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Remote sensing is an important option for finding interesting research problems in remote regions of the world, but existing freely available imagery, such as Landsat imagery, has limitations in terms of resolution. In some remote areas, recently available high-resolution imagery in Google Earth has the potential to revolutionize the kind of research that can be initiated and carried out. This paper details an example from a remote region of Egypt's Western Desert.

Work by others on Eocene carbonates of the Drunka and El Rufuf Formations has focused on lithologic and paleontologic aspects, and previous mapping of the contact between the two formations in the Western Desert using early Landsat imagery (69 m/pixel) shows a simple contact. High-resolution imagery in Google Earth (~1 m/pixel) shows, however, that the contact is both folded and faulted. We used high-resolution images in Google Earth to define mappable subunits and to do detailed mapping of folds and faults in a 400 km2 study area. Subsequent field work confirmed the accuracy of lithologic and structural mapping in Google Earth, targeted critical areas for field data collection, and provided ground truth for extending mapping into remote areas.

Freely available, high-resolution satellite imagery in Google Earth not only allows identification of research questions but is also critical in pre–field work mapping, targeting sites for field work, and disseminating research results in areas of the world where field work is difficult, funding is poor, and access to dissemination of research results outside the region is limited.

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