A "Thinking Map" of North America

Article excerpt

For geologist Brian Tucholke, creating a new Geologic Map of North America was a 23-year adventure.

The new map, published in February by the Geological Society of America (GSA), illustrates the geology of approximately 15 percent of Earth s surface and spans an area from the North Pole to Venezuela and from Ireland to Siberia. It was a cooperative effort by Tucholke, who mapped the seafloor geology, and John C. Reed Jr. of the U.S. Geological Survey and John O. Wheeler of the Geological Survey of Canada, who compiled the map's continental geology. The last such map was published in 1965.

"This is the first continent-scale geologic map of North America published since the plate tectonic revolution," said Tucholke, a senior scientist in the WHOI Geology and Geophysics Department. "It shows the seafloor geology for the first time and presents a whole new view of the geology of North America in a plate-tectonic context."

In 1981 GSA officials asked Tucholke if he thought compiling the seafloor data for a new North America map was realistic, and if he would do it. "I answered yes to both," he said. "I didn't realize what I was getting into."

Tucholke began the work in 1982, doing everything from scratch, with only minor funding for the project considering the magnitude of the task. With small amounts of support from the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, GSA, and WHOI, he did much of the work during evenings and weekends on his own time, extracting information from published literature, unpublished data from any sources he could "mine " and contributions he solicited from other scientists. …