Author Archives: Brandon Fitzwater

A Virtual Marine Sediment Core Collection

Caroline Robinson, Geology Department, James Madison University; John Firth, Curator, Integrated Ocean Discovery Program, Gulf Coast Repository, Texas A&M University; and Kristen St. John, Geology Department, James Madison University,

Overview: A primary objective of marine science classes is to learn the location and formation of ocean sediment types. Nearly 50 years of scientific ocean drilling has produced a tremendous scientific collection of cores from the global ocean floor. In addition, there are large online databases and related publications that have a wealth of associated information to supplement physical cores. Here we created a virtual marine core collection that provides exemplars of the primary ocean sediment lithologies, along with links to expedition reports and datasets, and tips for making requests for real core samples to use in education.

This Google Earth Virtual Marine Sediment Core Collection shows core locations and how their location influenced their sediment type. Each exemplar core has information on the sediment type, with links to images, core descriptions, maps, geologic interpretations, and other data. The virtual core collection provides comprehensive, efficient access to information condensed down to essentials for learning. An interactive animation shows core photos emerging from the ocean floor, illustrating where the sediment cores originate. This is an educational resource for those wanting interactive teaching options for basic Earth and ocean science. It can be used alone or with another Google Earth resource on marine sediments: a virtual map of >2500 marine sites showing the distribution of primary seafloor sediment types (

Audience: Intended for use in undergraduate Oceanography, Marine Geology, Paleoceanography, and Sedimentology courses.

Download the Virtual Core Collection: Virtual_Core_Collection_06-08-19.kmz

Request Marine Sediment Samples: While this virtual core collection makes learning about ocean sediment more accessible, educators can also request real ocean sediment samples for use in teaching. This is done using the same system that scientists use to request research samples: Click on the green Sample and Data Request button. This will take you to a new link where you can set up an account and submit your request. Requests can be made for samples (e.g, 10 to 20 cc) that represent each of the primary sediment types in the ocean from these (or similar) cores. In addition, representative smear slides (i.e., like thin sections but of unconsolidated sediment instead of rock) can be requested. For tips on making sample requests for education purposes contact Kristen St. John ( See also:

References and Acknowledgements: Data used in this educational resource comes from the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP,, the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP, The IODP Google Earth Bore Hole Map was used as a starting point for data access, and a model for organizing access to scientific reports and data. The resource was modeled after a new virtual marine sediment map of the ocean floor that was developed as part of the GEODE project. Information on core sites and lithologies were derived from the scientific reports associated with each research expedition. A cross section generator program was adapted to use to elevate photos of cores rising up from the seafloor. Development of this educational resource was supported by the NSF-funded GEODE project.



Virtual Exploration

Two of GEODE’s GigaPan team (Ron Schott and Callan Bentley) contributed GigaPan imagery to the online “virtual exploration” map for PBS NOVA’s new “Making North America” series:
This map allows users to explore key sites in the geology of the North American continent through video and GigaPans.
The three-part series is hosted by Kirk Johnson, the Sant Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, DC.



Thanks to the NASA New Horizons mission, we now have spectacular new surface imagery of Pluto. Click here to download a KMZ file that you can open in Google Earth. It contains the highest resolution surface imagery of Pluto from the New Horizons Flyby in 2015. Note that it is a ground overlay on Google Earth so the Google Earth ruler, terrain, atmosphere, water, sunlight, etc., should be turned off.