Cutting Edge > Google Earth and Teaching Geoscience

Resources for Using Google Earth for Geoscience Teaching and Research

Faults in the eastern Iran (32.189398N, 56.884025E). Click image to enlarge.

Google Earth has enormous potential for both teaching and research in the geosciences, but you need to know more than the basics in order to tap the full potential effectively. The resources in this collection will help you learn how to push the limits of Google Earth for displaying geologic data in 3D, for doing field work and research using Google Earth, and for teaching effectively using Google Earth. This resource is an outgrowth of the 2011 GSA Penrose Conference Google Earth: Visualizing the Possibilities for Geoscience Education and Research.



Using this resource collection

This collection of resources assumes that you are familiar with Google Earth.If you need to brush up on the basics, On the Cutting Edge has a terrific and comprehensive resource on the basics of using Google Earth.

Parts of the resource collection outlined below require Google Earth Pro. You can either purchase a license to Google Earth Pro or apply for a free educator's license.


Jump down to: Geologic maps : Field data : Cross sections : SketchUp : GigaPans : Photos : ArcGIS : Advanced techniques : Geologic map interpretation : Google Venus : GigaPan collections : Tours : Other special collections : Assignments and activities : About the developers

Techniques and tools in Google Earth

Geologic maps. Display of geologic data in Google Earth benefits from geologic maps that load quickly, portray symbols accurately and legibly, and are accompanied by cross sections that can be lifted out of the ground. Learn more....

Field data. Field work can be enhanced by viewing and managing traverses, waypoints, data, and photos in Google Earth. Learn more...

Cross sections. Geologic cross sections blah blah blah. Learn more....

3D diagrams in SketchUP. SketchUp blah blah blah. Learn more...

Creating GigaPans. Images acquired using a GigaPan camera system and panorama stitching software can provide spectacular high resolution views in Google Earth. Learn more...

Photos. Photographs can be included in Google Earth in a number of ways, including in placemarks, as overlays, and as floating images. Learn more...

ArcGIS and Google Earth. ArcGIS 10 has tools to convert kml to layer as well as layer to kml, and Google Earth Pro can import ArcGIS files directly. Learn more ....

Advanced techniques. Use of advanced techniques such as network links, Javascript, PHP, and Fusion Tables allow you to push the limits and accomplish more sophisticated results with Google Earth. Learn more...

Resources and strategies
Near Karkh, Pakistan (27 50 35.00N, 67 10 03.70E). Click image to enlarge.
Near Karkh, Pakistan, tilted layers oblique 1 Click to enlarge.
Near Karkh, Pakistan, tilted layers oblique 2 Near Karkh, Pakistan, tilted layers oblique 3 Near Karkh, Pakistan, tilted layers oblique 4

Geologic map interpretation. The 3D viewing capability of Google Earth, coupled with high resolution imagery in areas of outstanding bedrock exposure, provides an effective way to teach geologic map interpretation and cross section construction in both intro geo and structural geology courses. Learn more...

Google Venus. Virtual globes are not limited to terrestrial data. Planet-wide imagery from Venus can be used to create a Google Venus. Learn more...

GigaPan Uses. GigaPan collections offer an extraordinary tool for teaching using virtual field experiences.. Learn more...

Tours. The touring capability of Google Earth is a powerful tool for visualizing landscapes, geological structures, and active earth processes. Learn more...

Steve and Mladen's Mapping Game.

Geofencing. Keeping students on task.

Other special collections. We have assembled a growing set of other collections in Google Earth, with suggestions for how to teach effectively with them. Learn more...

Assignments and activities using Google Earth

The SERC site has a growing collection of assignments and activities that use Google Earth for teaching undergraduate geoscience. If you have developed an exemplary assignment or activity, we hope that you will submit your activity to the collection.


About the development team

Corner graphic is Google Earth view near Nanzha, China the northern margin of the Taklamakan. Looking NNE from 39.731547N, 78.796463E toward the foothills of the Tian Shan Mountains. Imagery from GeoEye.