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Penrose Conference Icon
Editorís note: See a thorough examination of this topic in the April/May GSA Today (v. 20, no. 4, p. 4–10).

Google Earth: Visualizing the Possibilities for Geoscience Education and Research

4-8 January 2011
Google Inc. Headquarters (GooglePlex), Mountain View, California, USA


John Bailey
University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, USA;
Declan De Paor
Dept. of Physics, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia 23529, USA;
Tina Ornduff
Google Inc., 1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Mountain View, California 94043, USA;
Steven Whitmeyer
Dept. of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22840, USA;

Google Earth has emerged as one of the most powerful and easy-to-use tools for viewing, tracking, and analyzing planetary (and lunar) features, processes, and events. Since the application’s release in 2005, Google Earth’s use in the geosciences has evolved from simple “fly-bys” to world-class examples of geologically-induced landforms to dynamic KML files and COLLADA models displaying geologic processes. Applications of Google Earth in geoscience education and research* have been highlighted in well-attended AGU and GSA sessions in recent years, and informal discussions at these meetings have indicated the need for a specialized forum where development of virtual globe–based educational resources and visualizations can be coordinated among the greater geoscience community. The result is this Penrose Conference, which will bring together geoscience educators, researchers, and other professionals to discuss recent advances in the development of educational modules and research visualizations that use the Google Earth platform.

The conference will be held onsite at the Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, California, USA, and will focus on such themes as (1) broader dissemination of Google Earth–based educational materials throughout the geoscience community; (2) coordinated involvement of Google engineers and the Google Earth education team in the development of Google Earth–based geoscience education and research tools; (3) an opportunity to convey the wish-lists of solid-earth scientists to Google engineers; and (4) design of a central Web site and dedicated server for uploading and downloading Google Earth–based visualizations, educational modules, and user-support materials.

By pooling ideas and resources from the broader community, we hope to stimulate new initiatives and directions in using Google Earth in the geosciences, as well as encouraging the active participation of Google Inc. in the future development of geoscience research and education tools. A special volume summarizing cutting-edge research and educational uses of Google Earth is an anticipated follow-up to this conference.


Participants must make their own travel arrangements to arrive in Mountain View, California, USA, the night of 3 January. The registration fee will cover hotel lodging for five nights (3–7), all daytime meals, dinner on Day 2, all handouts and digital materials, and transportation from the hotels to Google headquarters and on the field day. Airfare is not included. The registration fee is estimated at US$700 per person (double occupancy).


Deadline: 3 September 2010

The conference is limited to ~65 participants, and participants must apply to attend. Participants will have to commit to attending the full five days of the conference. Applications should be submitted online at the following address: