Southeastern Section - 57th Annual Meeting (10–11 April 2008)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


DUNAGAN, Stan, Department of Agriculture, Geosciences, and Natural Resources, The University of Tennessee at Martin, 256 Brehm Hall, Martin, TN 38238,

Google Earth combines satellite imagery with terrain features to provide a 3-D rendering (map) of the Earth's surface features in an easy to use computer interface which is a cost-effective way to incorporate technology into upper division geoscience classrooms through lab activities and student presentations. Google Earth is commonly paired with topographic maps in upper division geology lab activities at the University of Tennessee including GEOL 345 (Natural Hazards) and GEOL 355 (Geomorphology). There are numerous advantages to integrating Google Earth (GE) into the upper division geology curriculum including: (1) it is a free, easily installed software download (; (2) it allows viewing of a geographic area at multiple scales; (3) it has the ability to show map areas, landforms and geologic hazards from multiple perspectives in 3-D; (4) latitude and longitude coordinates may be quickly determined for a particular geologic feature; (5) geologic, geomorphic, natural hazard or other information may be applied to a base map; (6) it allows for Google searches for topographic features and locations; (7) one may setup customizable “tours” of geomorphic features and natural hazards anywhere in the world for students; (8) publishers are starting to include Google Earth activities and exercises as an instructor resource; and (9) student presentations may be delivered using the GE “tour” function. Generally, student feedback regarding GE lab activities is favorable with students demonstrating the ability to use both GE and topographic maps to locate, identify, and visualize various geomorphic features and natural hazards. Of particular interest was that the use of topographic maps was noted as being advantageous as compared to GE; these advantages included: (1) the ability to visually assess the entire map area without having to scroll around; (2) that elevation data and contour lines are not available on GE, but easy to determine on topographic maps; (3) that the names of certain anthropomorphic and geologic features were often easier to identify and locate on topographic maps, but the names of many features may not be displayed in GE depending on the “eye alt” of the end user; and (4) that topographic maps have greater field portability as compared to GE.