Geology of Yosemite Valley

Nicolas Barth, University of California-Riverside
Initial Publication Date: May 15, 2020 | Reviewed: August 14, 2020

Summary

This is a four-part module designed to be flexible in duration and student grade-level.

(1) Geology of Yosemite Valley Virtual Field Trip. A 43-stop web-based Google Earth tour with embedded views, hyperlinked text, photos, figures, and videos. Designed to be self-led but the instructor could also lead the tour for a class. All grade levels. 1-3 hrs.

(2) Cross-cutting relationships exercise. Students use geologic map of El Capitan to put 8 igneous rock units in order from youngest to oldest. Core relationships can be solved by lower division student, full understanding may be upper division. 0.5-2 hrs.

(3) Geomorphic mapping of Yosemite Valley exercise. Students use web-served lidar imagery in Google Earth Pro to map glacial, talus, rock avalanche, debris fan, river terrace, and floodplain deposits. Upper division to capstone. 5-10 hrs.

(4) Professional decision. Students use their geomorphic map above and additional data provided (100yr flood limits, rockfall hazard limit) to make geology-based recommendations of Yosemite Valley infrastructure they would suggest relocating and where new facilities could be built. Students present their findings in a oral presentation and/or geologic report. Upper division to capstone. 4-14 hrs.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Collect accurate and sufficient data on field relationships and record these using disciplinary conventions (field notes, map symbols, etc.).
  • Synthesize geologic data and integrate with core concepts and skills into a cohesive spatial and temporal scientific interpretation.
  • Interpret earth systems and past/current/future processes using multiple lines of spatially distributed evidence.
  • Develop an argument that is consistent with available evidence and uncertainty.
  • Communicate clearly using written, verbal, and/or visual media (e.g., maps, cross-sections, reports) with discipline-specific terminology appropriate to your audience.

Requirements:

  • Full functionality requires a internet connection, Google Chrome browser, Google Earth Pro desktop, and a mouse or trackpad.

Keywords:

  • Mapping, Google Earth, Geomorphology, Hazards, GIS, Topographic Surveying, Independent Project, Geologic Interpretation, Lidar

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Context

Audience

  • Part 1. Intro physical geology course or a upper division geomorphology course. Geology of National Parks course.
  • Part 2. Intro geology course, field mapping course, or igneous petrology course. Geology of National Parks course.
  • Part 3. Field mapping course (including summer field) or geomorphology course. Geology of National Parks course.
  • Part 4. Field mapping course (including summer field) or geomorphology course. Geology of National Parks course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

  • Part 1. None.
  • Part 2. Introduction to cross cutting relationships needed.
  • Part 3. Familiarity with Google Earth Pro desktop. Introduction to lidar beneficial.
  • Part 4. Science-based decision making, presentation skills, technical writing.

How the activity is situated in the course

  • Designed to be a stand-alone module for a remote summer field.
  • Virtual field trip may be suitable as a lab exercise or make-up field trip exercise in many courses.

Activity Length

  • The full capstone activity is 5 days in length. The introductory virtual field trip can be done in half a day.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Part 1. Basic understanding of the many geologic processes that have contributed to shaping Yosemite Valley (tectonics, intrusion, glaciers, rockfall, floods, etc.) and the modern hazards they pose to visitors.
  • Part 2. General skill of cross-cutting relationships. Particular skill of intrusive relationships.
  • Part 3. Geomorphic mapping. Lidar data collection and use.
  • Part 4. Professional decision-making.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • See learning outcomes above.

Other skills goals for this activity

  • Use of Google Earth Pro as a GIS. Familiarity with lidar data and derivative products.
  • Oral presentation, technical writing, and group work are optional.

