Ralph Hitz

Tacoma Community College

Materials Contributed through SERC-hosted Projects


Using Google Earth Layers to Understand Local Geomorphology part of Curriculum for the Bioregion:Activities
Using observations of the topography of their local county and prerequisite knowledge of geomorphology and geology, students develop hypotheses about surface water flow patterns and groundwater flooding patterns. Students must come into this exercise with some prerequisite skills/knowledge: glacial geomorphology of the Puget Lowland; using Google Earth; basic hydrology and hydrogeology. They use a case study of shallow groundwater flooding in Pierce County, Washington and imagery in Google Earth (via KMZ files) to develop their hypotheses. Hypotheses can be partially tested by viewing further imagery in Google Earth of actual surface hydrology. Students finish by 1) reflecting on how local geomorphic features, and the hydrologic patterns caused by them, have impacted development in the area; 2) reflecting on how they have personally interacted with local geomorphic or hydrologic features; 3) developing strategies for collecting field data to establish actual hydrologic patterns and shallow ground water flooding patterns. Examples of strategies may include determining the pattern of basement flooding in residences, or distribution of problem public properties such as chronically flooded parks. Through this exercise students develop a stronger sense of place with respect to how local geomorphology impacts their daily lives.