Teaching terrestrial laser scanning and structure from motion in undergraduate field courses: a field education module Abstract


  • New digital technologies have changed the ways geoscientists describe and quantify geologic features from the past and change on the Earth’s surface in the present. There is growing interest in introducing these new technologies into field education courses, which traditionally are capstone courses for geoscience majors. In collaboration with field education instructors, UNAVCO, the National Science Foundation’s geodetic facility, has developed a module of teaching resources to integrate terrestrial lidar scanning into field courses. An NSF facility is well positioned to develop scalable resources that can then be distributed or adapted for broader implementation. The modules can also be accomplished using Structure from Motion methods in place of lidar scanning. Module goals are for students to be able to: (A) design and conduct a complex TLS survey to address a geologic research question and (B) articulate the societal impetus for answering these research questions and identify why TLS is the appropriate method in some circumstances. The module is comprised of five units: (1) Introduction to survey design, (2) Stratigraphic section analysis, (3) Fault scarp analysis, (4) Geomorphic change detection, (5) Student-led survey design summative assessment. The modules, apart from the Introduction, are independent, thus select modules can be employed in a given field setting. Prototype module materials were developed from the last five years of UNAVCO support of undergraduate field courses. The current versions of the modules were tested in summer 2015 at the Indiana University and University of Michigan field camps. Results show that the majority of students are able to achieve the intended learning goals. Module materials are available on the UNAVCO Education and Community Engagement website.

publication date

  • 2015

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