aerial photos

An aerial photograph, in broad terms, is any photograph taken from the air. Normally, air photos are taken vertically from an aircraft using a highly-accurate camera.


An instrument used to measure the altitude of an object above a fixed level. In most cases, the fixed level is the average sea level which has a value of 0m. The measurement of altitude is called altimetry, which is related to the term bathymetry, the measurement of depth under water.


Badlands are a type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks, such as unconsolidated sands, silts and clays, and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded. They are characterized by steep slopes, minimal vegetation, lack of a substantial regolith, and high drainage density.

Bearpaw Formation

The Bearpaw Formation, also called the Bearpaw Shale, is a geologic formation of Late Cretaceous age. It outcrops in the U.S. state of Montana, as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and was named for the Bear Paw Mountains in Montana.

Bearpaw Sea

The Bearpaw Sea, a warm, shallow sea, covered 1.7 million square kilometres of coastal plain, including what is now Alberta, about 74 million years ago. The Bearpaw Sea was home to many marine reptiles, ammonites, fishes, and other aquatic life. The Bearpaw Sea receded about 72 million years ago, leaving a thick layer of marine deposits known as the Bearpaw Formation. This is the formation that forms the base of the hoodoos east of Drumheller, Alberta.


Calcite is a carbonate mineral and the most stable polymorph of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). It is a very common mineral, particularly as a component of limestone. Calcite reacts readily with hydrochloric acid and can be scratched with a penny. It is the main reason for the hard water.


Calibration is the process of configuring an instrument to provide a result for a sample within an acceptable range. Eliminating or minimizing factors that cause inaccurate measurements is a fundamental aspect of instrumentation design.


A climograph is a graphical representation of a location's basic climate. Climographs display data for two variables: monthly average temperature and monthly average precipitation. These are useful tools to quickly describe a location's climate.


A geological contact is a boundary which separates one rock body from another. A contact can be formed during deposition, by the intrusion of magma, or through faulting or other deformation of rock beds that brings distinct rock bodies into contact.

contour lines

A line on a map joining points of equal height above or below sea level.

coordinate system

The geographic coordinate system (GCS) is a spherical or ellipsoidal coordinate system for measuring and communicating positions directly on the Earth as latitude and longitude. It is the simplest, oldest and most widely used of the various of spatial reference systems that are in use, and forms the basis for most others. Although latitude and longitude form a coordinate tuple like a cartesian coordinate system, the geographic coordinate system is not cartesian because the measurements are angles and are not on a planar surface.

Cordilleran Orogeny

The Cordilleran Orogeny began in the late Triassic and ended in early Tertiary. Its strongest effects occurred between the middle Jurassic and the end Cretaceous, so it is commonly referred to as a late Mesozoic orogeny. The Cordilleran Orogeny had a complex development, producing different features in different regions. The Cordilleran Orogeny created a mountain chain that extends for 8,000 km along the western side of North America from Alaska to Guatemala and Honduras, with a width of 650–1,600 km.


A cylindrical rock fragment drilled and removed from the subsurface. Some cores can be hundreds of meters in total length divided in fragments of 0.75m.


The Cretaceous is a geological period that lasted from about 145.5 to 65.5 million years ago. It is the third and final period of the Mesozoic Era, as well as the longest. At around 79 million years, it is the longest geological period of the entire Phanerozoic.


Cross-bedding (or cross-stratification) is a primary sedimentary feature characterized by layers that intersect at an angle with each other through planar erosional surfaces that truncate inclined beds and laminae. This structure is the result of the migration of bedforms, such as dunes, ripples, and megaripples, produced by wind or water currents in sand-rich sediment.


In surveying and geodesy, a datum is a set of reference points on the earth's surface against which position measurements are made, and (often) an associated model of the shape of the earth (reference ellipsoid) to define a geographic coordinate system.


Related to the deposition of the sediments.

diagenetic processes

All the processes that affect a rock after its deposition.


Dinosaurs are a group of reptiles that dominated the land for over 140 million years (more than 160 million years in some parts of the world). They evolved diverse shapes and sizes, from the fearsome giant Spinosaurus to the chicken-sized Microraptor, and were able to survive in a variety of ecosystems.

Eastend Formation

The Eastend Formation is a stratigraphical unit of Maastrichtian (Upper Cretaceous) age in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin. It takes its name from the town of Eastend, Saskatchewan, and was first described in outcrop around the settlement by L.S. Russell in 1932. The type locality was later defined south-west of the town by W.O. Kupsch in 1956.


The elevation of a geographic location is its height above or below a fixed reference point, most commonly a reference geoid, a mathematical model of the Earth's sea level as an equipotential gravitational surface.

epicontinental sea

An epicontinental or inland sea is a continental body of water which is very large and is either completely surrounded by dry land or connected to an ocean by a river, strait, or "arm of the sea". An inland sea will generally have higher salinity than a freshwater lake, but usually lower salinity than the open ocean.


