Reviews for Wonders of Geology

Education World

What does it promise? A breathtaking view of America's mountain ranges from an award-winning photographer, as well as the science behind these natural wonders.

Does it deliver? more >
Wonders of Geology has all the features of a cool science app including animated diagrams, pinch and zoom, thumbnail navigation, maps and much more. But like a great book, it also has an author who wants to share his findings with others.

As users swipe through each photograph, they hear noted geologist and photographer Michael Collier's narration telling them where to look on the mountain, what to look for and what it means. He also introduces the processes that build and shape mountains (tectonics, volcanoes, glaciers, faults, erosion) and leads a field trip over America's great mountains (the Appalachians, the Pacific Coast ranges, the Rockies, the Tetons and the Alaskan ranges).

Can I use it in my classroom? This is a great addition to any geology lesson, particularly those involving continental drift and mountain formations.

—Jason Tomaszewski, Education World Associate Editor


Kirkus Reviews

A captivating introduction, technical but not difficult, to the rumblings within the Earth that produce the world's mountains. Few readers will ever have the experience of flying over Denali/Mount McKinley, fewer still in a 1955 Cessna 180. Pilot, photographer, writer, geologist and medical doctor Collier, the owner of that craft, writes that it has "carried me from Fairbanks to Honduras, from Bangor to Baja." As he traverses the skies, he has been photographing the geologic features he encounters.
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This app, excellent in both design and content, performs two main jobs: First, it provides a top-flight portfolio of photographs that look fine on earlier models but that leap off the screen with the retina display of the new iPad; this is no small thing, for Collier is esteemed as a landscape photographer, shooting in both film and digital formats. Second, it takes readers on a rigorous—but not off-putting—tour of geologic basics, beginning with the rock cycle (all rocks are, at some time or another, igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary) and ending with a close look at the various geologic provinces of North America. These range from the Appalachian Highlands of the East to the Basin and Range of the West—and then, of course, the mountains of Alaska, which are a world of their own. The app is accompanied by sound files of Collier commenting on his photographs, as well as animations showing geologic features such as subduction, continental drift and sheet erosion at play. Geology can be notoriously dull, but Collier writes in an easy and encouraging manner ("To begin to know a mountain, you have to look past its exterior shape and see the rocks inside"). Overall, the text is clear and easy to read, though it lacks a bookmarking feature; navigation is accomplished by means of a table of contents, as well as a band of thumbnails at screen bottom. Of added value are the hyperlinked pop-up definitions of geologic terms as they appear ("Sandstone: sedimentary rock composed of quartz, feldspar or other grains with diameters from 0.062 to 2 millimeters").

For the budding geologist—or photographer, or pilot—in the household, a thing of wonder, and an exemplary work of feature-rich multimedia publishing.


Download the Universe: The Science Ebook Review

"All true paths lead through mountains." When I was growing up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, this line from the poems of Gary Snyder was a family touchstone. It probably came via my dad, who is mountain-obsessed, a chaser of summits and cirques who has hiked and trekked on five continents and now lives in the Alps. I've felt vaguely uneasy the past eight years or so, living here among the extremely low hills of the Eastern United States, and the photographs of Michael Collier, in the Wonders of Geology app, bring it all back: Yes, mountains really are where it's at. more >

The app was written and narrated by Collier, a geologist and physician who has been taking photographs from the cockpit of his 1955 Cessna professionally for more than 40 years. Based on his book Over the Mountains (An Aerial View of Geology), it is laid out in several sections that first teach you how to read a landscape's history from geological cues, then lead you through various American ranges to see for yourself how the mountains were formed.

$12.99 might seem steep, when there are plenty of ebooks out there for a buck. But this app is worth it. You'll be revisiting it for a long time, even after you've absorbed its lessons.

Most of the information comes to you in Collier's own rich, craggy voice. He describes the Earth's inner workings while a seemingly endless parade of fantastic scenes slips by--dunes, alluvial fans, thick, crystalline glaciers. The images are stunning, saturated with color and full of light. In one of my favorites, a Sierra valley cradles a string of glacial lakes that reflect a fierce gray-blue sky. In another, a peak in Morro Bay is bathed in the soft pink of a sunrise, and you can zoom in to see the ripples of the surf.

