Benjamin Crosby: Using High Precision Positioning with Static and Kinematic GPS/GNSS in GEOL 4450/5550 Field Geology at Idaho State University

About this Course

Upper division undergraduate. Mostly geology majors with a few environmental science and geophysics students. Mixture of students from multiple universities.


2 full days at a field station

Field Geology: GPS Module Syllabus (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 7.9MB Apr23 18)

Most module units were tested over a jam-packed, 2-day undergraduate field geology course in central Idaho. Fitting most module units into such a short window is not recommended. The final assessment was a change detection exercise using a leveling line across an active normal fault (the Lost River Fault, home of the Borah Peak earthquake event in 1983). The results were stunning and intriguing for students and professors alike.

Most students, who had never encountered geodetic data with significant change, remarked, "I can't believe what I'm seeing!," as our results started to take shape.

My Experience Teaching with GETSI Materials

Module was tested over two jam-packed days. Most units were utilized, though Unit 2.1: Measuring Topography was not done at all and the summative assessment for Unit 3: Static GPS/GNSS Methods was not completed.

Relationship of GETSI Materials to my Course

Module was implemented over two days, roughly 1.5 weeks into a five week field geology course. Students had only been exposed to traditional geologic mapping techniques so far. Module material was not referenced in the remainder of the course.


Students enjoyed the concept sketch synthesis of Unit 1 as it was a novel way of expressing their understanding.

Students found the Accuracy and Precision exercise computer-heavy for a field camp exercise and were of varying preparedness to use Excel to do the analysis.

Students enjoyed the concept behind the Unit 3, time series analysis exercise but were confused by some of the language in the handout and the figures. These have since been modified.

The final, summative assessment in Unit 2.2 of detecting change in surface elevations over the last 30 years across the Lost River Fault was both field-intensive and intellectually challenging for the students. Some students would have benefited from more background on the nature of ground deformation before, during and after earthquakes, but all student enjoyed collecting novel data and working to unravel its significance.


My goals to test most units within the module were overly ambitious. Students felt rushed through analysis. Some of the exercises were too computer and indoor-analysis intensive. Regardless, most students responded favorably to the units, some suggesting that they would pursue further experience and training in GNSS because they were so inspired by the course. Student performed very well, given the time limitations.