The Equator is a circle of latitude, about 40,075 km in circumference, that divides Earth into the Northern and Southern hemispheres. It is an imaginary line located at 0 degrees latitude, halfway between the North and South poles.


In earth science, erosion is the action of surface processes that removes soil, rock, or dissolved material from one location on the Earth's crust, and then transports it to another location where it is deposited. Erosion is distinct from weathering which involves no movement.

eustatic sea level

The eustatic sea level is the distance from the center of the earth to the sea surface. An increase of the eustatic sea level can be generated by decreasing glaciation, increasing spreading rates of the mid-ocean ridges or more mid-oceanic ridges.


The Farallon plate was an ancient, very large large oceanic plate. The formerly Farallon Plate it was progressively consumed beneath the North American and Caribbean Plates, leaving only the present-day Juan de Fuca, Rivera, and Cocos Plates as small remnants.


A fault is a fracture or zone of fractures between two blocks of rock. Faults allow the blocks to move relative to each other. A fault can be easily identified as the layer of rock is not continuous but it moved up or down relative to the other side of the fault.

field trip

A trip made by students or research workers to study something at first hand. In geology is one of the most prized experiences.

flame structures

A flame structure is a type of soft-sediment deformation that forms in unconsolidated sediments. The weight of an overlying bed forces an underlying bed to push up through the overlying bed, generally when both strata are saturated with water. The resulting pattern (in cross section) may resemble flames.


In structural geology, a fold is a stack of originally planar surfaces, such as sedimentary strata, that are bent or curved during permanent deformation. Folds in rocks vary in size from microscopic crinkles to mountain-sized folds. They occur as single isolated folds or in periodic sets.

foreland basin

A foreland basin is a structural basin that develops adjacent and parallel to a mountain belt. Foreland basins form because the immense mass created by crustal thickening associated with the evolution of a mountain belt causes the lithosphere to bend, by a process known as lithospheric flexure.


The remains or impression of a prehistoric organism preserved in petrified form or as a mold or cast in rock.


A waterproof garment similar to leggings, worn to cover or protect the ankle and lower leg.

geodetic datum

A geodetic datum or geodetic system is a global datum reference or reference frame for precisely representing the position of locations on Earth or other planetary bodies by means of geodetic coordinates.
Within the World Geodetic System (WGS), there are several different datums that have been in use throughout the years. These are WGS 84, 72, 70, and 60. The WGS 84 is currently the one in use for this system and is valid until 2010. In addition, it is one of the most widely used datums around the world.


The study of the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere, and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these, including the distribution of populations and resources, land use, and industries.

geological features

A very broad terms referring to any physical feature on the surface of the Earth, such as mountains, hills, valleys, etc, but also to all features resulted from geological processes, such as folds, faults, etc.

geological history

The geological history of Earth follows the major geological events in Earth's past based on the geological time scale, a system of chronological measurement based on the study of the planet's rock layers.

geological map

Geologic maps represent the distribution of different types of rock and surficial deposits, as well as locations of geologic structures such as faults and folds. Geologic maps are the primary source of information for various aspects of land-use planning, including the siting of buildings and transportation systems. Such maps help identify ground-water aquifers, aid in locating water-supply wells, and assist in locating potential polluting operations, such as landfills, safely away from the aquifers.

Geologic maps are actually four-dimensional data systems, and it is the fourth dimension of time that is crucial to assessing natural hazards and environmental or socio-economic risk. To read a geologic map is to understand not only where materials and structures are located, but also how and when these features formed.


The science that deals with the earth's physical structure and substance, its history, and the processes that act on it.


A glacier is a large, perennial accumulation of crystalline ice, snow, rock, sediment, and often liquid water that originates on land and moves down slope under the influence of its own weight and gravity.


A large open area of country covered with grass, especially one used for grazing.


A natural column of rock in western North America often in fantastic form. If you'd like, a lot of them look like fantastic giant mushrooms with a sandstone head over a clay-rich stem.


An animal lacking a backbone, such as an arthropod, mollusk, annelid, coelenterate, etc. The invertebrates constitute an artificial division of the animal kingdom, comprising 95 percent of animal species and about 30 different phyla.

Jacob's staff

In surveying, a jacob staff is a single straight rod or staff made of nonferrous material, pointed and metal-clad at the bottom for penetrating the ground. Here, it is used to describe a 2m wooden rod that is painted in alternating strips of white and black to show the following divisions: 1m, 50 cm, and 5 strips of 10 cm each.


