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Computer Applications in Structural Geology

We invite you to contribute information about computer resources that you have found useful for teaching structural geology or simply provide support for teaching structural geology.

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An Introduction to Structural Methods (more info)

Written by H. Robert Burger, Smith College and Tekla A. Harms, Amherst College

A screen shot from the animation program,  An Introduction to Structural Methods
This DVD is illustrated with 3-D diagrams, geologic maps, animations, and photographs offering a new approach to teaching structural geology. This DVD-ROM improves students' spatial reasoning skills while applying structural concepts and techniques. It also provides interactive quizzes that test students' comprehension of key concepts and terminology while encouraging their mastery of techniques working with the types of problems they will likely confront as practicing geologists. Designed for use at the college level.

Topics include:


Java Computer Programs for Teaching Displacement Concepts (more info)

by Skylar L. Primm and Basil Tikoff, University of Wisconsin - Madison

A diagram showing shear fabric
These interactive programs help students in structural geology courses to visualize and understand the fundamental concepts of distortion, rotation, and translation under progressive general shear. These have been recently rewritten and improved upon using Java, and they will run on any machine with Java 1.4.2 or later installed. New programs have also been added to the suite, in order to cover a broader range of displacement concepts. These programs are suitable for use as teaching aids in an undergraduate or graduate level structural geology course.

The following programs are available:


Visible Geology: An Interactive Visualization Program for Creating Block Diagrams

by Rowan Cockett, University of Calgary

Visible Geology is an interactive visualization program where you can create and explore your own geologic block models. The goal of the program is to allow a learning environment that, with the focus of a teacher, provides students with a moment of geologic discovery. The program works in any modern browser (not Internet Explorer).



Spreadsheet to Convert Rake to Plunge & Trend

by Eric Nelson, Colorado School of Mines

This Excel spreadsheet (Excel 61kB Feb17 09) converts strike-dip-rake data (e.g., slickenlines in a fault plane) to plunge-trend of the line. Useful as most stereonet plotting programs do not accept rake data.



Fleuty Plot for Fold Orientation Classification

by Eric Nelson, Colorado School of Mines

This template file ( 196kB Mar1 10) opens in Golden Software's Grapher program and plots a Fleuty diagram which classifies fold orientation by plotting fold hinge plunge vs. fold axial plane dip. An opening window should request an Excel data file to plot; this file should have column A titled "axial plane dip" and column B titled "axis plunge". Here is a very simple test plot data file (Excel 14kB Mar1 10). This is a simple diagram, but I find that when students collect and then plot field data on this diagram, it helps them see how to classify folds based on orientation. I have them incorporate the plot in a report describing structures studied in the field.


Earth Science Applications

by Nestor Cardozo (all) and Richard Allmendinger (OSXStereonet and SSPX)

This set of Earth Science Applications for Mac are particularly useful for 3D visualization. Programs include:

Works on MacOSX 10.6 and above.


A working group for the effective use of computers in teaching structural geology was formed at the 2004 workshop.


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