USGS logo

Digital Mapping Techniques '98 -- Workshop Proceedings
U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 98-487

History of Geologic Mapping at the Kentucky Geological Survey

By Warren H. Anderson

Room 228 Mining and Minerals Resources Building
Kentucky Geological Survey
Lexington, KY 40506
Telephone: (606) 257-5500
Fax: (606) 257-1147


The Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS) has a long history of and strong commitment to geologic mapping. A cooperative program with the U.S. Geological Survey from 1960 to 1978 resulted in the entire state of Kentucky being completely mapped geologically at a scale of 1:24,000. Currently, KGS is participating in the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program's STATEMAP component, which will help us convert all published maps into digital format; and will provide Kentucky with complete digital geologic quadrangle map coverage by the year 2005.

For a mapping program to succeed, state government officials must be persuaded to provide sustained funding and the state geological survey must commit personnel and resources to complete such a large task. One of the most important issues is to educate the legislature and politicians about the importance of geologic mapping to society. Also important is the support of leaders in the mining, mineral, petroleum, industrial, environmental, and academic communities, who understand the need for geologic mapping and can convince their legislators. The industry and academic-community involvement creates a broad base of support for legislative funding. Earth scientists must continue to be more proactive, educating the public and politicians about the value of geologic mapping.


Kentucky was completely mapped by the Kentucky Geological Survey-U.S. Geological Survey cooperative mapping program from 1960-1978. That geologic quadrangle mapping program can trace its roots to the 1940's, when the topographic mapping program began and the Cub Run quadrangle in western Kentucky was mapped geologically. Wallace Hagan mapped the Cub Run quadrangle in 1942 as part of his Ph.D. dissertation. In 1960 Dr. Hagan became the tenth director of the Kentucky Geological Survey and began the program to geologically map the entire state of Kentucky. Donald Haney, who became the eleventh director of the Kentucky Geological Survey in 1978, began a project in conjunction with the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program's STATEMAP component to convert all published geologic quadrangle maps into digital format.

In 1960, Dr. Hagan was able to demonstrate the benefits of geologic mapping and to educate the leaders, government officials, and politicians about the significance of these maps. The State legislature agreed to match federal funding, and as a result 707 quadrangles were mapped during this program at a total cost of $20 million. Since the last geologic map was published in 1978, the demand for them has remained great, and more than 150,000 of the maps have been sold. Some of the maps are now out of print. The benefit for the State has been tremendous, and a benefit-cost ratio has been conservatively estimated at 100:1, based on the discovery of new oil and gas deposits, coal beds, mineral deposits, and cost savings for strategic planning in highway and engineering construction. This does not even include the secondary benefits derived from a growing economy spawned by new discoveries and associated development.

Dr. Haney continued the commitment to geologic mapping and its digital component by participating on state and federal government committees, councils and boards to promote geologic mapping. This proactive approach assisted in negotiating with various segments of government. For example, Dr. Haney was active on the Governor's Geographic Information Advisory Council to lobby for the establishment of an Office of Geographic Information Systems for the state. This high level office is responsible for coordinating statewide GIS activities, creating statewide maps and dispensing digital mapping information. This office is critical for unifying diverse GIS products throughout the state. Dr. Haney was also working with various agencies such as the Kentucky River Authority, Illinois Basin Consortium, seismic networks and other geologic or environmental programs to create cooperative programs that benefit from geologic mapping.

Dr. Haney also began aligning KGS research priorities to meet the need for digital information by initiating well record data scanning programs, other map scanning programs, establishing a relational data base of geologic information and participation in the Statemap component of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program.

In March, 1998, in conjunction with the Association of American State Geologists (AASG), Kentucky participated in a Congressional reception in Washington, D.C., whose purpose was to educate Congress and staff members about geologic mapping, as well as to emphasize the importance of geologic mapping for the nation, so that full funding for the National Geologic Mapping Act of 1992 would be appropriated. This type of exposure is essential to maintain a high profile for mapping programs such as STATEMAP.

The success of a geologic mapping program requires the commitment of the state geological survey, politicians, educational institutions, mining, mineral, petroleum, and environmental communities. It is the responsibility of all earth science professionals to be more proactive in governmental affairs and to be more politically involved with their legislatures. The state surveys, particularly their directors and assistant directors, must have a priority and plan of action for mapping the state, must be able to explain the benefits and costs of geologic mapping, and must lobby their legislatures for funding. In Kentucky, both Dr. Hagan and Dr. Haney worked with and educated upper-level administration officials at the University of Kentucky, political leaders, and the State legislature about the importance of geologic mapping. These efforts have led Kentucky to be the best geologically mapped area in the world, and provided an economic stimulus for future development.