Description and Teaching Materials

  • Part 1. Geology of Yosemite Valley Virtual Field Trip (VFT). This is a 43-stop web-based Google Earth tour with embedded views, hyperlinked text, photos, figures, and videos. Best navigated using a large screen with mouse (use Google Chrome browser) but also works on tablet and smartphones in the Google Earth app. Designed to be self-led by students of all levels but the instructor could also lead the tour for a class. All grade levels. 1-3 hrs. Link here: https://earth.google.com/web/@37.73678425,-119.58078081,1418.42744788a,93163.53588265d,35y,0h,0t,0r/data=MicKJQojCiExVzg4OHVMNGgtRW5JYkY3bnJlSTZyRGhoblljcEk2VFo6AwoBMA?authuser=0
  • Part 2. El Capitan Geologic Map Cross-Cutting Relationship Exercise. Students use the unique vertical geologic map of El Capitan to put 8 igneous rock units in order from youngest to oldest. High res PDF provided. Instructor notes provided. Core relationships can be solved by lower division student, full understanding may be upper division level. 0.5-2 hrs.
  • Part 3. Geomorphic Mapping of Yosemite Valley Exercise. Students use web-served lidar imagery in Google Earth Pro to map glacial, talus, rock avalanche, debris fan, river terrace, and floodplain deposits. KMZ provided. Instructor notes provided. Upper division to capstone. 5-10 hrs.
  • Part 4. Professional Decision-Making. Students use their geomorphic map above and additional data provided (100yr flood limits, rockfall hazard limit) to make geology-based recommendations of Yosemite Valley infrastructure they would suggest relocating and where new facilities could be built. KMZ provided. Students present their findings in a oral presentation and/or geologic report. Upper division to capstone. 4-14 hrs.
2_El CapitanMapXCR (Acrobat (PDF) 15.6MB May11 20)
3_YosemiteValleyQGeologyMappingEx (KMZ File 5kB May11 20)
4_YosemiteValleyNaturalHazardDecisions (KMZ File 144kB May11 20)

Technology Needs

  • Full functionality requires a internet connection, Google Chrome browser, Google Earth Pro desktop, and a mouse or trackpad.

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • Part 1. Allow 1 hr of preparation to go through the virtual tour including links and videos. Most instructors should find the content straightforward.
  • Part 2. Instructor should go through this exercise beforehand. A summary of the key relationships are provided. It is a real world cross-cutting exercise and as such some relationships are more complicated than in typical 3D block cartoon exercises (for example some units may have crystallized simultaneously).
  • Part 3. Example of an instructor-made map is provided to benefit instructor and give an example of what could be expected from a good student map (to preserve the sanctity of this exercise, DO NOT SHARE THIS MAP WITH STUDENTS!!!). Have students submit their own KMZ. By comparing two student projects at once in Google Earth (clicking one on-and-off) the instructor can very objectively arrange student work from best to worst. The cross sections are an optional exercise to test students intuition regarding thickness of the deposits.
  • Part 4. Less guidance is given for this section. The instructor can decide what products are appropriate for the class being taught (group discussion, oral presentation, technical consultant report, etc.).
  • Emailing the module designer (nic.barth@ucr.edu) is appreciated to provide feedback on implementation, suggestions for improvement, and even to just track use. Commenting at the bottom of the page is also helpful to others.

Assessment

  • Part 1. There are no built-in milestones or assessments for student learning as presented. The instructor may consider having a discussion or quiz after to assess understanding.
  • Part 2. Assessment for this exercise probably works best in the context of discussion participation rather than right/wrong scoring.
  • Part 3. It is suggested to evaluate student maps using of a 4-scale rubric (4-Highly Qualified, 3-Qualified, 2-Minimally Qualified, 1- Not Qualified) assessing correctness, completeness, accuracy, and organization. Organize student maps from best to worst in Google Earth Pro's file structure and find the obvious breaks in quality.
  • Part 4. Assessment will depend of what the product(s) the instructor requires for this part. The overall goal is to have students apply geologic data to make an informed professional decision, similar to what might be expected in a consultant report. Again a 4-scale rubric as above is useful for emphasizing workplace professionalism to students (High Qualified = Work deserves a raise!, Qualified = Status quo, Minimally Qualified = On notice, Not Qualified = You're fired!).

References and Resources



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