iNat for Geology?

Hi all,
Recently someone posted a link to what is basically iNat for rock hounds or geologists. I can’t seem to find the post - can someone point me there? It’s a secondary interest of mine and in a couple of weeks I’ll be in prime geology territory (Anza Borrego desert - it’s kinda in your face lol).
Thanks much!

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They might have been talking about RockD. I downloaded it awhile ago but didn’t get the point of it, although I also wasn’t very interested in geology to begin with.

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Thanks! I’ll give it a go.

I recently posted a link to myFOSSIL, which is like iNat for fossils. Could you have been referring to that?

Tony Iwane shared about RockD (like @zookanthos said) here:

Is this what you might be thinking of, @KitKestrel?

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I looked at the RockD website for a little bit after that post, and I also couldn’t figure it out. I found a map with all the different formations overlaid over Google Maps, which was neat, but that doesn’t seem quite like iNaturalist. I couldn’t find a help page and I didn’t download the app so I probably missed everything somehow.

@mira_l_b yes, that’s the reference I remember, but like @upupa-epops I don’t get the website. I think it may just be an app - will check it out tomorrow. Thanks :-)

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RockD appears to be an app. From what I see, it’s not really for amateur rockhounds. It’s probably not worth it unless you a have a little experience or coursework in recognizing rock types, geologic mapping, or are a bona fide geologist. From my own experience, I don’t readily see how an iNat for geology would work unless on a very small scale like fossil or mineral locations. Those locations are best kept a secret or on a need-to-know basis among a select few.

@KitKestrel The geology at Anza Borrego is spectacular. I suggest a hike up Rockhouse Canyon. To prepare yourself for understanding the geology, there are probably several books you could order. I don’t know of any off-hand but I bet you could find them at the visitor center. I haven’t been to AB in over 30 years. Also, you can zoom in on geologic maps of the area (or any area of the US) via this USGS website:


Most geology resources tend to be more textual and maps than anything else. There’s a ton of data (and various types of data) but not a lot of attempt to be user-friendly, especially toward rock hounds. I know certain departments like mine regrettably have zero interest in that. There’s USGS data, though, and a few apps that seem to still technically be during beta testing (several more paleo than pure geo).

RockD was created by UW Macrostrat and is toted as more of a field book (cursory looking seems to be more of a stratigraphy focus). It does look like it has some useful tools even for teaching an undergraduate field camp with its various maps. It definitely isn’t very comparable to iNaturalist, though, and there are typically geological maps you can find online for free anyway (USGS link by BrownsBay). Their other app used for fossils, Mancos, mainly connects to existing collection data as opposed to user-submitted data. They do have a taxonomic framework of sorts, provided by PaleoDB / Fossilworks (regrettably, that also means their taxonomy is frequently going to be more incomplete than iNat’s). It’s probably still much more up-to-date than Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology and many times more up-to-date than the university collections I’ve curated. In fact, Fossilworks was one of the resources I introduced my students to in paleo lab in addition to WoRMS.

There’s at least one app around that runs an ID algorithm for rocks / minerals. We mentioned it a time or two in passing in some of my geo courses, but it really wasn’t taken too seriously then (and I forget the name of that particular app). I’d be interested in looking back at those to see if they’ve been expanded, but it was insanely basic back then.

I wasn’t at all aware of myFOSSIL (assoated with University of Florida), and it doesn’t seem to have much current activity. Looking into it, they do begin with an 18-question form / survey as part of registration, and the general feel that I get is that they’ve mainly been working to network existing paleo clubs / societies. As far as I can tell, all ID and related info are supplied by the uploader, so ID discussion seems to be done mainly on their forum. There also seems to be no work on an ID algorithm, and I’m absolutely cringing at some rather incorrect taxonomic practices. Given some of the extent of user-end data entry, I also get a bit concerned over the potential use of obsolete nomenclature (there are still a few names floating around some paleo circles that have been invalid for 60-70 years). I think they had a cool idea, but it hasn’t really been fleshed out.

I’m aware of some stuff from University of Kansas for fossils (they’ve contributed to Digital Atlas of Ancient Life, though it’s still an unfinished work). I’m definitely trying to connect with them on several matters, hopefully including some more technologically-savvy options for doing paleo. Probably one of the major issues with these types of endeavors (not unfamiliar to iNaturalist) is the importance of building and maintaining a good taxonomic outline with record of synonymy. They definitely have better resources than some universities since they publish the Treatise, so I’m definitely excited to see where it leads even if it’s still in the early phases.


this may be too oblique but for those who want to nerd out on both geology and ecology… many plant species have affinities to different geologic formations… it could be really fun for an ecology nerd to observe various plants and use a field to fill out the geologic formation for each (that also lets you map the geology obliquely. I do this for natural communities and vegetation mapping)


Thank you all for your informative and considered posts. Fossils are good! As is the botany/geology intersect. I’m going with my mum, whose father was a mine geologist/prospector for much of the early to mid 1900s in the Kenya/Zimbabwe/Tanzania region, and one method of prospecting is of course to look for those plant/mineral associations. while we’re neither pros nor even real rock hounds, she has remained interested, even taking a couple of geology courses after retirement and volunteering at the Rutgers Geology Museum.

I am also fascinated, starting from the gem and geode angle while living in Brazil and expanding. My latest foray was to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, and between photographing flowers hunted for agates (unsuccessfully, I later learned!). I find yhe stratigraphy in the southwest particularly interesting, trying to follow the folds, identify the intrusions, and figure out how on earth (as it were!) the splotches (tech term) of color came to be. I know they are mineral deposits, but trying to visualize how they could have come together like that.

And fossils r an added bonus. Last year we were out around Mojave, and tried to get to one of the trilobite deposits, but the roads were washed out on one side and out pretend-4WD-SUV couldn’t handle the gullies on the other.

Anyway, so rank amateurs but not totally clueless lol! So thanks again for the tips and insights. Hopefully in a few wks I’ll have both botany & relevant geology pix to post :-) and sorry for posting a tome, but I am, as u will have noticed, verbose lol.


An interesting example of this, which you’re probably familiar with, occurred in Vermont back in the 1980s. Peter Zika (before he moved to the Northwest) and Kevin Dann did a long trek through Vermont along the zone of ultramafic rocks and compiled some interesting new records of plants on serpentine, dunite, etc. It’s discussed to some extent in Dann’s eccentric, fascinating book “Traces on the Appalachians”.


No, I haven’t heard of it. Thanks for the tip!

The RockD app does allow “check-ins” where you take photographs of a formation and annotate with various information, fossils present (you can add fossil taxa names), etc. It then maps your checkin where you can access it later as well as mapping it on a geological timeline, so that you can try to check-in at formations across geologic time (which is pretty cool).

I personally find it more/most useful as a mobile geologic map (being obsessed with geology and geological maps), especially if you’re looking for organisms that are tied to a particular substrate. It’s also a good source for finding primary literature as they have a reference list for formations/features that are mapped in the app.


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