Northeastern Section (45th Annual) and Southeastern Section (59th Annual) Joint Meeting (13-16 March 2010)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:05 PM


STEULLET, Alex, PIATEK, Jennifer L. and WIZEVICH, Michael C., Department of Physics and Earth Sciences, Central Connecticut State University, 506 Copernicus Hall, 1615 Stanley St, New Britain, CT 06050,

High resolution imagery of outcrops and landscapes provides educators and students with “virtual” field trip experiences when logistics and other issues preclude the possibility of traveling to the field. We have expanded our catalog of high-resolution panoramas to include noteworthy outcrops and vistas in the western United States and are implementing activities using these images in introductory geology classes.

Images are acquired with the GigaPan robotic camera mount ( and a digital camera. A final panorama is ‘stitched' using software provided with the robotic mount and can be posted on the Internet for public viewing. The end user can zoom in to see details at the limits of the camera's resolution or view the entire area covered by the panorama. These images allow for exploration of large-scale landscape views, such as the mesas of Capitol Reef National Park, as well as the ability to focus in on small scale features, such as individual crossbed sets in the Navajo Sandstone in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Panoramas for this project can be viewed on the GigaPan website ( by searching for the tag “CCSU-WestUS09”.

These panoramas have been incorporated into introductory geology exercises, which emphasize observation and provide students with real-world examples of processes illustrated in texts and lectures. Exercises focus on exploration of natural landscapes for evidence of ancient and recent geologic processes and comparison of processes in different tectonic settings. As part of a lab exercise, students were asked to consider what geologic processes (past and present) shaped the landscape visible in a pan from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and to discuss the evidence that supports those observations. In a separate exercise, students must explore panoramas of the incised meanders of the Colorado River in Arizona and the Snake River in Wyoming to contrast the tectonic, erosional, and depositional processes that formed those landscapes.

The abundant outcrops exposed in the western United States are often used as illustrations of textbook concepts. The high resolution panoramas collected here allow for exploration of these outcrops in “virtual field trips” that can help students learn to interpret landforms on a multitude of levels.