Mars for Earthlings > Lesson Modules > NASA Clickworkers

NASA Clickworkers

In-Class Activity 2- NASA Clickworkers

Marjorie Chan PhD and Casey J. Duncan, University of Utah Department of Geology and Geophysics


This activity will introduce students to the challenges of identifying geologic landforms from orbital imagery.


Students will need internet access. It would help if the instructor has spent 10-15 minutes to get familiar with the Clickworkers program.


Images in Part 2 are also available in the Module Image File: Welcome to Earth and Mars (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 2.2MB Mar13 14)


Ask the students to consider the following:

  • Think about the number of current scientific missions exploring the planets of our solar system and the incredible amount of imagery and data that come as a result. Examples include MSL, MER, Cassini, MRO, and the newly launched MAVEN, just to name a few (a list of NASA missions is available here:
  • How do scientists identify geomorphic landforms from orbital imagery?

This activity will tie both questions together through use of the NASA Clickworkers program.


Part I

Citizen Science projects are one way to process large amounts of data, and we will use one such project, NASA Clickworkers, to learn how to identify landforms.

  1. Go to the NASA Clickworkers website at
  2. Click on the "Clickworkers Beta" button.
  3. A new page will load that contains three windows. The main window on the left is the HiRISE image in which you will label landforms by placing stamps (landform classification label) where each landform can be found in the image. The window in the middle contains three tabs- "Info", "Enhance", and "Collect Data". The "Collect Data" tab contains the "stamps to classify the landforms in the image. The window to the right contains a context view of the full size image as well as navigation buttons.
  4. Click on the "Collect Data" tab and select the landform type stamp needed for the primary image.
  5. Stamp (click) on the spot within the image where the respective landforms are present.
  6. An individual stamp can be deleted by pressing the "UNDO" button in the upper right corner. If you need to clear all of the stamps you've placed so far, click on the "CLEAR" button.
  7. Once you are finished stamping click on the "SUBMIT" button.


Identifying landforms from orbital imagery can be challenging. Here is where an understanding of Earth processes and Earth surface features can be very useful for comparisons.


Now that students have been introduced to the NASA Clickworkers program, have the students practice identifying landforms and looking at orbital imagery through use of the student version of this activity.


The student version of this activity can be used to evaluate the students' abilities to identify landforms in orbital imagery.

Following the activity, it may be useful to ask the students the following questions:

1) What problems did you encounter in this exercise?

2) How did you determine the lighting direction? Why is the lighting direction important?

3) How confident are you of your classifications? (i.e. very, moderate, or unsure).

4) Explain with a few words which classification were the most challenging and why.

Part II Extend:

This is an additional exercise to extend the clickworkers experience to additional HiRISE images

In each of the images below, have students do the following:

1) Label any landforms present (label arrows), similar to the clickworkers section above. Be sure to include gullies, channels, craters, dunes, patterned ground, layers, etc.

2) Draw a sun symbol to the side where you think the sunlight is coming from (hint: look for the way the shadows interact with craters, channels, mesas, etc.).

3) For each major landform feature indicate: A. how it should be classified (i.e. channels, streaks, dunes); B. the process of how it likely formed (i.e., wind or water/fluid flow); and C. for each feature formed through wind or fluid flow, draw an arrow labeled "c" (for current) with the arrow point showing the orientation of the directional movement.