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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, April 25, 2008

Survey Scientists Receive Grant to Develop Interactive Educational Tool

LAWRENCE--Students will be able to envision underground rock layers, energy resources, and water in ways they've never pictured them before, using the results of a new grant awarded to the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas.

Survey scientists Geoff Bohling and John Doveton received a $148,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to design an interactive, web-based educational tool that simulates subsurface geology and will help prepare students for jobs in the petroleum industry and other geologic fields.

"The closest real-world experience most students have now, in terms of practical application, is field trips, where they look at rock outcrops at the surface and extrapolate what's underground based on what they see," said Bohling. "But when they enter the work force, they'll be working with geophysical logs, which they don't get much experience with in a classroom setting."

Geophysical logs record properties of the subsurface rock layers encountered as a well is drilled. Using the KGS interactive program, students will develop problem-solving skills as they interpret well-log data and create a three-dimensional image of the subsurface.

The virtual exercise will simulate geologic characteristics typical of the U.S. mid-continent. Besides identifying rock layers, the user will be able to explore the distribution of fluids in the subsurface, such as oil and water.

"Our goal is to reproduce the characteristics of a real-world petroleum reservoir so students can gain experience in subsurface characterization," said Bohling. "This application will be unique in the amount of realism it provides."

The interactive program will be geared toward upper-level undergraduate college students but will be accessible to anyone through the KGS website. It will be similar to the already-available interactive exercise called the Oz Machine developed by the researchers to interpret data from well logs (

The NSF-grant project will be expanded beyond the Oz Machine to allow virtual exploration of an extensive underground environment with multiple well sites and a range of geologic characteristics.

National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that is a major source of federal support for research in science and related fields. NSF funds approximately 11,000 of the 40,000 grant proposals it receives each year.

Story by Cathy Evans, (785) 864-2195.
For more information, contact Geoff Bohling, (785) 864-2093

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach