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Find Your Science at GSA
11 October 2010
GSA Release No. 10-53
Christa Stratton
Director of Education, Communication, & Outreach
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Geological Society of America Salutes Creators of Transformative Technology

2010 GSA Annual Meeting & Exposition

Boulder, CO, USA – Geological Society of America (GSA) Past President Jean Bahr will award GSA's prestigious President's Medal for 2010 to the founders of Keyhole, Inc., developers of Earth Viewer, which evolved into Google Earth. Bahr will present the award at the GSA Annual Meeting Presidential Address & Awards Ceremony on Saturday, 30 October, 7–9 p.m., at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

Keyhole Inc. founders include John Hanke, Chikai Ohazama, Mark Aubin, Phil Keslin, and Avi Bar-Zeev. Advisory founders include Brian McClendon, Michael Jones, Chris Tanner, and Remi Arnaud. Mark Aubin will be accepting the medal on behalf of the group.

What began in 1999 as two guys in a garage developing a demo for a gaming start-up quickly became something that literally opened up the world for a newly connected generation of Internet users. Keyhole, Inc., formed as a spin-off from the original gaming venture, developed Earth Viewer with the goal of making satellite and aerial imagery accessible over the Internet for education and entertainment. The product was released in 2005 as Google Earth.

Their 3-D virtual globe has emerged over the last decade "as a powerful and easy-to-use tool for viewing, tracking, and analyzing planetary (and lunar) features, processes, and events," according to conveners of an upcoming GSA Penrose Conference on Google Earth's collaborative developments in geoscience education and research (to be held at Google headquarters in January 2011).

"Today, with over 700 million unique activations, Google Earth is being used in amazing ways," says Aubin. "The Surui tribe in the Brazilian Amazon use it to help in monitoring their territory for illegal logging. High school students in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city in the USA, use it to visualize whale shark movements. National Geographic explorer Sylvia Earle uses it to advocate for the preservation of our oceans. The list goes on and on."

Geoscientists use Google Earth to plan field expeditions, post photos and field observations, and create virtual field trips for classes, colleagues, and the public.

"Geologic and topographic maps downloaded to Google Earth are easily accessible from mobile devices and, coupled with global positioning systems (GPS), Google Earth layers allow people to keep track not only of their location, but also of what lies beneath. Displays of recent earthquakes, locations of volcanoes, hydrologic features, and historical imagery, facilitate scientific monitoring and public appreciation of the dynamic planet," Bahr notes in citing the group for this award.

"New applications for sharing, accessing, and displaying remote sensing data are expanding exponentially, and availability of these data has facilitated emergency responses to natural disasters," says Bahr.

The silver President's Medal was established in 2007 to recognize individuals, groups, or entities whose impact has profoundly enhanced the geoscience profession, both through advancing the science and through promoting geoscience in the service of humankind. "The founders of Keyhole Inc. are most worthy recipients of this honor," says Bahr. "Google Earth has truly been a transformative technology for geoscience research, teaching, and outreach to the public."

"We are honored," says Aubin about being selected as a recipient of the 2010 GSA President's Medal. "It is humbling to realize that what we created has become the canvas for others much greater than us to build upon."

Information about the GSA President's Medal, including past recipients, is available at

Learn more about the upcoming GSA Annual Meeting & Exhibition at