Collier is a deft and expressive narrator, peppering his explanations with charming turns of phrase. Tectonic plates bomb around the Earth's surface like "irresponsible bumper cars"; ridges caused by spreading centers ring the planet "like the stitches on a baseball." He shifts expertly from the profound to the colloquial. "Plate tectonic theory has ushered in a new consciousness of the Earth's age," he says, with grave wonder. Then his voice slips into a smile, and he quips: "How much time we talkin' bout? Lots."

In fact, Wonders of Geology is less an ebook than a kind of hand-held, interactive exhibit, with ever-present audio guide. Photos and explanatory graphics outnumber pages of text many times over. When you do come across a page of prose, it's almost an interruption. I found myself thinking petulantly, Wait, I have to read this? Why aren't you reading it to me?!

Occasional textual interruptions aside, the app is a delight. I particularly enjoyed seeing glamor shots of mountains I know well, like the Panamints of Death Valley and the sere Eastern Sierra, where I learned to core bristlecone pines as a high school kid. The app includes so many ranges that any fan of North American mountains should be able to find their own familiar faces.

To be honest, though, I don't remember these mountains ever reaching quite the height of gorgeousness evident in Collier's photographs. Maybe you have to be several hundred feet up in a 57-year old biplane to get this level of insight. Maybe, it occurs to me, this is how my dad experiences them: intoxicatingly beautiful, mountains as drug.

—Veronique Greenwood



Educational apps that teach something to everyone, no matter what age, are great for filling your iPad. By now I've accumulated a decent collection of them, but I only recently discovered one that teaches basic geology, from mountain building to plate tectonics to the rock cycle. more >

Photographed and narrated by pilot, geologist, and photographer Michael Collier, Wonders of Geology is a sight to behold. It is filled with gorgeous photos of prime examples of geologic features located in the United States. Mountains, volcanoes, canyons, landscapes, it's all there. After the cinematic app introduction, there are several sections to peruse. Each contains plenty of photos and educational narration, as well as diagrams and animations explaining what you are seeing and how the surface of our planet works.

"Geology 101" goes into the three different types of rocks plus the rock cycle, plate tectonics, mountain building, and many different kinds of erosion. There are a lot of magnificent photos accompanied by inspirational quotations and informative text. Tap on the highlighted words and the app gives their definitions. A narration plays while you are perusing the photos, telling you about what you are seeing, with arrows pointing to pertinent features as it goes along.

"Mountains of America" goes into depth about the mountains that are in America. The Appalachian Mountains and Rocky Mountains are highlighted, including pictures, diagrams, and text, and this section also teaches several different ways in which mountains are made. The app takes you on a tour of them all, narrating the tour of beautiful scenery that is combined with lessons. It is like watching a beautiful documentary.

"Mountains Past and Future" talks about how mountains change over time. The narration is very well-written, so while this app is filled with excellent geology lessons, it also takes you on a poetic journey around the country. Wonders of Geology also contains a table of contents and a map that will show you the location in the United States for any of the images you see. Wonders of Geology costs $12.99 from the iTunes store. This digital picture book is a great way to learn about geology and mountain building, seeing real life examples of each concept as they are taught. It is a fantastic resource for kids and adults of all ages.


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What a fantastic job this author does with this app! Michael Collier is a geologist as well as a photographer and this man knows how to make it fun and enticing.  His love for Geology beams from him as does his desire to share this information. more >

The images in this educational app are breath taking! The narration is a voice that conveys calmly what the images pronounce vividly!  Collier introduces the steps that build and mold the mountains.  Topics included are: tectonics, volcanoes, glaciers,faults, and erosion.

After that we fly with him over American Mountains.  The list includes The Appalachians, The Pacific Coast ranges, The Rockies, The Tetons, and the Alaskan ranges.

Don't forget to pinch and zoom on the diagrams! Reviewing this app, I felt the appreciation and awe of living in the same place as these monumental teachers!
— Jenny Williams



"Who knew geology could be so enthralling?" a reviewer wrote about Michael Collier's award-winning photographs. Now, on the iPad, his images are even more dazzling. But Wonders of Geology is not a coffee table app. Michael Collier is a geologist as well as a photographer. His images inform as well as delight. As we swipe through each photograph, we hear Collier's smooth, accessible narration telling us where to look on the mountain, what to look for and what it means. more >

He introduces the processes that build and shape mountains:
• Tectonics
• Volcanoes
• Glaciers
• Faults
• Erosion

And leads a field trip over America's great mountains:
• The Appalachians
• The Pacific Coast ranges
• The Rockies
• The Tetons
• The Alaskan ranges

Wonders of Geology has all the features of a cool science app: animated diagrams, pinch and zoom, thumbnail navigation, maps, etc. But like a great book it also has an author, a man with a passion for his subject and a desire to share it with others. It's as if we're with Michael Collier in the cockpit of his Cessna. As we look out at the spectacular landscape, he speaks to us. Mystery becomes understanding; the wonders of the earth shine.

