2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 3:30 PM


SCHOTT, Ronald C., Department of Geosciences, Fort Hays State University, FHSU Geosciences, 600 Park Street, Hays, KS 67601, rschott@fhsu.edu

There is probably no better way to learn about rocks than to examine them in their natural habitat (i.e., in the field). Unfortunately, field trips are often not practical for many geology classes. Too often, therefore, geology students first encounter "orphaned" specimens in the lab, presented with little or no geologic or geographic context. Maps, photographs, and field descriptions can all contribute to putting lab specimens in context, but a number of web-based tools and software offer new avenues to make "virtual field trips" a much richer, integrated, and more interactive experience for classroom-bound geology students.

Google Earth (formerly Keyhole) is a software program that enables students to interactively navigate a "virtual Earth" composed of satellite imagery draped over a digitally rendered globe. Other imagery, such as digital geologic maps, can be imported into the Google Earth viewer and draped over the satellite imagery with varying degrees of transparency. This program can also be used to generate movies or "fly-by" animations that can be incorporated into web sites. Google Earth imagery and movies are ideally suited to illustrate the spatial relationships between features on scales from the entire planet down to small topographic features such as hills or valleys.

Cubic or cylindrically projected QTVR panoramas can be constructed by stitching together still digital images. Incorporated into a web page, QTVR panoramas are well suited for viewing features from the outcrop to regional scale. By embedding hyperlinks within QTVR images or panoramas a sequence of geographically related virtual field trip "stops" can be linked together. Alternately, a series of images could be linked to zoom to different scales (i.e., from tectonic to microscopic scales).

Combining these tools should give students a better sense of the larger scale geologic and geographic context of the hand samples and thin sections encountered in lab exercises.