NAGT > Publications > JGE > Journal Articles 2001-2008 > JGE May 2002

May 2002 Journal of Geoscience Education

Volume 50, Number 3
Cover of JGE May 02

Using GPS to Teach More than Accurate Positions
Marie C. Johnson Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY 10996
Peter L. Guth Department of Oceanography, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD 21402
Undergraduate science majors need practice in critical thinking, quantitative analysis, and judging whether their calculated answers are physically reasonable. We have developed exercises using handheld GPS receivers that expose students to this recent technology and promote larger goals that transcend the simple use of a tool for precision location. Using the GPS to calculate the volume of sand in the dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado requires traversing the dunes, plotting a topographic profile, calculating the volume of sand traversed, and then extrapolating to estimate the volume in the entire dune field. This exercise serves to reinforce students' abilities to think quantitatively, to make realistic "back of the envelope" assumptions, and to determine whether their final answers make physical sense. Using the GPS to measure the running track at an outdoor track and field stadium requires students to gather data, import the data into a spreadsheet such as Microsoft Excel, plot it and perform error assessment. This exercise reinforces concepts from statistics, and allows students to estimate the precision of GPS measurements both qualitatively and qualitatively. Together these two exercise promote quantitative analysis in a geologic context.
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Reconstruction/Interpretation of Macroscopic Structures from Discontinuous Mesoscopic Observations: A Major task of Field/Structural Geologists
F. Ornelas Marques Departmento Geologia, Universidade Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal
Geologists face a difficult task when mapping metasedimentary rocks over large areas where outcrops are scarce: reconstruction/interpretation of the macroscopic structure from information gathered at isolated outcrops. Situations can range from very simple to very complex, but most have a unique solution. The basic technique derives from Shackleton's rule: to compare the stratigraphic (polarity) and geometric (angular relation between bedding and cleavage) criteria at each outcrop, to evaluate accordance--it they are accordant, the structure is very simple because antiforms (geometry) are anticlines (polarity) and synforms are synclines (upward facing folds); otherwise antiforms and synforms are, respectively, synclines and anticlines, and the macro-structure is more complex (downward facing folds). When studying, for instance, polyphase deformed metasedimentary rocks of accretionary wedges, the geologist often finds a second deformation phase with a concomitant cleavage, and he must be much more careful because first deformation phase criteria are modified by second phase folds. Still, solutions are possible if there are no second phase recumbent folds with plunging brows. When the geologist observes first phase overthrusts folded by a second deformation phase, the solutions are reasonably easier if the sense of shear of fault is known. Otherwise, solutions are similar to the ones of second phase folds. Here we propose new rules for these more complex cases. The most important rule is: first phase criteria are non-accordant in the inverted limbs of second phase folds, when vergences of first and second phases are in the same sense, and in the second phases normal limbs, when first and second phases show opposite vergences.
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Transferable Elements of the Education Program SEA Semester
Charles E. McClennen Department of Geology, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY 13346
Audrey W. Meyer Falmouth Academy, 7 Highfield Drive, Falmouth, MA 02540
SEA Semester is a highly successful semester-length academic program, providing undergraduate students with an in-depth knowledge of the oceans. There are a number of structural, program design, and other educational considerations that have contributed to SEA Semester's success. Key among these is a rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum, an educational program that combines theoretical learning and practical experience, and an environment of focused learning and intense personal and team challenges. Many of these beneficial characteristics can be incorporated to advantage in both field-centered and more traditional college campus settings, leading to enriched student learning and success in a wide variety of geoscience, earth and environmental science, oceanography and other educational programs.
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Studying Earthquakes, While also Learning about Data and Visualization
Neil A. Wells Department of Geology, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242
Earthquakes have complex causes and patterns of occurrence that can remain enigmatic without lots of data, but earthquake datasets nonetheless seem very comprehensible to introductory students, as they consist primarily of just XYZ positions (latitude, longitude, depth), magnitude, and time of occurrence. Nonetheless, table of abundant data involving more than a couple of parameters are overwhelming. Earthquakes can therefore be used to teach about the importance of (a) collecting enough data, and (b) simplifying and visualizing them appropriately. In particular, interactive stereoplotting routines such as 3D.BAS can simplify multiparameter datasets, and can help visualize multiparameter datasets, and can help visualize subducting and spreading plate boundaries, tectonic settings for faults and volcanoes and time distributions. This can lead students relatively easily into a sophisticated yet enjoyable examination of large databases and into creating hypotheses to explain the patterns that they unearth.
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Visual Solute Transport: A Computer Code for Use in Hydrology Classes
Kathryn W. Thorbjarnarson, Julie H. Inami, and Gary Girty Department of Geological Sciences, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182
Gaining an understanding of solute transport processes can be a time-consuming process due to usage of Fortran models. Senior undergraduate and beginning graduate students in hydrogeology classes are not always familiar with data file preparation and output graphing procedures. Assignments designed to point out important impacts of various transport processes can turn into many hours of preprocessing and postprocessing data with little time or energy for thought and evaluation. A stand-alone Visual Basic program, Visual Solute Transport, has been created for easy data input and graphing of one-dimensional diffusion and advection-dispersion with equilibrium sorption and decay models. Inquiry-based exercises for evaluation of advection-dispersion, dispersivity and sorption effects are included in the paper.
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Teaching GIS and Remote Sensing Integration Using Fire Ecology in Longleaf Pine Sandhills
Ryan R. Jensen Department of Geography, Geology, and Anthropology, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN 47809
I developed a class assignment that integrates Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, and longleaf pine sandhill fire ecology to analyze potential sandhill succession in north central Florida. Students used remotely sensed imagery, vector GIS layers, and raster/vector overlay to complete the assignment. Students found that they could use these two geo-technologies to map and monitor the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) in sandhills and use this information to implement prescribed burns to ward off succession. This assignment taught students not just the tools to integrate GIS and remote sensing but also the importance of using these technologies in tandem to solve real world spatial problems.
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A Student-Centered Field Project Comparing NEXRAD and Rain Guage Precipitation Values in Mountainous Terrain
Christopher J. Woltemade and Diane Stanitski-Martin Department of Geography and Earth Science, Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, PA 17257
A team of undergraduate geoscience students compared Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) estimates of storm total precipitation to measurements from a network of 20 rain gauges. Student researchers gained valuable experience in field data collection, global positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), Internet data access and downloading, computer graphic analysis, descriptive statistics, and conference presentation. The project emphasized problem-solving techniques, positive interdependence and individual accountability.

