2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


HALEY, J. Christopher, NOE, Garry E. and SCHAUS, Maynard, Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Wesleyan College, 1584 Wesleyan Drive, Norfolk, VA 23502, jchaley@vwc.edu

In our effort to develop a coherent geoscience program based on the four spheres of Earth Systems Science, we have found that introducing GIS as a critical laboratory component of most courses can help bridge the traditional disciplines and lend a sense of unity to the curriculum. Repeated exposure to GIS in a wide variety of classes from each of the four spheres makes important similarities in the accumulation, organization and analysis of spatial data in all disciplines evident. The common platform of a GIS also allows students to seek relationships between data from the various disciplines further strengthening the perception of Earth as an integrated system. From a practical standpoint, this initiative allows majors to gain substantial experience using GIS in ways relevant to their interest without taking numerous specialized courses. With the growing importance of GIS in government and industry this can provide an advantage to those seeking employment after college. Not only are we integrating GIS into our majors’ courses, we place equal emphasis on using GIS in introductory labs. At the introductory level, a GIS can be used to address a number of goals for these courses: 1) GIS provides a platform for teaching with actual data. Numerous datasets exist for earthquakes, tides, rainfall, temperature, stream flow, etc. which can be accessed for laboratory exercises. 2) GIS provides a mechanism for teaching with models, both mathematical and visual. Three-D visualization models created in GIS have proven particularly helpful in understanding geologic structures. 3) GIS allows the tackling of real problems of considerable complexity using the same software as professionals employ. Examples of such case-based exercises include selection of a dam site and calculating the volume of the reservoir and length of time it will take to fill up, and the delineation of 100-year flood planes using stream data.