2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:35 AM


CALLAHAN, Caitlin N., The Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, 3225 Wood Hall, Kalamazoo, MI 49008, PETCOVIC, Heather L., Department of Geosciences and The Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, 1903 W Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5241, BAKER, Kathleen M., Department of Geography, Western Michigan University, 3238 Wood Hall, Kalamazoo, MI 49008 and LIBARKIN, Julie C., Department of Geological Sciences, Division of Science and Mathematics Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, caitlin.n.callahan@wmich.edu

A bedrock geologic map is an end product of a geologist’s observations, data collection, and interpretation of these data in a given field area. The strategies, behaviors, and cognitive processes that a geoscientist uses for constructing a map are arguably the result of education and prior experiences in field mapping. For many geologists, a geologic field methods course is their first opportunity for learning mapping skills. However, after that introductory experience, how a student progresses from novice to expert mapper is not well understood. In a pilot study, we compared GPS tracks, maps, interview data, and think-aloud audio logs for novice and expert geologists as they made a bedrock geologic map. Pilot data suggests that experts appear to be more efficient mappers, in terms of having simpler tracks and spending more time at outcrops with notable geologic features like contact relationships or faults. The expert participants interpreted the same geologic data somewhat differently, implying that personal biases played a role in the construction of their geologic map.

In this study, we collected survey, map, track, interview, and audio log data for thirty participants as they made a bedrock map in a section of the Tobacco Root Mountains in Montana, to investigate further distinctions between novice and expert geologists and to test hypotheses generated by the pilot study. Participants range in age from 20 to 54 years old, and range in experience from undergraduate students who have completed a basic geologic field methods course to professional geoscientists with 28 years in their career. We use digitized participant-generated maps to compare how experts differ from novices in the total number of units mapped as well as the percentage of area mapped as belonging to a specific lithological unit. GPS tracks are also examined to identify trends in spatial patterns, areas of ‘hot spots’ activity, and correlations between tracks with mapped features. We speculate that the experts’ greater efficiency in mapping stems from their ability to assess their performance and revise their approach as needed as they proceed with the task. We also explore whether variations across maps are more related to differences between individuals or differences between mapping expertise of those individuals.