GETSI Teaching Materials >Analyzing High Resolution Topography with TLS and SfM
GETSI's Earth-focused Modules for Undergraduate Classroom and Field Courses
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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Analyzing High Resolution Topography with TLS and SfM

advanced level course Bruce Douglas (Indiana University-Bloomington)
Kate Shervais (UNAVCO)
5 units 1-3 weeks Chris Crosby (UNAVCO)
With contributions from J. Ramon Arrowsmith, Marin Clark,
Nathan Niemi, David Phillips, Nicholas Pinter
Editor: Beth Pratt-Sitaula (UNAVCO)

Summary

Part of GETSI Field Collection: Geodetic imaging technologies have emerged as critical tools for a range of earth science research applications from hazard assessment to change detection to stratigraphic sequence analysis. In this module students learn to conduct terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) and/or Structure from Motion (SfM) surveys to address real field research questions of importance to society. Both geodetic methods generate high resolution topographic data and have widespread research applications in geodesy, geomorphology, structural geology, and more. The module can be implemented in four- to five-day field course or as several weeks of a semester course. Prepared data sets are available for courses unable to collect data directly. Instructors can request support for some types of technical assistance from UNAVCO, which runs NSF's Geodetic Facility.

Strengths of the Module

  • These materials guide students through designing surveys using TLS and SfM with increasingly higher-order questions as the units progress. Instructors can choose to use either or both methods for developing high resolution topographic models.
  • Includes full units on three geoscience applications of high resolution topographic analysis - stratigraphic, fault scarp, and change detection. Instructors can choose to implement one or more of these application units. Other applications of high resolution topographic analysis are suggested as possibilities for the summative assessment.
  • Students must articulate the societal importance of analyzing high resolution topography for the different applications, leading to greater engagement and understanding of why these types of studies are undertaken.
  • Can be easily used in a summer field camp or in an academic year course with field components. Alternatively, prepared data sets allow classroom courses to conduct similar analyses, even if they are unable to go into the field.
  • Quantitative skills are featured in the survey design of both methods - something often lacking in geoscience field courses.
  • Teaching resources include a variety tips for successfully implementing the module in real field environments, including ideas for picking field sites and keeping student occupied once in the field.

Great fit for majors-level classes in

  • field geology
  • geomorphology
  • structural geology
  • geophysics
  • tectonics
  • any course with a field component

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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »