Integrated digital mapping in geologic field research: An adventure-based approach to teaching new geospatial technologies in an REU Site Program
Published:December 01, 2009
Mark T. Swanson, Matthew Bampton, 2009. "Integrated digital mapping in geologic field research: An adventure-based approach to teaching new geospatial technologies in an REU Site Program", Field Geology Education: Historical Perspectives and Modern Approaches, Steven J. Whitmeyer, David W. Mogk, Eric J. Pyle
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Adapting geologic field education and research training to new geospatial technologies requires considerable investment of time and money in acquiring new instruments, mastering new techniques, and developing new curriculum in return for dramatically increased mapping capabilities. The University of Southern Maine’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program has developed an integrated system of digital mapping specifically designed for geologic work that involves satellite and optical digital survey instruments, digital imagery, and a variety of mapping techniques. These new digital tools, techniques, and resources are used to explore the nature of crustal deformation in an adventure-based undergraduate field research program that employs sea kayaks for coastal access to island bedrock exposures. This new generation of digital mapping tools enabled the development of new techniques for outcrop surface mapping where we are able to delineate 1–100-m-range mesoscale geologic features that are often overlooked in traditional quadrangle-scale geologic mapping. Maps of extensive exposures in coastal Maine created using these digital techniques continue to reveal new and never-before-seen geologic structures and relationships. Because of this, undergraduate students are able to make meaningful contributions to our base of geologic knowledge and acquire essential geospatial skills, while learning these digital mapping techniques in a research setting. The emphasis we place on teamwork, risk taking, exploration, and discovery as part of the adventure programming aspect of the field component builds a confidence and enthusiasm that extends into the research component of the project, where students are able to develop new analytical methods, applications, and approaches to our field and laboratory work.