There’s an app for that: must have geology apps

Back in the day, geology courses included drawing lessons in order to accurately document outcrops and specimens. Then came the camera and whilst our drawing skills may have diminished, geology utilised and progressed with the technology. Geology traditionally being a bastion of hand lenses and rock hammers, is now moving into the 21st century and with that comes geology apps. Here are my favourites, all of which can be downloaded from the Apple app store.

iGeology by the BGS

Free, for iPhone and iPad

iGeology app
iGeology in action. A screenshot of the West Country geology

A top favourite is the BGS iGeology app which is an excellent resource for UK geology and is probably on the iPhone of every 2nd year currently on their mapping project…

Open up the app and the GPS finds your location. You can then discover the geology you’re standing on, both bedrock and superficial. Search with place names or postcodes, and if it takes your fancy, you can even delve and unearth details of the nearest boreholes.

Rating 10/10


Earth As Art by NASA

Free, for iPad

Earth as Art, NASA

I love this app. It’s not strictly a scientific app as such but one to exhibit the Earth’s aesthetic beauty from above. You can pinch and zoom your way through spectacular high-resolution images of the Earth’s surface that are vivid in colour and texture. Each image has a handy description of the location and landscape you’re looking at (often including the geological background), as well as information such as the satellite that took the image and the acquisition date. The app includes images from a range of satellites, including Terra, Landsat 5, Landsat 7, EO-1, and Aqua.

The app also holds time-lapse images of how the changing landscape over many years. My favourite ones are the Mount St. Helens 1980 volcanic eruption images and the dramatic urbanization of Dubai.

You can treat the app like a book, scrolling through images arranged in geographic groups but you can also dip into any image you choose.

Rating 9/10

Lambert by Peter Appel

£1.99, for iPhone and iPad

Lambert stereonet
Plotting up your strikes and dips on a stereonet

This stereonet tool is pretty snazzy. Over the years it has been continually updated with increased functionality and has a user friendly help. Place your mobile on the rock and it’ll handily calculate the strike and dip, gps location, date, time and also, recently added, the Earth’s gravitational field. Take multiple measurements and you get a stereonet with poles to plane and great circles. The data can be viewed on a rose diagram and you can even export your data or email the stereonets.

Disclaimer: I would never recommend you ditch your compass clino but this is snappy tool to get a crude grasp of the geological structure. Plus, your compass clino is significantly more dust and scratch proof!

Rating 8/10

Google Earth by Google

Google Earth app – explore the world

This little app is a lite version of a geologist’s gem that is Google Earth. This is not just an app to idly pass the time, it’s a fieldwork saviour and one which I often used on fieldwork in the remote Kenyan Rift Valley.

Tip: when you have Wi-Fi, zoom into your field area to cache the high resolution imagery. When out in the field, hit the gps location, get your location and you have the imagery then and there!

Rating 10/10



EarthViewer by Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Free, for iPad

Earthviewer app
Screenshot of Earthviewer app

This is a fantastic app to gawp at the wonders and beauty of Earth. You can navigate the global in the familiar Google Earth fashion and has the geological timescale on panel to the left. Explore how the continents danced across the Earth’s surface from the beginning of time to the modern day. You can navigate to your desired epoch or set video running. You can overlay major events in the Earth’s history such as impacts and mass extinctions to find out when and where they occurred. Major cities are marked on the map too so you can watch London shift its way from the south pole in the Cambrian, to the equator in the Carboniferous up to near where we are now from the Cretaceous.

Oodles more information is available such as running charts of temperature, oxygen and carbon dioxide during the Phanerozoic. Explore explore.

Rating 8/10

*Update 07/05/2014 – why not also check out our review of a new app by the BGS, myVolcano

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11 comments on “There’s an app for that: must have geology apps

  1. What? No seismometer apps? For shame! I use ‘Seismometer’ – vital for any school class demonstrations.

    Also, is there no InSAR app? If not, you should make one…

  2. I have used MotionX GPS because it lets me place waypoints on high resolution aerials and then load them later into mapping software. There may be better apps than this but it is the functionality that makes it a contender.

  3. I would like to suggest a couple more apps that I think are essential for anyone using an Apple device in the field.
    -PDF Maps by Avenza. Allows Geo-referenced PDF Maps to by used. You can see your location on the map and mark features as points and lines.
    -GPS Kit. An excellent GPS app. The best feature is the ability to cache Google Earth imagery for off-line use. Much better than working with the Google Earth app.

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