GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 67-13
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


ROHRBACK, Robin, Northern Virginia Community College, 8333 Little River Turnpike, MSE Division, Annandale, VA 22003, BENTLEY, Callan, Geology program, Northern Virginia Community College, Annadale, VA 22652, RIVERA, Tiffany A., Westminster College, 1840 S 1300 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84105 and JAYE, Shelley A., Math, Science & Engineering, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale, 8333 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA 22003,

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) generates dynamic geologic imagery with GigaPan and Magnify2 imaging systems, a Phenom ProX desktop scanning electron microscope (SEM), and Sketchfab 3D modeling software. The GigaPan and Magnify2systems generate gigapixel-resolution images which provide an online experience analogous to observing outcrops up close and hand samples in microscopic detail. NOVA’s gigapixel images, created for the Mid-Atlantic Geo-Image Collection (M.A.G.I.C.), are curated into themed galleries available for free online at The collection currently boasts ~1400 images, with an average size of ~1 gigapixel each. The Phenom ProX’s automated image mapping software allows us to capture gigapixel-resolution images of micron-scale objects like diatoms and foraminifera. 3D models, which can be embedded as digital objects in webpages or Google Earth, permit students to examine samples from every angle. Users, including those with impaired sight, may even download and render the models in solid form using a 3D printer. The images we generate are suitable for use in classrooms, online lectures and coursework (including the training of preservice K12 science teachers), virtual field trips, and research. They allow students with limited financial means an easy way to “travel the world” and become the “geologist who’s seen the most rocks.” They allow students with physical disabilities to learn from the exploration of sites that they cannot get to in the physical world.

NOVA Mineralogy students are using these technologies in collaboration with researchers at Westminster College who are studying trace element chemistry in Yellowstone volcanic deposits. The NOVA students first image the hand samples with the Magnify2, then perform rough EDS analyses on the Phenom ProX. NOVA students are also making thin sections and performing optical petrology.

We present this work and other examples of NOVA faculty and students using these technologies to create educational tools and in collaborative research.

Support for this project comes from the Google Earth for On-site and Distance Education project (GEODE, NSF DUE 1323419).