GPS data and loading into GIS. Practical classes to explore the use of various co-ordinate systems and projections in Google Earth and ArcMap.

2 Creating topographic base maps in a GIS
Dr. S. E. Kelley – 09:00-13:00, Thursday 28th January
Lecture covering geospatial data formats (e.g. vector, raster) and file types (e.g. shape files, GeoTIFF, etc.). Overview of geospatial data sets commonly-used in earth sciences and how/where to access them. Practical on creating base-maps in ArcMap from topographic data and satellite imagery.

3 Georeferencing field sheets and digitising geological data in a GIS
Dr E. P. Holohan – 09:00-13:00, Thursday 4th February
Practical on geo-referencing field sheets, digitising geological boundaries and plotting structural data in a GIS (based on the Louisburgh area). Creating and editing points, polylines and polygons. Lecture on Pre-Cambrian to Early Cambrian evolution of the British Isles (incl. Grenvillian and Cadomian orogenies).

4 Synthesising existing data sets in GIS
Dr E. P. Holohan – 09:00-13:00, Thursday 11th February
Practical class on taking online geoscience data and adapting it to your needs in a GIS. Using attribute table queries to extract relevant data. Merging and clipping of shapefiles to simplify map units. Lecture on Cambrian to mid-Ordovician evolution of the British Isles (incl. Grampian Orogeny).

5 Creating inset maps or multiple maps in GIS.
Dr E. P. Holohan – 09:00-13:00, Thursday 18th February
Using multiple data frames to create location maps and/or inset maps. Using the layout view in ArcMap to add grids, scale-bars and legends, etc. Lecture on late-Ordovician to end-Silurian evolution of the British Isles (incl. Scandian and Iapetan Orogenies).

6 Digitising cross-sections and stratigraphic columns
Dr E. P. Holohan – 09:00-13:00, Thursday 25th February
Practical class on how to use the graphic design software Adobe Illustrator to draw a cross-section and a stratigraphic column. Extracting and exporting topographic profiles, boundaries and dip data for use in drawing cross-sections. Lecture on Devonian to Carboniferous evolution of the British Isles (incl. Acadian and Variscan Orogenies).

7 Creating a publication-quality digital geological map sheet
Dr. E.P. Holohan – 09:00-13:00, Thursday 4th March
How to polish your final map product – a single sheet combining maps, cross-section and stratigraphic column - in Adobe Illustrator. Consideration of the aesthetics of maps. Lecture on Mesozoic to Cenozoic evolution of the British Isles (incl. Alpine Orogeny and Opening of Atlantic Ocean).


8 Starting your individual desktop study project
Dr E. P. Holohan – 09:00-13:00, Thursday 25th March
Practical class with hand-on advice on getting started with georeferencing your project map image and accessing online BGS and SRTM data. Preliminary overview of each map area and guidance/discussion regarding aspects to focus on.

9 Analysis of Classical Geological Survey Maps – 1
Dr E. P. Holohan – 09:00-13:00, Thursday 1st April
Practical classes to examine and illustrate the topography and geology of the Glasgow map area, Scotland. Consideration of published map and online datasets in terms of accuracy and stratigraphic (in)consistency, and how to resolve conflicts. Merging of SRTM raster tiles to generate topographic map and profiles.

10 Analysis of Classical Geological Survey Maps – 2
Dr E. P. Holohan – 09:00-13:00, Thursday 8th April
Further work to unravel the geological and structural development the Glasgow area. Use ArcMap and Adobe Illustrator to make a simplified tectonic map. Derive a cross-section to illustrate the structural geometries. Summarise the geological history. Combine all into a Powerpoint presentation.

11 Oral presentation of individual desktop study project
Dr E. P. Holohan – 09:00-13:00, Thursday 15th April
Presentation summarising key findings of your desktop study of the regional and local geology of a selected area. Feedback on the presentation will guide the final written report to be submitted.

12 Desktop Study - Submission of Written Report
NO PRACTICAL – Submission deadline is Thursday 22nd April @ 17:00

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Teaching and learning on this module comprises a set of practical exercises and activities that encompass: active/task-based learning; peer and group work; enquiry & problem-based learning; case-based learning; and student presentations. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
GEOL20210 - Field Geology and Mapwork, GEOL20250 - Crystals to Sedimentary Rocks

Precambrian and Geotectonics (GEOL30080)

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Weekly submission of course work (end-products of assigned work flows and/or answers to problems posed). Throughout the Trimester n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Assignment: Independent synthesis of geo-scientific data sets available as published maps or online datasets for an assigned area on Earth. Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Presentation: Individual presentation of synthesis of geo-scientific data for assigned area. Unspecified n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback will be provided on a weekly basis and will take the form of: (1) Oral feedback on activities prior to assessment (2) Oral and written post-assessment feedback individually to students and to the class as a whole; (3) Self-assessment and peer-review activities related to projects and presentations.

‘An Introduction to Geological Structures and Maps’, 8th Ed., by Bennison Olver & Moseley [available as ebook via UCD Library]

‘Geological History of Britain and Ireland’, 2nd Ed. (2012), edited by Nigel Woodcock and Rob Strachan [available as ebook via UCD Library] [UCD Library online GIS resources] [ArcMap online help and user guide]
Name Role
Dr Sam Kelley Lecturer / Co-Lecturer