Project Overview / Project Collaborators


Advancing earth-science literacy through the arts.


We, at A COMMON GEOLOGY, endeavor to provide a fresh look at the world of geology for the curious non-geologist and the budding scientist. We plan do this by amassing a catalogue of geologic features and curiosities, at first around the United States then at sites around the world. We take high-resolution, close-up images of rocks, then tell their stories in non-intimidating language without compromising the facts. We introduce our visitors and end-users to the geologic earth through photography, prose, poetry, and music. Through this art-science technique we feel that we can make viewers of all ages into time travelers, stepping back into the Earth’s deep past to learn the workings, history, and future of our planet.


Accomplishments So Far

A Common Geology began in 2006 as a curious photographer’s close-up look at the geologic world. Recruiting a retired geologist, a poet, and a musician, the project became an exercise in art-science, an interdisciplinary attempt to advance science literacy through the arts. We have already traveled extensively, photographing and cataloguing geologic sites around the U.S., covering more than 15 states as well as touching on areas in Bolivia and Galápagos Islands of Ecuador. We have had several gallery showings and have taught a 9-week summer session to upper elementary school children using the photographs as a basis for exploration and discussion. We are represented by Elefolio in Somerville, MA.


Three-year Plan

We plan to continue exploring, photographing, video recording, writing, and sharing our findings with classrooms and groups of all ages and from all walks of life, young and old, expert and enthusiast, and learners of all backgrounds. Over the next three years, we will devote our time to exploration and principal photography, short video segments and carefully researched text, culminating in an online catalogue of informative examples of geologic features, as well as curious oddities. We will tag each with GPS coordinates. We plan to separate the continental US into as many as ten regions: North East, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Great Lakes, Southeast, Central Plains, Southwest, Rocky Mountain, Southern Pacific and Pacific North West, with special attention paid to National and State Parks. An app for smart phones and other compatible devices will allow the user to follow a geologic route and inspire continued exploration. Users can also follow updates on Twitter, Facebook and our Common Geology blog as well as contributing their own images to a Common Geology Instagram account. We will sort through these images and share exceptional ones with our readers.


Partnerships with University-based Geology Departments

We look forward to meeting with academic geologists in various parts of the U.S. and Canada; at these meetings we hope to form partnerships, harnessing geologists’ expertise in service of A Common Geology while extending the geology department’s own outreach to the wider community.


Curriculum for Formal and Informal Education

Curriculum for Formal and Informal Education

We will raise funds and apply for grants to enable us to commission a technology based curriculum to be used in tandem with the images, prose, poetry, and music from A Common Geology. This approach would be incorporated into art classes, as well as earth science classes.  We anticipate adapting this curriculum to both formal and informal educational settings: schools and after school programs, camps and science clubs, museum exhibit expansion classes and as extensions of traditional arts and science curricula. We envision course content and learning aids could be adapted for tablets, interactive touch screen displays, and mobile device applications. We also foresee incorporating social media to enable learners to interact with experts and classes in other locations.



Geology is the Bedrock of Science Literacy

Our geologic world is diverse and ever changing. Though most rocks seem static and timeless, nothing could be further from the truth. The rocks around us are in constant motion, though usually imperceptible, they never are the same from one day to the next.   Every living thing on earth relies on the mineral content of rocks for their very existence. Rocks could  be viewed as the storehouses for many of the important building blocks of life on earth.                               Life, on the other hand, through its metabolic processes, helps in the breakdown of rocks, which releases those components vital to life.

We, at A COMMON GEOLOGY, are passionate in our belief that understanding our ever-changing Earth and having basic knowledge of its geologic processes is a fundamental form of science literacy. Our hope with A Common Geology, is to create a pathway to this knowledge in an artistic and informative fashion that will engage people with a modest curiosity and those that ordinarily would not be reached by conventional means.





