Map Competition

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2013 GSA Map Competition

Robert Mahon
1st: Robert Mahon
Kent Walters
2nd: Kent Walters
Jens Snee's map
3rd: Jens Snee

Annual Best Student Geologic Map Competition

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 invites students to participate in the Best Student Geologic Map Competition.

This year marks the second annual Best Student Geologic Map Competition at the GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. 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 reception at the GSA Annual Meeting. Students will post their maps (Session Posters) on Tuesday, 21 October by 5 PM until 6:30 PM in the Poster Hall for review and evaluation by the judges. Maps may be placed in this area as early as 9 AM Tuesday, 21 October, but must be removed at 6:30 PM following the reception. At the end of the reception, the top three maps 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 sponsoring representatives, and a Brunton Compass sponsored 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 sponsoring representatives along with a rock-hammer or hand lens sponsored by the AIPG.

The Third place student will receive the honor and a Certificate of Recognition signed by the sponsoring representatives along with a GSA publication (book, fieldtrip guide, or memoir) sponsored 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 or oral presentation session at the GSA Annual Meeting. Students who have recently graduated within the past year are also eligible. An eligible geologic map should include all the required components as described in the Judging Criteria below.

How to Submit Your Geologic Map to the Competition

Students must submit their abstract by 29 July 2014 to any GSA Session or Discipline and select the appropriate box on the form to be considered for the geologic map competition. Your abstract must be accepted to be eligible for the competition. 

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. The student(s) must be the principal author(s).
  • 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 at least 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 21 October no later than 5 PM in the Poster Hall for judging although judges will also be evaluating student maps during poster sessions. Maps may be posted as early as 9 AM on Tuesday, 21 October in the designated area, but must be removed at 6:30 PM following the session. We encourage student participants to be present at this session to network and share information about their maps when judges are evaluating and selecting the top three maps. The award ceremony will take place at the end of this reception.