Creating Topic-Specific Maps for Geoscience Classes
We can help students understand spatial relationships through the inclusion of specific maps that relate to the lecture, discussion, lab or exercise topics (see for example, Gutierrez et al. (2002)). While the use of state- or national-level geologic or topographic maps in geoscience coursework is quite common, available GIS tools and data provide opportunities to develop site- or topic-specific maps to enhance the experience. Map development tools are available in numerous desktop GIS packages (e.g. ArcView or GRASS) or web-based GIS servers (e.g. www.terraserver.com, http://nationalatlas.gov/ or http://seamless.usgs.gov (more info) ).
Once created, these maps become resources for future course/lab work. They are also an effective way for the instructor to train in GIS techniques.
Map Development with Online GIS & Map Resources
- Download USGS topographic maps and aerial photos from Terraserver - Instructions
- Download basic outline (labelled and unlabelled) maps of the U.S. for a variety of uses from the USGS National Atlas - USGS Outline & Reference Maps
- Explore potentially active volcanoes in the United States - USGS National Atlas
- Explore U.S. geology and geologic history through a dynamic USGS website - USGS Geologic Tapestry of Time and Terrain
- List of further examples of using map resources in activities, lectures, and exercises from the SERC database - Spatial Relationships in Geoscience Data
Map Development with Desktop GIS
- Online GIS data sources - Download data sets that are relevant to the course to create maps for lecture, lab, or exercises. These is a list of a few sites that provide data at a variety of scales.
- Using GPS in geoscience classes - Don't forget that you and your class can generate your own data for maps by using GPS!
Creating Maps for a Course - ExamplesThese are a few examples of maps that can be created from online sources for use in the classroom.
- Instructions - Sample map: Northfield, MN
- earthquake.usgs.gov - Sample map: global quakes from 2003.
- U.S. Geological Survey (more info) - Sample map: geologic map of U.S.
- USGS Water Resources Division (more info) - Sample map: real-time U.S. stream gage data from March 9, 2005
- NOAA-National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) (more info) - Sample map: animated global map of ocean bathymetry and crustal age
Examples of Map Resources Used in Labs and Exercises
- Floodplain lab (with GIS) - adapted from exercise by Mary Savina, Carleton College
- Mapping plate boundaries - by Rurik Johnson,Plymouth Middle School
- List of additional exercises and activities that use GIS in geoscience education