LISA VERPLOEGH grew up in New Mexico in the Rio Grande Rift Valley below the great granite batholith known as the Sandia Mountains. In this desert environment the geologic landscape jumps out at every turn, so at an early age  while walking the mountains of New Mexico with her grandfather, this journey of understanding the earth began to take shape.  Her love of geology, fostered by the stories told by her grandfather, continued throughout her life until a day when stopping by a road cut in south Texas, an idea for A COMMON GEOLOGY took shape. Lisa has been a professional photographer since 1976, with her background being portrait, special effects and advertising. Her artistic eye and keen sense of her surroundings bring viability to the “common” rocks we see every day. Her own inclination to further understand the geologic process and its connection to other scientific disciplines led her to team up with a geologist. The project coalesced into  a narrative and visual description of geologic phenomena as understood by a non-geologist. Later they asked a poet and a composer to collaborate  to create an interdisciplinary montage of our geologic earth.

After living in various places on this continent and overseas, she now lives again in New Mexico in the shadow of the “Watermelon Mountains” with her son and daughter.



DANIEL V. HARRIS grew up in the coal hills of Kentucky, so poor that his teething ring was a smooth river stone.  Little did his mother know what she was starting.  A childhood of rock collecting in the hills of eastern Kentucky led him to study geology at the University of Kentucky. After 15 years working as a geologist in the coal, oil, and gas industries, and later as a consultant, Harris retired and followed another passion: travel.  Among a group of his fellow travelers Dan has often been called upon to expound on the principles of geology and geologic features. This experience, with some teaching and his professional background, has led to his low-jargon style of communicating geologic concepts and features to  interested folks with little or no technical background.





John Canaday’s poems have appeared in PoetrySlateThe New RepublicThe Paris ReviewPoetry Daily, and other journals and anthologies. The Invisible World, a book of poems set in Jordan, won the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. He is also the author of a critical study, The Nuclear Muse: Literature, Physics, and the First Atomic Bombs. In addition to A Common Geology, he is currently working on Critical Assembly, a collection of poems in the voices of the scientists, spouses, laborers, locals, and military personnel involved in the Manhattan Project.

Canaday has worked at Abbeville Press and Rutledge Books, taught poetry writing at Rutgers University and Harvard University’s Extension School, and served as a tutor to the Royal Family of Jordan. For the past twenty years he has been an educational consultant in the Boston area.




Linda J. Chase is a composer/improviser/performer (flute, alto flute, bass clarinet) with a passion for interdisciplinary approaches to composition and performance. Her music is often based on images, concepts, poetry and reflections from nature.

“Composing, improvising and teaching nourish my musical perspective as each discipline informs my musical life in different ways. My music is often based on images, concepts, poetry or reflections from nature and spans diverse styles. I have written instrumental chamber and choral music, jazz vocals and instrumentals, folk songs, and experimental and conceptually based “new music”. I like to pay attention to nuance, color, and dynamics and am drawn to the relationship between sound and silence. I have always looked for connections between music, nature, spiritually and interdisciplinary expressions in music with other arts. I’m interested in blending the boundaries of improvisation and composition and am committed to writing authentically and compassionately striving to create music that will have a positive influence in the world.”

“In poetry collaborations I seek to integrate art forms creating a musical translation of the poem. Instruments often include  marimba, vibes, cajon, water and other percussion, cello, violin, flute, piano, ud and voice”.

Linda is an Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music since 2000, and on faculty at New England Conservatory since 2009.

“I hope that my musical compositions for WATER, FIRE, TRANSFORMATION, COMPRESSION, and LIFE will add to the sensations of being there and bring the outside to the audience, inspiring them to go out and see and feel the life in the rocks”.


Linda has received the Grand Canyon Artist in Residence, ProArts Classroom Connect Award, Japan Foundation Uchida Fellowship, Berklee College of Music Faculty Fellowship, Painting Music ASCAP awards, and Morris Graves Institute Artist in Residence.

Linda has recorded 8 albums from 1993 – 2013