Digital Geologic Mapping

Digital geologic mapping continues to be a high priority for the KGS. Many of the Survey's fiscal, equipment, and personnel resources are committed to completing this project by the year 2005.

The Kentucky Geological Survey has established a successful method of converting published maps into digital format and currently has completed 60 digital 7.5-minute geologic quadrangle maps. This conversion procedure collects accurate vector data, which is linked to the KGS's main database. KGS currently uses a semi-automated vectorizing system to convert published geologic maps into digital format. This process is a multi-step procedure, and completing a map usually takes 3 to 6 weeks, depending on how complex the quadrangle is and the operator's speed. Details of this procedure were presented at the Digital Mapping Techniques Conference in Lawrence, Kans., in June 1997 (Anderson and others, 1997).

Mapping and Analysis

A new geologic mapping database is being created to allow for search and retrieval of information about the geologic maps. An important part of the database is the attribute data associated with the digital information. These attributes are geologic contacts, faults, structure contours, and fossil locations. These attributes give definition, values, and descriptions of the digital data as well as location and direction information. In addition, quantitative attributes about these features can be easily determined, such as volumetrics, resource, and reserve estimates. Such analyses are of significant value for site-specific assessments for coal, mineral, and petroleum resources. Tonnage and cost estimates for transportation highway engineering projects and construction planning and development can also be easily calculated in a geographic information system (GIS).

Additional information from KGS main databases such as locations of oil, gas, or water wells, coal mines, or other mineral resources can be added to the mapping database to create custom geologic maps. Some of the main databases files contain previously scanned images, records, documents, tables, and figures, which can be attached to the digital map files to create a powerful GIS for analysis and manipulation of geologic data for a particular quadrangle.

Data Capture Techniques

From 1995 to 1998, KGS examined several different types of software that will make possible full automation of its digital mapping program. Full automatic vectorization takes only seconds or minutes to complete, but extensive postprocessing time, clean up, and attribution may take as much as 8 weeks. Geologic maps are usually very complex and highly detailed, with text, symbols, branching or coalescing lines that may be dashed, and fault lines that may be depicted with a different line weight. These features create the most problems for any automatic vectorization package.

Most of these software packages require custom routines or other methods of postprocessing data which requires more time for completion than for the traditional semi-automated method of digitizing. Most of these packages will vectorize everything including text or symbols, which results in the text being jagged or angular and not of publication quality. Some conversion packages have an optical character recognition (OCR) function, which recognizes text and numerical values. This requires adjusting parameter settings and experimenting to achieve the desired results. Some packages also have a pattern or symbol recognition function, which only partially worked; some symbols were not vectorized. Some packages have an attribution function that recognizes line weight or thickness. They can color code certain attributes to distinguish each layer. This software was unable to resolve fine differences between line weights, which became apparent when some of the same contour lines were interpreted as two distinct vector layers.

Some of these packages would work well with simple geologic maps or cross sections, but would not be appropriate with complex maps, which would require extensive postprocessing and clean up to produce a publication-quality map. Currently, our semiautomatic vectorization procedure is still the most accurate and efficient.


The KGS digital geologic mapping program is staffed by one full-time professional to manage the digital program, one GIS professional, one geologist professional, one stratigrapher, several professionals, technicians and students to vectorize quadrangles. KGS provides office space, computer facilities, and clerical support.

Recently, the 1998 Kentucky legislature approved a significant increase in temporary funding for digital geological mapping in its biennual budget. We are preparing to hire new geologists, including personnel with GIS and database experience, making the total professional personnel for the KGS digital mapping project about 15 to 20.


Digital information from the KGS consists of geologic map information in digital format and a database of geologic map information. This geologic map information database will be linked with the main KGS database containing information on coal, minerals, petroleum, and water. Secondary databases containing information on stratigraphy (stratigraphic tops), paleontology, structure, geophysics, geochemistry, and engineering will also be incorporated into a complex GIS, making them available for the user to manipulate and analyze these data sets. These information sets will be among the most comprehensive, detailed digital geologic data sets in the world, and will provide immense data for earth science computations. The database and digital products will provide three-dimensional or data-cube analysis and will be geo-referenced to contain details of map-element attributes. This will allow other digital products, such as the secondary databases and digital ortho-quarter quadrangles (DOQQ), digital elevation models (DEM), digital raster graphic (DRG) images, and satellite imagery to be overlain, registered, and plotted with the digital geology.


Anderson, W.H., Morris, L.G., and Sparks, T.N., 1997, Semi-automated data capture for vectorizing geologic quadrangle maps in Kentucky, in Soller, D.R., ed., Proceedings of a Workshop on Digital Mapping Techniques: Methods for Geologic Map Data Capture, Management and Publication: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 97-269, p. 9-13.

Home | Contents | Next

U.S.Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Maintained by Dave Soller
Last updated 10.06.98