A fine layer (~ 1 mm thick) in strata, also called a lamina, common in fine-grained sedimentary rocks such as shale, siltstone and fine sandstone. A sedimentary bed comprises multiple laminations, or laminae.


In geology, lamination is a small-scale sequence of fine layers that occurs in sedimentary rocks. Laminae are normally smaller and less pronounced than bedding. Lamination is often regarded as planar structures one centimetre or less in thickness, whereas bedding layers are greater than one centimetre.

Laramide Orogeny

The Laramide orogeny was a time period of mountain building in western North America, which started in the Late Cretaceous, 70 to 80 million years ago, and ended 35 to 55 million years ago. The exact duration and ages of beginning and end of the orogeny are in dispute.


In geography, latitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the north–south position of a point on the Earth's surface. Latitude is an angle which ranges from 0° at the Equator to 90° at the poles. Lines of constant latitude, or parallels, run east–west as circles parallel to the equator.


The lithology of a rock unit is a description of its physical characteristics visible at outcrop, in hand or core samples, or with low magnification microscopy. Physical characteristics include colour, texture, grain size, and composition.


Longitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the east–west position of a point on the Earth's surface, or the surface of a celestial body. It is an angular measurement, usually expressed in degrees and denoted by the Greek letter lambda. Meridians connect points with the same longitude. The prime meridian goes through Greenwich, London, UK and has the value of 0. Measured from the prime meridian, 180 degrees to the East will define the Eastern Hemisphere, while 180 degrees to the West of Greenwich will define the Western Hemisphere.

magnetic declination

Magnetic declination, or magnetic variation, is the angle on the horizontal plane between magnetic north (the direction the north end of a magnetized compass needle points, corresponding to the direction of the Earth's magnetic field lines) and true north (the direction along a meridian towards the geographic North Pole). This angle varies depending on position on the Earth's surface and changes over time.
By convention, declination is positive when magnetic north is east of true north, and negative when it is to the west.


A map is a symbolic depiction emphasizing relationships between elements of some space, such as objects, regions, or themes. Many maps are static, fixed to paper or some other durable medium, while others are dynamic or interactive.


The Mesozoic Era, also called the Age of Reptiles and the Age of Conifers, is the second-to-last era of Earth's geological history, lasting from about 252 to 66 million years ago and comprising the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods.


All the minerals in a rock.

Munsell Chart

The Munsell Color System describes a soil’s color, based on Hue, Value & Chroma. The Munsell Chart is a collection of color chips with varying degrees of hue, value & chroma. Take a small soil sample and match it up with the appropriate color chip to determine that soil’s Munsell “code.”

HUES tell you how red the soil is… 2.5YR (2.5 parts yellow to 1 red) is pretty red; 10YR (10 parts yellow to 1 red) is more yellow…

VALUES tell you how dark the soil is; A horizons are darker, with a lower value (2 or 3) due to humus. E horizons are often light colored (5 or 6 value).

CHROMA tells you how bright vs. dull the soil is; a low chroma (2 or less) means the soil is GREY, hence wet or waterlogged; higher chromas mean better drained, more oxidized soil.


A rock formation that is visible on the surface.


A paleocurrent or paleocurrent indicator is a geological feature (typically a sedimentary structure) that helps one determine the direction of flowing water in the geologic past. This is an invaluable tool in the reconstruction of ancient depositional environments.

There are two main types of paleocurrent indicators:

Unidirectional, which give a clear, single direction of flow
Bidirectional, which give a good linear direction, but it is unclear which direction along the linear trend the water flowed.

Paleocurrents are usually measured with an azimuth, or as a rake on a bedding plane, and displayed with a Rose Diagram to show the dominant direction(s) of flow. This is needed because in some depositional environments, like meandering rivers, the paleocurrent resulting from natural sinuosity has a natural variation of 180 degrees or more.


The Paleozoic Era is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic Eon. It is the longest of the Phanerozoic eras, lasting from 538.8 to 251.902 million years ago, and is subdivided into six geologic periods: the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian.


Pleistocene Epoch, earlier and major of the two epochs that constitute the Quaternary Period of Earth’s history, an epoch during which a succession of glacial and interglacial climatic cycles occurred. The base of the Gelasian Stage (2,588,000 to 1,800,000 years ago) marks the beginning of Pleistocene, which is also the base of the Quarternary Period. The Pleistocene ended 11,700 years ago. It is preceded by the Pliocene Epoch of the Neogene Period and is followed by the Holocene Epoch.

The Pleistocene Epoch is best known as a time during which extensive ice sheets and other glaciers formed repeatedly on the landmasses and has been informally referred to as the “Great Ice Age.”


