Teach the Earth > GIS and Remote Sensing > Activities > Remote Sensing of Soil and Geomorphology

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Aug 17, 2010

Remote Sensing of Soil and Geomorphology

Teaching activity developed by John R. Jensen, University of South Carolina.
Activity page submitted by Jerry Griffith, University of Southern Mississippi.


This lab exercise focuses upon interpretation of imagery for geomorphology applictions and proviudes many examples upon which students can practice. It also provides an opportunity to examine spectral siugnatures of soil.


Type and level of course
This lab exercise is intended for an introductory remote sensing course designed for upper-division majors in natural andlife sciences. While no official prerequisites exists, it is hoped that students have taken several natural science courses and have basic mathematical skills.

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment
It is assumed that the student has either had some courses in geology, physical geography, or ecology that discuss the basics of geomorphology, or that this material will be discussed (given the time restraints) in class.

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
The student who is taking the course will have had an overview of how to use the basic functionality of ERDAS Imagine. In addition, basic skills in photo-interpretation are assumed as well, as is an understanding of spectral signatures.

Software required for this assignment/activity:
ERDAS Imagine v. 9.3

Time required for students to complete the assignment:


GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment
The students continue to learn how to analyze and interpret spectral signatures, in this case between different sediment types on a river floodplain. They begin to see which bands of the sensor are best at discriminating different soil characteristics. Inaddition, they continue to practice their photo-interpretation skills.

Other content/concepts goals for this activity
The students, if they haven't already been exposed to some basic soil science/geomorphology, will learn about different sediment sizes and soil characteristics and how this can be seen on satellite imagery.

In addition, they will learn about, and how to identify in imagery, different landforms such as dunes, basic physiography, alluvial fans, drainage types, deltas, marshlands, and karst topography.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
In this lab, analysis of data is required when the students begin to use ERDAS Imagine to explore the spectral signatures and extract meaning from them. Sythnesis of ideas os required in the photo-interpretation exercise the various elements of image interpretation.

Description of the activity/assignment

To prepare for this lab exercise, students read a chapter on geomorphology/soil science applications in the textbook and attend lectures on the subject. A brief primer is also presented at the start of the lab. The lab itself exposes students to be able to intepret spectral signatures of a river floodplain and different soil characteristics. The other part of the lab will give students an opportunity to identify different landforms in imagery. Overall, this is a basic introduction to remote sensing of landforms and soil characteristics.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The students will write their answers to the questions about spectral signatures and the landform identify questions, and I evaluate the correctness of their responses.
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