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• What is the Critical Zone?
• Smartphone and Tablet Apps for Accessing Information About a Field Site
• Smartphone and Tablet Apps for Capturing Aspects of a Field Site
• Desktop software
• Web-based tools
The Critical Zone is a living, breathing, constantly evolving boundary layer where rock, soil, water, air, and living organisms interact. These complex interactions regulate the natural habitat and determine the availability of life-sustaining resources, including our food production and water quality.
Interdisciplinary teams of scientists work at Critical Zone Observatories around the country to better understand the Critical Zone and the services it provides.
The tools listed on this page are part of a growing set of resources for learning and and teaching about the Critical Zone.
While the pace of change makes listing technological tools a challenging and always incomplete task, we've found some tools especially useful. Descriptions, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the linked web page. Some tools have multiple competitors, and new tools emerge all the time. We expect that there are already superior tools to some of those we list here; and that new and better tools will emerge. We welcome your suggestions for additions to these lists.
Last Updated: February, 2019
Flyover Country mobile app for geoscience - "Learn about the world along the path of your flight, hike, or road trip with GPS tracking. Offline geologic maps and interactive points of interest reveal the locations of fossils and georeferenced Wikipedia articles visible from your airplane window seat, vehicle, or hiking trail vista." Free.
ROCKD "Learn, explore, and document your geologic world. Curious what you're standing on? The Dashboard distills key facts about your location into a single, easy-to-read interface. Record your observations. Rockd allows you to easily record your geological observations and uses your location to provide spatially informed suggestions for nearby geologic units, time intervals, and fossils." Free.
EarthViewer "What did Earth look like 250 million years ago? Or 1 billion years ago? Or 4.5 billion years ago? What was the climate like in the deep past? Find the answers with EarthViewer, an interactive tool for exploring the science of Earth's deep history." Free.
Your favorite GPS app. There are many GPS apps available with different feature sets. Some are free.
Your favorite field guides. There are many field guide apps available for rocks, fossils, flora, and fauna. Some are free.
A Critical Zone Tree at the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory (CZO). This is one of the most heavily instrumented trees in the world. Note that this image is an interactive Street View panorama. Use your mouse and the controls in the upper right corner of the image to view fullscreen, and to pan and zoom. Explore CZOs, including the Southern Sierra CZO, in Virtual Fieldwork Experiences here.
Google Street View An interactive Google Street View Panorama, captured on an iPhone, is shown above. For iPhone and Android. Free.
Trnio "We are a mobile software company that converts your photos into 3D models. We let you create, share and discover 3-D maps in minutes." Currently this is only available for iPhone and iPad. Free.
phyphox physical phone experiments allows you to access the sensors in your phone. Sensors vary by phone, but typically include accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope, light sensor, pressure, proximity sensor, microphone, GPS/Location. For iPhone and Android. Free.
Skitch allows for simple annotation of photos and maps in the field. It is also helpful for field instruction. Rather than pointing to some feature on a distant cliff face, for example, the instructor can snap a picture, label it in Skitch and show the phone to students to guide their eyes. For iPhone and Android. Free.
iNaturalist "iNaturalist is an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature." For iPhone and Android. Free.
A clinometer/level app. There are several apps for helping to measure the strike and dip of rocks.
Your phone or tablet's compass. It's good to know what direction you are looking or moving.
Your phone or tablet's camera/photo app. Using your device's camera for at least some of your photos is a good idea as it embeds location data in the photo. This feature can be turned off if desired.
A video editing app. There are many apps that allow you to edit on your phone. The choices change rapidly.
Other specialty photo/camera apps. There are many apps that help with photo management, uploading, and processing, as well as those that allow for greater control of your camera's features.
The hardware listed here also has associated software.