About the author: Michael Collier is the author of 17 books on geology and has received awards from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service and the National Science Teacher's Association. In 2005, he was named winner of the American Geological Institute's Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Public Understanding of the Geosciences for his decades of work.



At first pass, you might think that The Wonders of Geology exists purely to show off the incredible photography of Michael Collier. While that's certainly a good reason, it also functions as an excellent textbook, sure to instill enthusiasm for geology into any student.

Michael Collier is more than a photographer. He's a geologist, too. Read his words or listen to him speak, and you'll hear the kind of passion that a cook might use to talk about their favorite recipes. more >

The bulk of the app is made up of a slideshow of Collier's photos, which are jaw-dropping on the iPad. The lighting, composition, saturation, and crystal-clear resolution on each one is perfection. You can pinch-to-zoom on all of the photos (without losing resolution), and each one has a tiny caption in the top left corner so you always know what (or rather where) you're looking at.

If you choose, you can switch on narration, in which Collier himself gives talking points about each geological feature, often with visual pointers appearing so you can focus on exactly what he's referring to, and sometimes even animations. You can swipe to turn pages at your leisure, or let the app move on autopilot, providing you with a guided tour of everything it contains.

There's high-resolution cross-sections of prominent mountains and canyons, and there are wide shots of some of America's best known ranges, but this is only the beginning. You'll find bird's eye views of tectonic plates and faults, as well as fascinating looks at volcanoes, glaciers, and areas of erosion. For each photo, you can click on a "Map" tab, which pops up a full-screen map and shows you exactly where in the world the photo was taken. There are also diagrams, a table of contents, thumbnails, and more.

Touching on all corners of North America, The Wonders of Geology is a wonder itself. It functions perfectly well as a beautiful coffee table book, but plumbing its depths reveals far greater riches. It's a must-own for educators, or anyone interested in the majesty of nature. The price is probably steeper than you're expecting, at $12.99, but this level of quality doesn't come cheap. It's worth every penny.

—Robin Parrish


Pad Gadget
Wonders of Geology An Aerial View of America's Mountains, a new iPad book written, photographed, and narrated by Michael Collier blends the sweeping scale of a coffee table tome with the didactic ease of a PBS special. Readers are sure to learn, and yes, even be entertained, by Wonders of Geology's stunning images and well-written text. The iPad app was adapted from Over the Mountains: An Aerial View of Geology. more >

Perusing this edu-book was a pleasure. As befits the book's transition to iPad, reading it was a multi-media experience. There are countless, stunning photographs of mountain vistas and glacial basins, as well as illustrations that elucidate concepts such as plate tectonics, the rock cycle, and erosion.

Colliers narration accompanies the photographs, which are punctuated by text sections that underscore the photo's subject matter. Collier's knowledge and clear love of his subject comes through to the reader, and contradicts the adage that "those who cannot do teach," since Collier is clearly both a man of action with the skills to impart what he knows to a lay audience.

The app is full of anecdotes that stick with the reader even after the iPad is closed. My favorite was Collier's explanation of the formation of the Blackhawk Landslide in California, which occurred 17,000 years ago. "A flying carpet of rock ski jumped at a speed of up to 270 mph, moving 8 miles in 80 seconds" before landing at its current spot in the Mojave desert.

Users navigate through the book using a menu bar that pops up in between narrative sequences. Swipe gestures and pinch-to-zoon are also enabled.

What I liked: It was easy to become engrossed in the story of the earth's changing geology. Interacting with the app made learning feel effortless. The narrator's text was not unnecessarily technical, though most geology vocabulary could be defined for the user with a single tap, and the use of on-screen queues such as arrows helped me get a lot more out of his explanations. It was useful to be able to view any image's location on a US map with a single tap.

What I didn't like: Wonders of Geology is extremely well-executed. It takes full advantage of the iPad's display and audio capabilities. There was nothing to dislike.

