GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 190-10
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


YOUNG, Ryan K. and ELLIOTT Jr., William S., Geology and Physics, University of Southern Indiana, 8600 University Blvd, Evansville, IN 47712

The real-world learning experience attained from field work is an important component of many undergraduate geology programs. From short trips to regional studies, or extended summer excursions, these experiences provide new challenges to and growth opportunities for students. As earth science programs assess their budget constraints, logistical support or lack thereof, and safety concerns with field work and travel. Alternately, a virtual geology field trip establishes an alternative that provides students with a unique experience. In addition, virtual field trips accessible on University web pages may also serve as an asset to the recruitment of geology and/or earth science majors and to educate the general public. Furthermore, the web-based learning environment has many advantages, such as the ability to instantly change and/or update information, and the ability to expand resources through visuals, such as interactive maps and graphs.

In this study, a virtual field resource was developed for Mount Desert Island and the area around Acadia National Park in Maine. A web-based learning environment provides a unique and interactive opportunity for students to observe and learn about the geology of the area over multiple scales, such as geologic maps, field relationships through photographs, hand sample images, and photomicrographs of selected rock specimens paired with geochemical data. This virtual field resource highlights eleven localities with thirteen different rock specimens with accompanying photomicrographs of thin-sections. Geochemical analysis of selected samples using an X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometer are presented to link mineral and elemental compositions. The web pages are designed for a student, or a visitor, to explore on their own using interactive tools. This approach follows “just-in-time” methods, in which the learning is self-paced.

With ever increasing budgetary limitations and safety concerns, virtual field resources provide a useful alternative that delivers students a hands-on experience. In addition, a virtual field resource can be an important tool in recruitment of geology and/or earth science majors, increasing visibility of the geosciences to the general public, and a valuable learning asset to the introductory geology student.