Google Earth in the Mojave Desert

Peter Haff, Professor of Geology and Civil and Environmental Engineering, Nicholas School of the Environment, Earth & Ocean Sciences

Project Description:

Dr. Peter Haff’s class used Google Earth for their final project in the American Southwest (EOS 181S.01). They took a field trip to the Mojave Desert in October to study geologic features, including volcanism, tectonics, soils and weathering, paleo-lakes, wind-blown sand and dust, landslides, and alluvial fans. Prior to the field trip, the students selected biological, geological and astronomical topics to prepare for presentations in the field. At the end of the semester, students took the Earth and Ocean Sciences department (and me) on a virtual tour of their field trip using Google Earth. We followed the track of the trip to see the geological features and embedded photos and information supplied by the students. The students took turns explaining the features illustrated in Google Earth and their photos, including dunes, granite outcrops, vegetation zoning, desert pavement, dry lakes, badlands, bighorn sheep, craters, fault scarps, petroglyphs, a borax mine, relic shorelines, lava tubes and alien fresh jerky.

The students and Dr. Haff collaborated to create the Google Earth file, pooling their pictures and information. The students found that using Google Earth enhanced their learning because it provided:

  • a sense of scale
  • the ability to make measurements
  • an overview of the area
  • context for what they were seeing
  • orientation.

Read more about this course in Duke Magazine.

More information, examples and tutorials about Google Earth can be found on their website; or, contact CIT for help incorporating Google Earth into your course.

Project start date: 8/25/2008