To buy or not to buy: At $12.99 Wonders of Geology is definitely pricey for an app, but it's a bargain compared to the original book version, which retails for 2-3 times the price. Because much of the book is narrated, it is appropriate for children who might not be able to keep up with a text-only presentation.


Guru Magazine

The only rock I ever thought was entertaining was the loud, distorted guitar variety. Mind you, the hard candy type isn't too bad either. The prospect of a book on the grey and brown lumps in the ground is assured to fossilise anyone's fun faculties – except geography teachers, of course. Or so I thought… more >

Whilst most print publishers languish behind, National Geographic has been at the forefront of electronic publishing. Famed for its breath-taking photography, the National Geographic Society already has a showcase of acclaimed mobile games and applications. Mikaya Digital are hot on their heels and are now also making a dignified attempt to breathe digital life into what's often considered the dullest of all scientific disciplines: geology.

Wonders of Geology is an interactive eBook from the renowned geologist and photographer Michael Collier. It's a coffee table book for the digital generation and boasts eye-wateringly good photography. A guided tour of beautiful mountainous scenery is narrated by Collier himself, making for a personable and pleasantly accessible experience. Gazing upon high resolution images of some of the world's most beautiful landscapes, even geology ignoramuses like me can't help but be drawn in by the man's passion.

Text and photos are interspersed with informative animations as the eBook journeys the length and breadth of the USA. Explanations of the genesis of rock formations are concise, straightforward and wholly pain-free. The app is well-produced and navigation between pages and chapters is intuitive. Each photograph can also be viewed on a map of the USA and, helpfully, sound can be turned off for the times you just want to ogle at the pictures.

Boring it isn't: I'll certainly never look at a rock in the same way again.



Touch and Go, School Library Journal Blog
Breathtaking visuals, a concise text, and a narrated tour of some of the most spectacular natural sites in the United States make the Wonders of Geology a production to behold. The app is adapted from Michael Collier's Over the Mountains… In his introduction to the app, the author notes "Aerial photography is the pursuit of perfect light" and it's clear that in this title that he has captured it many times over. Collier narrates his illustrated tour of geological formations, taking viewers from Hawaii and New Hampshire to Alaska and Virginia.

The app is beautifully designed. A discreet tag indicates the location of each site and a menu can be accessed by tapping on the bottom of the screen. Pages flawlessly slide backward or forward.

While viewers can just sit back and enjoy the images and narration, this engaging presentation goes beyond the basics and will be a perfect resource for secondary (and older) students of earth science and geology.

Earthly Musings
…Collier's unique tri-part combination of being a geologist, a photographer and a pilot that make "Wonders of Geology" a truly breathtaking tour of North America's mountains. There is perhaps no better way to see and learn about mountains unless you become a geologist, a photographer and a pilot, all in the same life.

In "Wonders of Geology", we learn how mountain chains were created by uplift and see how they have been sculpted by erosion and carved by glaciers. The download would be well worth the $12.95 asking price even if it only included Michael's 240 photographs. But the program is also well illustrated with numerous diagrams, maps, and figures developed by Tasa Graphics in Taos, New Mexico. These are used to blend what you see in the photographs and hear in Michael's own voice-overs, teaming together to make the learning pleasurable and easy. There are various "chapters" that can be easily navigated to from a prompt on the bottom of the screen.

Geologists themselves will know most of the subject matter in the program and it is not meant to be anything more than an introduction to the "wonders of geology". But even if you are a professional already, you could easily utilize this when teaching family or friends about your world view. It is an excellent way to grasp difficult concepts in a meaningful and fruitful way.
Reader's Reviews

by Blacklight Sam
This is a spectacular app in every respect. I teach the occasional geology class and there simply is no resource with photographs and illustrations like this. It does not cover petrology or mineralogy but for geomorphology, it is the most amazing collection of perfect models of concepts that I've ever seen. The hundred thousand authors of so many lame apps should use this a model of the proper way to use an iPad. Unbelievable.

The landscape, explained
by LSLibn

Photographer and geologist Michael Collier combines his aerial images with text, narration, and animation graphics to explain fundamental geologic processes. You won't find a clearer presentation of how the earth works, or how the landscape we see beneath us when we fly is produced. A must for earth science students, and earth-poetry for the adult naturalist.

by Star Nav

Beautiful... and inspiring.

by rkmark

Not to be missed!