Recognizing and mapping faults using lidar and field data
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
- Recognize and map a normal fault using offset features,
- Recognize and map alluvial fans of different ages using geomorphological characteristics,
- Draw a cross-section across a normal fault that indicates offset features.
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
- Synthesize information from the field, lidar data, and the literature to draw and interpret their map
- Interpret the geology of the map area in the context of the larger tectonic setting
Other skills goals for this activity
- Use Google Earth to explore the map area, including adding layers and navigating in three dimensions.
Description and Teaching Materials
This activity occurs over a two-day period in the field; it could be easily modified for a classroom-based mapping exercise, however, using the same lidar data and Google Earth. This description covers the field-based approach.
Prior to going out into the field, students are given an introductory lecture to the geologic and tectonic setting of the Owens Valley (see Owens Valley slides file). This lecture is meant to introduce them to the area and remind them of some of the concepts they should already be familiar with (normal faults, plate boundaries, earthquakes). We pass out the field maps for the following day (see field map).
On the first day in the field, we drive to Fish Springs cinder cone and locate ourselves on the field map. We then climb the cinder cone to get a view, and from the top, we describe geomorphic features, devising a strategy for looking more closely at the units below. While still on top of the cinder cone, we:
- Compare appearance of different alluvial fans and the active stream, describe both types of deposits.
- Describe Fish Springs volcanic feature, both geomorphology and rock unit description.
- Describe the relationship between units we've described so far: what are options for age relationships? What do we look for to determine the answer?
- Describe the Fish Springs fault: How do we know it's there, estimate offset, how does it fit in with the other features?
In the evening, we hand out copies of two papers and talk about how to go about reading them:
Martel, S. J., 1989, Structure and late quaternary activity of the northern Owens valley fault zone, Owens valley, California: Engineering Geology, v. 27, no. 1-4, p. 489-507.
Zehfuss, P. H., Bierman, P. R., Gillespie, A. R., Burke, R. M., and Caffee, M. W., 2001, Slip rates on the Fish Springs fault, Owens Valley, California, deduced from cosmogenic 10Be and 26Al and soil development on fan surfaces: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 113, no. 2, p. 241-255.
We focus the students on the description of units and their maps (which differ). We talk about how and why these maps differ and how it compares to their map, highlighting the fact that they have a new dataset that was not available to any of those authors: the airborne lidar. They spend time "revisiting" the field site using Google Earth (see kmz files), and strategize for what they are going to do the following day to complete the map on their own.
The second day in the field, we return to Fish Springs and ask students to complete their unit descriptions for the different fans and the cinder cone, decide how many different units they have, and draw contacts on their maps. In the afternoon, we return to the field station where students ink their maps and draw a cross-section across the cinder cone (and fault) along a line we have given them.
Unit descriptions cheat sheet (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 81kB Apr29 12)
Slides to introduce tectonic setting of Owens Valley (PowerPoint 4.2MB Apr29 12)
Google Earth files for Fish Springs project (Zip Archive 12.6MB Apr29 12)