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About this Project

Geodesy Curriculum for Undergraduates

Geodesy today - Over the last two decades, technical advancements in geodesy have revolutionized our understanding of the workings of the Earth. These diverse discoveries include: the first global determination of the size and changes in the Earth's great ice sheets and the processes that control their rapid retreat; the discovery of periodic, slow slip along plate bounding faults that have relevance to seismic hazards; accurate determination of present-day global sea-level rise, a sensitive indication of climate change; determination of tectonic plate motions and the crustal deformation field of North America; extraordinary imaging of landscapes from laser and radar technologies revealing the processes that shape them; characterization of the mechanical properties of damage zones around major crustal faults that control earthquakes, and detection of activity at volcanoes previously presumed dormant.

Curriculum needed - Current text books and other teaching resources have not kept pace with advances in geodesy, and offer little substantive information about modern geodetic methods and results. The UNAVCO community identified this gap in its strategic plan; and committed to development of a modern and meaningful undergraduate curriculum for geodesy. Initial input from the community was solicited at a half-day workshop held in conjunction with the May 2011 EarthScope meeting. Further input will be needed as we move forward in order to ensure that the final proposed project will be compelling and highly useful to strengthening student understanding of the Earth systems that are the stage for modern societies, exposure to natural hazards, and the resource constraints of the planet.

Initial ideas favored a curriculum that is available online (probably through the Science Education Resource Center [SERC]) and includes elements for both introductory geoscience and upper level majors' courses. One of the exciting (but poorly communicated) developments in geodesy is the breadth of fields which now use geodetic tools so the potential reach of the curriculum is well beyond geophysics courses, and in some cases even beyond Earth sciences. Input from the May workshop suggested several topics to consider for inclusion: What geodesy is, GNSS measurements, gravity measurements, understanding faults, applications to isostasy (rebound, sea level change, etc.), and plate motion. We are seeking further input from the scientific community and the Grand Challenges in Geodesy (coming soon) and NSF's Geo Vision Report to ensure the breadth of applications are represented.

Proposal team - We have started to put together the team needed to write a proposal for the NSF Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (TUES). The initial proposal will probably be a Type 1 (May 2012 deadline) for initial curriculum development but the goal would be to ultimately receive a Type 2 project that would allow more extensive material development and dissemination. Beth Pratt-Sitaula, a research associate at Central Washington University with a background in tectonic geomorphology and science education, will serve as the primary contact and pedagogical resource person. She will work closely with UNAVCO Education and Outreach staff. An advisory committee of members from the geodetic research community has also been formed (Geoff Blewitt, Andrew Newman, Matt Pritchard, Mark Simons, and Shimon Wdowinski). SERC will be a partner organization.

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