Quaternary, in the geologic history of Earth is a unit of time within the Cenozoic Era, beginning 2,588,000 years ago and continuing to the present day. The Quaternary has been characterized by several periods of glaciation (the “ice ages” of common lore), when ice sheets many kilometres thick have covered vast areas of the continents in temperate areas. During and between these glacial periods, rapid changes in climate and sea level have occurred, and environments worldwide have been altered. These variations in turn have driven rapid changes in life-forms, both flora and fauna. Beginning some 200,000 years ago, they were responsible for the rise of modern humans.

The Quaternary is one of the best-studied parts of the geologic record. In part this is because it is well preserved in comparison with the other periods of geologic time. Less of it has been lost to erosion, and the sediments are not usually altered by rock-forming processes. Quaternary rocks and sediments, being the most recently laid geologic strata, can be found at or near the surface of the Earth in valleys and on plains, seashores, and even the seafloor. These deposits are important for unraveling geologic history because they are most easily compared to modern sedimentary deposits. The environments and geologic processes earlier in the period were similar to those of today; a large proportion of Quaternary fossils are related to living organisms; and numerous dating techniques can be used to provide relatively precise timing of events and rates of change.

rabbit bush

In Saskatchewan, a rabbit bush is a coniferous forest with closely spaced thin trees. The trees did not have room to grow and develop normally and it is so thick that only a rabbit would be able to go through it. It is almost an enchanted forest that pulls on your clothes and backpack and it is very hard to go through. Usually at the edges of swamps.


A chain of rocks or coral or a ridge of sand at or near the surface of water. In this case is referring to coral reefs, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.


The difference in height from the surrounding terrain; the amount of variation in elevation and slope in a particular area.

relief maps

A map indicating hills and valleys by shading rather than by contour lines alone.


A type of back-arc basin which is floored by continental crust. The main sediments are fluvial, deltaic, or marine, derived from the uplifted area behind the arc.


A sedimentary rock consisting of sand sized particles. The grains - quartz, feldspar, lithics, or a mixture of - can be cemented together or not. Typically red, yellow, or brown in color.


the study of sediments


General term for a glacial drainage channel cut by water during glaciation, and normally including three varieties: (a) channels cut by water escaping from a glacially impounded lake (see OVERFLOW CHANNEL); (b) channels cut by meltwater released from a decaying glacier (see MELTWATER CHANNEL); and (c) channels cut by a stream deflected by an advancing glacier.

tectonic plate

A massive slab of solid rock made up of Earth's lithosphere (crust and upper mantle). Also called lithospheric plate. Plate tectonics is the generally accepted scientific theory that considers the Earth's lithosphere to comprise a number of large tectonic plates which have been slowly moving since about 3.4 billion years ago.


Tertiary Period, former official interval of geologic time lasting from approximately 66 million to 2.6 million years ago. It is the traditional name for the first of two periods in the Cenozoic Era (66 million years ago to the present); the second is the Quaternary Period (2.6 million years ago to the present). The Tertiary has five principal subdivisions, called epochs, which from oldest to youngest are the Paleocene (66 million to 55.8 million years ago), Eocene (55.8 million to 33.9 million years ago), Oligocene (33.9 million to 23 million years ago), Miocene (23 million to 5.3 million years ago), and Pliocene (5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago).

topographic map
topographic maps

A topographic map is a detailed and accurate illustration of man-made and natural features on the ground such as roads, railways, power transmission lines, contours, elevations, rivers,
lakes and geographical names.


The arrangement of the natural and artificial physical features of an area.

UTM coordinate system

he Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) is a map projection system for assigning coordinates to locations on the surface of the Earth. Like the traditional method of latitude and longitude, it is a horizontal position representation, which means it ignores altitude and treats the earth as a perfect ellipsoid. However, it differs from global latitude/longitude in that it divides earth into 60 zones and projects each to the plane as a basis for its coordinates. Specifying a location means specifying the zone and the x, y coordinate in that plane. The projection from spheroid to a UTM zone is some parameterization of the transverse Mercator projection. The parameters vary by nation or region or mapping system.


An animal of a large group distinguished by the possession of a backbone or spinal column, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes.


Weathering is the deterioration of rocks, soils and minerals as well as wood and artificial materials through contact with water, atmospheric gases, and biological organisms.

Western Interior Seaway

The Western Interior Seaway was a large inland sea that existed from the early Late Cretaceous to earliest Paleocene, splitting the continent of North America into two landmasses, Laramidia to the west and Appalachia to the east.

Whitemud Formation

The Whitemud Formation is a geologic formation of Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) age in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin. It is present through the plains of southern Saskatchewan, southeastern Alberta and south-central Alberta. Named by N.B. Davis in 1918, the formation is characterized by white kaolinitic clay and is a source of high-quality refractory clay. The type locality has been designated as Dempster's clay pit northwest of Eastend, Saskatchewan.


when you actually use your hand