Welcome to the third instalment of the Petryx Blog series! After @SamFielding confessed that his programming know-how and obsession with automation was fuelled by his laziness, I will be discussing how programming isn’t just a way to save time, but a fantastic tool when it comes to making sense of large unwieldy compilations of geoscience data.
Large, multi-technique datasets (notice how I didn’t use the term big data, such a wildly overused and little understood phrase in our book) are becoming more common throughout geoscience. This is partly due to the integration of an ever-increasing number of disciplines, but mostly due to the sheer amount of raw data available to us when carrying out analyses using several different techniques on a single project.
So why exactly do we need multi-technique studies? Sometimes a single dataset will give you the specific answer you require. However, if you have a small sample size or if you are faced with a particularly complex problem, you’ll likely need to incorporate data from other methods to meet these requirements. This is where a multi-technique approach can really add value.
Let’s take provenance studies for example. In my own work I have often found U-Pb zircon geochronology to be invaluable due to zircon’s robust nature and ubiquity regardless of tectonic setting. However, when I was faced with a reduced sample size, multiple episodes of recycling and the need to record multiple geothermal events, this method on its own was not enough. The same is true for other methods too, like heavy mineral analyses or fission track, which, while great under certain circumstances, can both prove insufficient depending on what information you are trying to glean from your data.
Using a multi-technique dataset can be an art form, but like any other art, its quality, not quantity, that counts. More is not necessarily better in all cases. Choosing which techniques to use and in which combination to use them requires careful consideration and knowledge of what each technique brings to the table; something we at Petryx pride ourselves on. When done right this delicate balancing act can reveal vital information and shed light on areas that would have been otherwise obscured.
Working on multi-disciplinary projects in both academia and industry over the past 10 years has exposed me to an ever-changing array of data generated from numerous different techniques. Dealing with this constant stream of datasets often means folders full of spreadsheets which must be organised and worked through before any useful analyses can take place or any meaningful conclusions can be drawn. Simply handling multi-technique data can prove a mammoth and intimidating task which gets in the way of what really needs doing.
Here at Petryx we want to make analysing data, and getting the answers you need, easier. Our Petryx Database provides an extensive, ever-growing, compilation of data which can be easily accessed and queried from the Petryx Data Lens web front-end. Designed and developed by geoscientists and data science experts, the Database and Data Lens provide valuable tools which aim to minimise the amount of time our clients need to spend on data management. The Data Lens allows users to query, visualise, and pull together their own data alongside those from peer-reviewed datasets. Most importantly, our Data Lens isn’t a generic data handling platform, but is instead a specialist tool for geoscientists and the specific applications and problems they encounter.
In the early stages of any project, knowing what types of data are available for your area of interest can help you to plan more effectively. You may have a penchant for thermochronology, but if fission track data is looking a bit thin on the ground in your study area, and you have a limited budget, then you might want to consider either tapping into some other methods that have better coverage or enquiring about our data acquisition service.
Perhaps you are further along in your research and find yourself needing to compare the results of several different datasets to a multitude of signatures from potential source areas. Instead of laboriously plotting them individually using different tools, why not check out the different signatures on the fly or filter through thousands of rows of data in seconds to find similar samples that could be the source of your clastic reservoir at that crucial interval. Here at Petryx, we can help you do it. By having a small team of geoscientists and data scientists working closely together, we’ve created a product that takes the best bits from both worlds and puts you in control without all the hard work, allowing you to make the most out of your all-encompassing multi-technique dataset.
By Laura Fielding, Geoscience Director