Annual Best Student Geologic Map Competition

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2013 GSA Map Competition


1st Place: Robert Mahon (top right)

2nd Place: Kent Walters (bottom left)

3rd Place: Jens Snee (bottom right)


Click on the images to enlarge.

Robert Mahon
Kent Walters Jens Snee's map

The US Geological Survey (USGS) National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP) in partnership with The Geological Society of America (GSA), GSA Foundation, Association of American State Geologists (AASG), American Geosciences Institute (AGI), American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG), and the Journal of Maps invite students to participate in the first Best Student Geologic Map competition.
This year marks the inaugural Best Student Geologic Map competition at the GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado in celebration of GSA’s 125th Anniversary and the 125th year of geologic mapping.  The competition will highlight student research from around the world that utilizes field mapping and the creation of geologic maps as a major component.

The top three student geologic maps will be selected for recognition and awards at a special judging session at the GSA Annual Meeting.  Students will post their maps (Session Posters) on Tuesday, 29 October by 5:00 PM until 6:30 PM in the Poster Session area of the Exhibit Hall for review and evaluation by the judges.  Maps may be placed in this area as early as 9 AM Tuesday, 29 October, but must be removed at 6:30 PM following the session.  At the end of the session the winners will be selected and awarded.


The First place student will receive the honor of constructing the Best Student Geologic Map for that year, a Certificate of Recognition signed by the partner organizations, and a Brunton Compass contributed by the AASG.  The student’s name will also be added to a Best Student Geologic Map plaque that will be posted at USGS Headquarters in Reston, Virginia.  The first place map will also receive a limited run in the Journal of Maps.

The Second place student will receive the honor and a Certificate of Recognition signed by the partner organizations along with a rock-hammer or hand lens contributed by the AIPG.

The Third place student will receive the honor and a Certificate of Recognition signed by the partner organizations along with a GSA publication (book, fieldtrip guide, or memoir) contributed by the GSA Foundation.

In addition, all winners will receive an offer to publish their map in the Student Edition of the Journal of Maps and the opportunity to be published in the full journal.  The top three student maps will also be recognized and announced on the GSA Website, GSA Today and GSA Connection, AGI Spectrum, and the USGS Website.   


The competition is open to all students at any level of their academic career (B.S., M.S., or Ph.D.) who has created a geologic map through their recent and substantial field work.  Students must also submit their map as a significant component of their research as the principal author to any poster session at the GSA Annual Meeting.

How to Submit Your Geologic Map to the Competition

Students must email your request for submission to the competition to at the U.S. Geological Survey and provide the information below no later than September 6, 2013.  Students submitting to the competition must also submit their research to a GSA Poster Session that includes the geologic map that includes all the required components (see Judging Criteria below).
Submit the following information in an email to the above email address:

  • Message subject line:  Best Student Geologic Map Competition Submission
  • Student’s name:
  • Email address:
  • University Affiliation:
  • Degree when map was created (e.g. B.S. Geology, M.S. Geochemistry, etc.):
  • Poster Title, Poster (abstract) number, and Poster session (if known):

You will receive a confirmation email that your submission was received.

Judging Criteria

A geologic map is defined as a map that depicts the geographic distribution at the earth’s surface of bedrock and/or surficial geologic materials and structures, on a published base-map showing topography, hydrography, culture, cadastral, and other base information.  Geologic units are identified by color and correlated to the description of map units (DMU).  Geologic structures are shown with symbols that allow the user to visualize the features in three-dimensional orientations.
A geologic map should include the applicable components that sufficiently illustrate the geology of the area mapped, including:

  • A clear and legible base (include base map credit and map projection)
  • Scale and contour interval
  • North arrow and magnetic declination
  • Title, authorship, publisher (if published), and date
  • Location index map
  • Field data or field data stations (strike and dip, coring stations, GPS control stations, etc.)
  • Description of map units (DMU)
  • Correlation of map units (CMU)
  • Explanation of map symbols
  • Map unit symbols on map

A geologic map may also include stratigraphic columns, cross sections, and text. 

Submitted geologic maps should be at a scale of 1:24,000 or larger.  However, 1:25,000 to 1:62,500 scales are acceptable.  Reconnaissance geologic maps are not acceptable.

Examples of maps that are not considered appropriate substitutes for geologic maps include: structure contour maps, isopach maps, stratigraphic and/or facies diagrams, aquifer maps, gravity or magnetic anomaly maps, and element-distribution geochemical maps.  These maps are not eligible and will not be judged if submitted.  Additionally, submissions of geologic maps that are digital map compilations or digitization maps are not acceptable and will not be judged.

For your information:  Visit this useful website for digital geologic mapping standards and mapping symbolization.

Selection Process

Submitted geologic maps will be evaluated by a panel of 3 or 4 judges based on the criteria outlined above.  Each map should stand on its own without explanation by the student author.  Students must post their maps in the designated area on Tuesday, 29 October no later than 5 PM in the Poster Session area of the Exhibit Hall for judging.  Maps may be posted as early as 9 AM on Tuesday, 29 October in the designated area, but must be removed at 6:30 PM following the session.  A cash bar will be available from 5 to 6:30 PM when judges will evaluate and select winning maps while participants can network and share information about their maps.  Students who submit a map to the competition will receive a free drink ticket.