The study evaluated 31 storms delivering >= 0.30 inches total precipitation to one or more gauges in the 51.8 km2 Burd Run watershed, which drains a low mountainous areas of south-central Pennsylvania. Rain gauge measurements fell within the corresponding range of radar estimates in less than half (46.8%) of all cases. Departures between rain gauge and radar estimates were more common for large storms (total precipitation >= 1.00 in at one or more gauges) than for smaller storms (0.30-0.99 in.). Students explored the environmental reasons for data departures.

SI units are used throughout this paper except in the case of precipitation measurements. We maintain the National Weather Service standard of using English units (inches) when discussing precipitation values.
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Developing a Geologic Outreach Program
Kathleen M. Bower Geology/ Geography Department, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL 61920
A geologic outreach program was initiated within the Geology/Geography Department of Eastern Illinois University to deliver geologic demonstrations and activities presented by undergraduates to area classrooms in elementary, middle, and secondary schools. The presentations are developed to aid classroom students by the delivery of inquiry methods of geology teaching. The presentations are available on a website so teachers can use them when no guest presenter is available. The program has been well received by area teachers.
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Optional Seminars Bring Small-Class Experiences to Students in Large-Enrollment Geology Courses
Martin G. Miller Department of Geological Sciences, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403
At large universities optional seminars that dovetail with large-enrollment courses can provide meaningful small-class experiences for students who want them. I teach an optional, one-credit, limited enrollment course, offered in conjunction with the large-enrollment course, Geology of the National Parks. This seminar, being discussion-oriented, differs greatly in design and philosophy from required course material and related topics, as well as instruction in writing and research. Perhaps most importantly, it allows meaningful interaction between student and professor.
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The Use of U.S. Geological Survey CD-ROM-Based Petroleum Assessments in Undergraduate Geology Laboratories
Robert L. Eves Division of Geosciences, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, UT
Larry E. Davis Department of Biology, St. John's University, Collegeville, MN
Thaddeus S. Dyman U.S. Geological Survey, Energy Resources Team, Denver, CO 80225
Kenneth I. Takahashi U.S. Geological Survey, Energy Resources Team, Denver, CO 80225
Domestic oil production in declining and United States reliance on imported oil is increasing. America will be faced with difficult decisions that address the strategic, economic, and political consequences of its energy resources shortage. The geologically literate undergraduate student needs to be aware of current and future United States energy issues. The U.S. Geological Survey periodically provides energy assessment data via digitally-formatted CD-ROM publications. These publications are free to the public and are well suited for use in undergraduate geology materials.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 1995 National Assessment of United States Oil and Gas Resources (Digital Data Series or DDS-30)(Gautier and others, 1996) is an excellent resource for introducing students to the strategies of hydrocarbon exploration and for developing skills in problem-solving and evaluating real data. This paper introduces the reader to DDS-30, summarizes the essential terminology and methodology of hydrocarbon assessment, and offers examples of exercises or questions that might be used in the introductory classroom. The USGS contact point for obtaining DDS-30 and other digital assessment volumes is also provided. Completing the sample exercises in this report requires DDS-30.
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Column - Research Methodologies in Science Education: Students Ideas About the Nature of Science
Julie C. Libarkin, Science Education Department, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
Josepha P. Kurdziel, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan

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