Leveraging High Resolution Topography for Education and Outreach: Updates to OpenTopography to make EarthScope and Other Lidar Datasets more Prominent in Geoscience Education Abstract


  • The use of Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) derived topography has become an indispensable tool in Earth science research. The collection of high-resolution lidar topography from an airborne or terrestrial platform allows landscapes and landforms to be represented at sub-meter resolution and in three dimensions. In addition to its high value for scientific research, lidar derived topography has tremendous potential as a tool for Earth science education. Recent science education initiatives and a community call for access to research-level data make the time ripe to expose lidar data and derived data products as a teaching tool. High resolution topographic data fosters several Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs) of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGS, 2013), presents respective Big Ideas of the new community-driven Earth Science Literacy Initiative (ESLI, 2009), teaches to a number National Science Education Standards (NSES, 1996), and Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS, 1993) for science education for undergraduate physical and environmental earth science classes. The spatial context of lidar data complements concepts like visualization, place-based learning, inquiry based teaching and active learning essential to teaching in the geosciences. As official host to EarthScope lidar datasets for tectonically active areas in the western United States, the NSF-funded OpenTopography facility provides user-friendly access to a wealth of data that is easily incorporated into Earth science educational materials. OpenTopography (www.opentopography.org), in collaboration with EarthScope, has developed education and outreach activities to foster teacher, student and researcher utilization of lidar data. These educational resources use lidar data coupled with free tools such as Google Earth to provide a means for students and the interested public to visualize and explore Earth's surface in an interactive manner not possible with most other remotely sensed imagery. The education section of the OpenTopography portal has recently been strengthened with the addition of several new resources and the re-organization of existing content for easy discovery. New resources include a detailed frequently asked questions (FAQ) section, updated 'How-to' videos for downloading data from OpenTopography and additional webpages aimed at students, educators and researchers leveraging existing and updated resources from OpenTopography, EarthScope and other organizations. In addition, the OpenLandform catalog, an online collection of classic geologic landforms depicted in lidar, has been updated to include additional tectonic landforms from EarthScope lidar datasets.


publication date

  • 2013

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