Applications of high-resolution topography in Earth science education

Sarah E. Robinson, Wendy Bohon, Emily J. Kleber, Ramon Arrowsmith, Christopher J. Crosby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


High-resolution topography (HRT) provides Earth scientists the opportunity to measure landscapes at unprecedented meter to submeter resolutions. HRT also enables use of new quantitative tools that explore landscape structure and evolution. The wide applications for HRT products in research have motivated Earth science educators to evaluate their usefulness for teaching concepts such as plate tectonics, faulting, and landscape change. This study assesses the usefulness of HRT as an educational tool for teaching Earth science concepts. The application of HRT to Earth science education is motivated by concepts outlined in undergraduate geology textbooks, the U.S. Next Generation Science Standards, and the Earth Science Literary Initiative. We developed three activities using HRT to assess its educational value. An exploratory study involving undergraduate students assesses their ability to evaluate and interpret the landscape in HRT shaded-relief image versus aerial photography. The hillshades allow novice learners to focus more directly on the landscape, enabling faster and more accurate interpretations of geologic features. In addition, an educational video on HRT and an exercise exploring the earthquake cycle with HRT were tested in undergraduate introductory geology classes. Students who used educational tools involving HRT increased their understanding of the earthquake cycle and HRT for studying earthquakes. Novice Earth science students who use HRT improve their ability to evaluate topography for geologic features and come to accurate conclusions about landscape evolution. These positive outcomes are possible because of the fine scale at which topography can be examined without visual distractors within HRT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1887-1900
Number of pages14
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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