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Visualization techniques in field geology education: A case study from western Ireland

By
Steven Whitmeyer
Steven Whitmeyer
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, 800 S. Main Street, MSC 6903, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, USA
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Martin Feely
Martin Feely
Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, National University of Ireland, Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland
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Declan De Paor
Declan De Paor
Department of Physics, Old Dominion University, OCNPS Bldg., Room 306, 4600 Elkhorn Avenue, Norfolk, Virginia 23529, USA
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Ronan Hennessy
Ronan Hennessy
Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, National University of Ireland, Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland
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Shelley Whitmeyer
Shelley Whitmeyer
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Jeremy Nicoletti
Jeremy Nicoletti
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, 800 S. Main Street, MSC 6903, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, USA
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Bethany Santangelo
Bethany Santangelo
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Jillian Daniels
Jillian Daniels
Department of Physics, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 100 Institute Road, Worcester, Massachusetts 01609, USA
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Michael Rivera
Michael Rivera
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, 800 S. Main Street, MSC 6903, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, USA
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Published:
December 01, 2009

Geoscience students often have difficulty interpreting real-world spatial relationships from traditional two-dimensional geologic maps. This can be partly addressed with direct, tactile field experiences, although three-dimensional (3-D) cognition can still be hampered by incomplete exposure of all spatial dimensions. Many of these barriers can be overcome by incorporating computer-based, virtual 3-D visualizations within undergraduate field-oriented curricula. Digital field equipment is fast becoming a standard tool in environmental, engineering, and geoscience industries, in part because of the increased accessibility of ruggedized computers equipped with global positioning system (GPS) receivers. Handheld computers with geographic information systems (GIS) software record and display data in real time, which increases the accuracy and utility of draft field maps. New techniques and software allow digital field data to be displayed and interpreted within virtual 3-D platforms, such as Google Earth. The James Madison University Field Course provides a field geology curriculum that incorporates digital field mapping and computer-based visualizations to enhance 3-D interpretative skills. Students use mobile, handheld computers to collect field data, such as lithologic and structural information, and analyze and interpret their digital data to prepare professional-quality geologic maps of their field areas. Student data and maps are incorporated into virtual 3-D terrain models, from which partly inferred map features, such as contacts and faults, can be evaluated relative to topography to better constrain map interpretations. This approach familiarizes students with modern tools that can improve their interpretation of field geology and provides an example of the way in which digital technologies are revolutionizing traditional field methods. Initial student feedback suggests strong support for this curriculum integrating digital field data collection, map preparation, and 3-D visualization and interpretation to enhance student learning in the field.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Field Geology Education: Historical Perspectives and Modern Approaches

Steven J. Whitmeyer
Steven J. Whitmeyer
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, USA
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David W. Mogk
David W. Mogk
Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, USA
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Eric J. Pyle
Eric J. Pyle
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
461
ISBN print:
9780813724614
Publication date:
December 01, 2009

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