Conduit Mobile App of the Month: Geologists on Ice

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When Mark Twain said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco, he obviously had never been to Antarctica. During these winter months, Conduit Mobile would like to salute Geologists on Ice.

Their official app, designed by Dr. John Cottle, assistant professor at U.C. Santa Barbara's Department of Earth Science & Earth Research Institute, documents his team’s adventures as they explore the frozen abyss of the Antarctic summer. It's available to download now for iPhone. 

We sat down with Dr. Cottle to learn more about his experience with Conduit Mobile in one of the remotest places on earth.

 

Conduit Mobile: What is the goal of Geologists on Ice and can you briefly explain the story behind the project?
Dr. Cottle: Geologists on Ice is the outreach component of a National Science Foundation-funded research project in Antarctica. As part of the study, we are spending two Antarctic summers mapping and sampling granites and other basement rocks in the Transantarctic Mountains. 

I've had many people ask me what it's like in Antarctica and how we go about doing fieldwork. One way to answer people's questions and enable them to understand what we do is through our website, which we frequently update with an array of content — text, videos, photos, etc. — so people can follow us as we do science.

 

Aside from our website and blog, we’ve now created a mobile app to keep our followers informed even when they’re on the go. We constantly update our Geologists on Ice app and our other platforms directly from the field with a laptop connected to a satellite phone (used as a modem). It's a great tool that provides people with information as we go about our work, and also enables them to follow us along on our journey.

 

Conduit Mobile: Why did you decide to make an app and why did you use the Conduit Mobile platform?
Dr. Cottle: We already had a blog, website, Facebook page, YouTube channel, etc., and I wanted somewhere to put all of our content and information in one place — particularly for users of mobile devices. Naturally, an app seemed like the ideal solution.

While I understand a bit about website construction, I had no idea how to build a mobile app.  I searched around for a while, and liked the look and feel of the Conduit app maker and its step-by-step process seemed pretty simple. I also liked the fact that I could build the app for free, see how it went, and then upgrade if the app proved useful to people.

Overall, the app-creation process was fairly straightforward. There are great instructions, particularly for how to submit the app to the Apple App Store. We also found it easy to update our progress through blogging and having a feed on the app. We're still working out how to get updates directly to the app, but our current system suits our needs. There's been a lot of positive feedback from people following us through our app. In fact, we were surprised by the number of people who decided to use the app, and how effective a tool it is to collate information from different sources into one platform.

Conduit Mobile: How was the experience in Antarctica overall? Did you achieve your goals, and did the app help along the way?
Dr. Cottle: Three graduate students are still in Antarctica for another three weeks, but so far the trip has been successful overall. We have collected a lot of samples, and when the students return to UCSB they will start to analyze them and begin to address the questions we posed.

In terms of fulfilling my objective of building a public outreach tool that can be taken to a mobile platform, I think the app is a great way to spread a message about what it is that scientists do and how they do it — especially in a place like Antarctica, where it can be difficult to imagine what it's really like. Our website (www.antarctica360.net) also has a lot of information about our project that some people might find interesting.

Congratulations to Geologists on Ice for surviving Antarctic conditions, keeping up the good cheer, and showing us that engagement (of all kinds) can be found in the most unexpected of places.

You can download the Geologists on Ice app now from the Apple App Store.