International Collaboration: Unveiling the World's Geological Treasures for the Deep-time Digital Earth


From June 10 to August 29, 2023, owing to the joint efforts from the Deep-time Digital Earth (DDE) International Big Science Program and Chengdu University of Technology, Dr. Hanting Zhong and Dr. Xia Wang from the Digital Outcrop Group, along with three postgraduate students have successfully concluded the tasks of multivariate information collection on classic geological outcrops and academic exchanges in nine countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Croatia, Spain, etc., yielding enthusiastic responses from the international community. (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Route map for digital acquisition of geological outcrops in Europe


The information collection is crucial to DDE's global digital geologic outcrop construction program. This program covers 24 classic geological outcrops in nine countries throughout Europe (as listed in Table 1). These outcrops include UNESCO World Geoparks, The First 100 Geological Heritage Sites recognized by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), and the routes taken during the International Association of Sedimentologists (IAS) conferences. Presently, 16 outcrop models are accessible on the DDE-Outcrop3D platform (as displayed in Fig. 2), with 8 additional models currently under construction.

Fig. 2 3D model of the Bletterbach Geopark


Table 1 Summary of digital acquisitions of geological outcrops in Europe





Lower Jurassic section of Velebit Mt.

Velebit Mt., Gospic, Croatia


Carnian Pluvial Event Section of Dolomites Mt.

Dolomites Mt., Veneto, Italy


P-T Boundary Section of Dolomites

Dolomites Mt., Veneto, Italy


Landslide of Vajont Dam

Longarone, Veneto, Italy


Landslide Surface of Vajont Dam

Longarone, Veneto, Italy


Vajont Dam

Longarone, Veneto, Italy


Bletterbach Geopark

Bletterbach Geopark, Trento, Italy


Siusi Section

Siusi Section, Trento, Italy


Cretaceous to Paleogene Stratigraphic Section

Gubbio, Umbria, Italy


Sulphur Fountain

Anzio, Lazio, Italy


Coastal Sedimentary Section

Anzio, Lazio, Italy


Rockglaciers of the Engadine

Silvaplana-Surlej, Engadine, Switzerland


Lacustrine Carbonates in Nördlingen

Nördlingen, Bavaria, Germany


Bio-Reef Outcrop

Nördlingen, Bavaria, Germany


Altmühltal Nature Park

Solnhofen, Bavaria, Germany


GSSP for the Silurian-Devonian Boundary

Klonk Hill, Suchomasty, Czech Republic


Devonian Tetrapod Trackways

Holy Cross Mountains, Kielce, Poland


White Cliffs of Jasmund National Park

Rügen, Sassnitz, Germany.


The Ammonite Slab of Digne Les Bains

Digne Les Bains, Haute Provence, France


Section of Digne Les Bains

Digne Les Bains, Haute Provence, France


Flysch Section of Paleogene

Zumaia, Basque Coast

Geopark, Spain


Cretaceous-Paleogene Stratigraphic Section

Zumaia, Basque Coast

Geopark, Spain


Late Jurassic Stratigraphic Section

Lourinhã, Lisboa, Portugal


Carboniferous-Triassic Unconformity in Telheiro

Bispo, Algarve, Portugal


The Digital Outcrop Collection Team's fieldwork mainly consists of 3D modeling photography of outcrops, panoramic photography, and video recording of subject experts' explanations. In total, more than 45,000 3D modeling photographs taken by drone, 4,200 panoramic photographs, and 700 videos of international experts' explanations and outcrop displays were collected, reaching an aggregate quantity of 1,600 GB. Being highly visible, the collected information will drastically enrich the database of geologic outcrops in DDE and other databases designed for education, scientific research, and popularization purposes, as well as providing precious resources to geoscientific research (Fig. 3 and Fig. 4).

Fig. 3 White Cliffs of Jasmund National Park

Fig. 4 Cretaceous-Paleogene Stratigraphic Section

A group of 27 experts and young volunteers from 15 prestigious universities and research institutes, such as the University of Hamburg, the University of Potsdam, the University of Perugia, and the University of Modena-Reggio Emilia, took part in this project. The team was joined by internationally renowned figures in the academic field, including Prof. Maria Mutti (President of AAPG Europe, former President of SEPM, former Vice-President of IAS) and Prof. Mauro Soldati (President of AIGeo, former President of IAG), all of whom have praised the work and expressed interest in future collaborations (refer to Figures 5, 6 and 7).

Fig. 5 Landslide of Vajont Dam digitized collection

Fig. 6 Geological Expedition to the Dolomites

Fig. 7 Discussion of digital outcrops at the University of Potsdam


From July to August, the technical team of the digital geological outcrop platform, DDE-Outcrop3D, made significant improvements in the platform. The team completed the top-level reconstruction of the outcrop models, allowing 112 models to load within 3-4 seconds. In addition, they also reconstructed the model retrieval page (as shown in Figure 8), connected platform users to the DDE Unified User System, and updated the logging system to version 2.0.

Fig. 8 Platform search page



In the future, the digital outcrop team will continue to promote international cooperation in the construction of digital geological outcrops with the support of the DDE Geology Education Group and Chengdu University of Technology. It is planned to travel to the African country of Namibia, on September 23, 2023, to participate in the 29th Colloquium of African Geology, and to carry out the digital collection tasks of Namibia's classic geological outcrops after the conference.