This section covers: 

International standards and resources

The International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) provides information about different aspects of geology, and links to other websites.

Australian conventions and resources

The Gazetteer of Australia Place Names Search includes formal names of many geological entities and features.

Structures (geomorphology)

International standards and resources

We have not found an IUGS classification system for geological structures and landforms. A useful reference for this complex area of geology and physical geography is A geomorphic classification system, produced by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Australian conventions and resources

The Geoscience Australia website provides useful information, including a section on landforms and structures.

Many geological structures are named in the landscape, including tectonic plates, fault lines, seismic zones, cratons, provinces, basins, superbasins, domains, terranes and orogens. Use initial capitals for formal titles for these elements:

Australian Plate     Pacific Plate     Manus Microplate     Tasman Fracture Zone     San Andreas Fault     Great Artesian Basin     Baragwanath Transform     Austral Petroleum Supersystem

Physiogeographic regions

Physiogeographic regions are areas mapped according to landform characteristics, and described in terms of landform, underlying geology, regolith (materials lying on bedrock) and soils. This classification is used in the Australian Soil Resource Information System (ASRIS). Seven main levels are described: division, province and zone (describe soils and landscapes across the continent); and district, system, facet and site (provide more detailed information from field surveys). Each lower level occurs within a higher-level category.

Use initial capitals for the names of physiogeographic regions:

Tasmanian Uplands Province     Eastern Uplands Division     West Tasmanian Ridges

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International standards and resources

The IUGS has developed a set of classification systems for igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, including lists of approved names. These are available from the British Geological Society (BGS) website. The BGS website also provides information about other rock structures and deposits.

Australian conventions and resources

Australian geologists follow the IUGS classification of rocks.

In Australia, stratigraphic units are named according to agreed conventions overseen by the Australian Stratigraphy Commission. Geoscience Australia maintains a database of formal names.

Petrology is the study of rocks and their formation. Like minerals, rocks are naturally occurring; however, rocks are aggregates, often made up of several minerals or mineral-like substances. For example, the rock granite comprises quartz, feldspar and biotite.

The 3 major groups of rocks are igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic.

Use lower case for the names of rocks or rock groups:

sandstone     granite     igneous

Rock layers

Did you know? Stratigraphy is the description of rock bodies and their organisation into mappable units.

Rock units can be organised into different categories, using different properties of the rocks. Each stratigraphic category has a number of unit terms. For example, names of lithostratigraphic units are based on the physical characteristics of the rock bodies, such as colour, texture and composition (called lithologic properties). These units include a principal term, such as Group, Formation, Member, Bed or Flow.

Formal names of most stratigraphic units consist of an appropriate geographical name, and a term indicating the kind and rank of the unit. Use initial capitals for all words in a formal name:

Warrawoona Group     Cowra Formation     Bendigo Zone     Hiltaba Suite     the Warrawoona Group rocks

but use lower case for informal (generic) and plural references:

The Cowra and Lachlan groups     an alluvial formation

Reminder. Initial capitals are used only for formal names. Informal and collective (plural) references to the same item do not need capitals.

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International standards and resources

A working group of the International Union of Soil Sciences is working on a universal classification of soils and plans to finalise the classification in 2018. The United States Department of Agriculture provides information about this process and previous published classifications.

Australian conventions and resources

The Australian soil and land survey field handbook (3rd edition; CSIRO Publishing) is also a useful resource.

The Australian Soil Classification has been widely adopted as the official national system for organising knowledge about Australian soils. It has been formally endorsed by the Australian Soil Conservation Council, an Australian Government ministerial council.

See also the Australian Soil Resource Information System (ASRIS).

As in biology, soils are classified in a hierarchical system; in Australia, the 5 categories are order, suborder, great group, subgroup and family. In the United States, an additional category is used: series (below the level of family).

In Australia, 14 soil orders are described. The names end in osols and have an initial capital:

Vertosols     Rudosols     Podosols

Use lower case for terms associated with carbon in soils, although the abbreviations are in capitals:

particulate organic carbon (POC)     humus organic carbon (HUM)     resistant organic carbon (ROC)     soil organic carbon (SOC)     major vegetation groups (MVGs) 

Reminder. Just because the abbreviation of a term is made up of capitals, it does not mean that the term has initial capitals when it is spelt out.

Do not follow the name of a soil with soil:

Rudosols and Podosols were the most dominant   not   Rudosol and Podosol soils were the most dominant

Soil names are expressed in the form subgroup, great group, suborder, order, family. Use an initial capital for all names except family names. Family names comprise descriptive terms for 5 criteria: A horizon thickness, gravel of the surface, A1 horizon texture, B horizon texture and soil depth:

Bleached, Eutrophic, Red Chromosol; thin, gravelly, sandy/clayey, shallow

[Bleached is the subgroup, Eutrophic is the great group, Red is the suborder, Chromosol is the order, thin is the A horizon thickness, gravelly is the type of surface, sandy/clayey is the texture of the A1 and B horizons, and shallow is the soil depth.]

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International standards and resources

The International Mineralogical Association (IMA) has a Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification that provides comprehensive information on mineral names (including spelling).

Australian conventions and resources

For minerals, the Geological Society of Australia is a member of the IMA, and Australian scientists follow the IMA classification.

See also Australia’s identified mineral resources and Australia’s mineral resource assessment, both published by Geoscience Australia.

Did you know? There are nearly 5,000 known minerals; the names of about 4,600 of these have been approved by the IMA.

Minerals are naturally occurring substances found on Earth, and are stable at room temperature. Minerals are different from rocks – for example, they have a specific chemical composition. Use lower case for mineral names:

diamond     gold     quartz     sapphire     

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