Experiences and insights from introducing terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) to geology field courses Abstract

abstract

  • Over the past five summers, UNAVCO has worked collaboratively with university geoscience faculty to introduce Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) into geology field camp curriculum. TLS is becoming an indispensible tool in the geosciences, and it has proven to be an exciting and complimentary technology at the undergraduate field camp level. TLS is typically presented as a five-day elective. UNAVCO provides TLS and other equipment as well as trained staff to complement the course faculty. The TLS field camp module was initially developed and tested at the Indiana University G429 course in Montana. In summer 2013, UNAVCO supported four camps, exposing approximately 100 students to TLS technology, methods, and data analysis.
    TLS projects undertaken by students are related to mapping exercises and scientific questions identified during their field camp experience. Following an introductory lecture on TLS technology, applications, and methods, students learn to deploy and operate the instruments. Ideally, the number of students is limited to allow adequate time for direct participation in scanner setup and operation. Activities for the week build from an initial survey in a small, highly constrained location, to a final project where the students are asked to independently design a survey, deploy the instruments, collect the data, and analyze data to answer a specific scientific question. In addition, emphasis is placed on project metadata and documentation. Students produce a series of instrument set up and data processing flow charts, as well as equipment lists, site maps, and tables of scan parameters.
    Identification of appropriate field sites is important. Small targets with limited vegetation are ideal. Examples of successful targets include: Holocene normal fault scarps, fluvial terrace risers, outcrops with small fault offsets, and recently burned hillslopes. Given the compressed timeline and complexity and volume of data collected by laser scanning, these small landforms can be processed rapidly and analyzed efficiently. Computing facilities and a balanced schedule that ensures adequate student time dedicated to working with the point cloud data are also important. We’ve found computers pre-configured with software to greatly improve the student’s ability to apply TLS data to geologic problem solving.

publication date

  • 2013

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