John C. Butler
Department of Geosciences
University of Houston
Houston, TX 77204
The Geological Society Atlantic's Earth Science Site of the Week has one of the longest running "Web Awards". The first award was published in late 1994 and is updated approximately once a week. This is a good site to "bookmark" and periodically review. The April 12, 1996 featured site was:
An Environmental Investigation in
The "Kola Ecogeochemistry" Project is concerned with:
Patrice de Caritat, Geological Survey of Norway is this months guest columnist.
The Kola Ecogeochemistry project is an international co-operation between three Geoscience institutions in Russia, Finland and Norway, and was initiated in 1992 with a planned duration of five years. The focus of the project is on environmental geochemistry in an area of arctic Europe, the central Barents region, where some of the world's worst industrial point-source polluters adjoin untouched nature. The project consists of three phases: a pilot project (1992-1993), a catchment study (1994-1995), and a regional geochemical mapping phase (1995-1996). The approach is to combine multi-media sampling (rain, snow, moss, stream water, topsoil, Quaternary deposits, bedrock, etc.) with state-of-the-art multi-element chemical analysis (ICP-AES, ICP-MS, IC, etc.) to produce regional maps and detailed information on element sources, sinks and pathways within the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
During 1995, we began to realise that it would be useful for a project as large and applied as the Kola Ecogeochemistry project to be present on the WWW. The project's recent results had been presented at several (international) conferences that year, and we often were asked for more information on the subject. In October, preliminary discussions with computer scientists at the Geological Survey of Norway were initiated to get some idea of what was involved in setting up a web homepage (the author was a complete novice in these matters!). After preparing a rough draft of the structure and content of a potential Kola web site, and discussing it among a small group of interested colleagues at the Survey, a mock design was prepared using a word-processor, photocopies of pictures, sketches, and so on. Many of the design concepts produced at this stage were to be adopted in the actual web pages. This mock set-up, copied onto overheads, was presented at a Kola Ecogeochemistry meeting in November. The international partners immediately perceived the power and timeliness of such proposal. The decision was taken there and then to go ahead and prepare a full fledged web site, pending approval by the project's steering committee, which was granted without problems. The need was felt by all to reach wider audiences than what could be done through the conventional channels of scientific reporting and publication. After all, the problem dealt with here was relevant to many people's daily lives, to politicians and decision-makers in Europe and beyond, and others, in addition to the professional scientists. The Internet technology and accessibility had just ripened enough to make this the ideal channel for the dissemination of information about the project.
The following month was hectic with polishing up the text content, fine-tuning the graphic design and learning the HTML language on the spot. Photographic slides of fieldwork activities were gathered from the project participants, and were transferred to a CD-ROM by an external company. Several additional photographic prints were scanned in greytone. The colour bitmap files and black and white TIFF files were translated to the GIF format and resized. The laborious work of transferring the ideas captured in the mock set-up into an actual web site was in full swing. The philosophy behind the Kola site set-up was to take advantage of many (but by no means all) of the WWW's layout facilities to create informative and visually pleasant and distinctive pages: we made abundant use of graphics, backgrounds and hyperlinks. To reduce downloading times over today's busy networks, many inline colour illustrations were reduced to less than 50 Kbytes, with a link to an enlarged version for the interested cyberuser. After 15-20 man-days of total preparation investment, the 'finished' web site (http://www.ngu.no/Kola) was launched on December 21, 1995. This timing was bound to result in a quiet start, and it took a few weeks to alert web search engines of the existence of our new site.
The interest in the Kola Ecogeochemistry project WWW site grew rapidly. The homepage counter registered 500 visits by February 1996, 1000 by April and 1500 by June. To date, Kola pages have been hit by 2109 different users. Although this may seem quite modest compared to some of the web's big cannons, we felt it was pretty remarkable for a scientifically based site set up by people with no former training in network communication or Internet design. Compared to any of the other publications that have or will come out of the Kola Ecogeochemistry project, this is undoubtedly our most popular item, and we treat it as our window to the world. The Kola Ecogeochemistry project WWW site received in April 1996 "The Earth Science Site of the Week" award for its efforts in the fields of Environmental Geology, Geochemistry and Quaternary Geology. The Kola committee is very pleased with the level of audience achieved by this method, and considers the upfront investment well worth it. Far from resting on our relatively green laurels, we regularly update the site in order to reflect the progress achieved on the scientific side.
Figure 1. Diagram showing the number of new visitors who have downloaded Kola web pages from 21 December 1995 to 20 August 1996.
Since January 27, 1997
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Submitted on September 1, 1996