On the Cutting Edge - Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
Undergraduate Research as Teaching Practice
Cutting Edge > Undergraduate Research > Upper Division Strategies Collection > Role of Technology > Geo- Cyberinfrastructure

Accessing the new Geo-Cyberinfrastructure for Undergraduate Research

By Jeff Ryan, University of South Florida and Dave Mogk, Montana State University, Bozeman

The rapid development of informatics resources and tools, and in particular the availability of powerful and user-friendly geospatial information system (GIS) platforms that permit easy data manipulation and visualization, present a range of opportunities for developing research-intensive classroom experiences. These informatics "portals" provide data in formats compatible with popular visualization and data management platforms (ArcGIS, Google Earth), and many also provide their own suite of visualization tools to facilitate data manipulation and first-order interpretation. New NSF requirements for Data Management have led to the expansion of existing cyberinfrastructure platforms and facilities, and the recent development of new facilities. These geoinformatics resources can be extremely valuable tools in training students to work with data, and many of these are fertile resources for undergraduate research projects as well.

Plugged in

Geoscience Information portals (focused on geoscience data management and oversight - an incomplete list):

A comprehensive inventory of geoscience-focused data sources and tools has been compiled in the Using Data in the Classroom portal (developed for the National Science Digital Library). An associated site, Data and Tools has developed DataSheets which concisely describe a particular scientific data set in a way that is useful to educators interested in teaching with the data set, with tips and strategies for effective instruction using these data sets. These DataSheets provide a foundation and jumping-off point for training students in data interpretation, a critical research skill.

Here is a partial list of data sources that have wide application in geoscience research:

NASA Mission Data Portals:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was the first Federal agency to develop and maintain Internet-based, publicly accessible data portals for its mission data. NASA maintains websites for all its current and past missions, which include access to mission data. A wide range of these repositories have been developed, some of which have been archived by the US Geological Survey after a particular mission ends. Some examples include:

Geospatial Information System Platforms for Earth and Planetary Datasets, and other Visualization Tools:

A growing number of geospatial information platforms are now available that allow one to manipulate and visualize geoscience and planetary data in a range of different ways. Most of these platforms are interoperable - which is to say, one can port data from one to the other using common file types (shape files, kmz/kml, Excel data files), all of them provide access to "packaged" datasets of various sorts, and many of them allow one to port in one's own georeferenced datasets to overlay and compare with global databases.

The SERC site includes a number of collections focused on the classroom use of geospatial data:

GIS Platforms:

Tutorials Demonstrating the Use of Geocyberinfrastructure

Following the example of the Earth Exploration Toolkit which provides step-by-step instructions on how to access and use a variety of Earth datasets, we have developed a series of tutorials that demonstrate how to use:


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