In The Classroom

  • Earthquake Visualizations

    KeckCAVES visualizations and software can be used to enhance understanding of earthquakes and plate tectonics. A three-part module series presents 3D visualizations of global earthquake data to teach introductory-level geology students about the basic processes and dynamics that produce earthquakes ('Global Earthquakes: Teaching about Earthquakes with Data and 3D Visualizations'). These 3D visualizations allow students to easily visualize and experience complex and highly visual geologic concepts because features can be viewed from many different scales and perspectives. Education modules can be downloaded from the Science Education Resource Center. If you are interested in downloading the 3D Earth Model visualization software and accompanying earthquake and volcano data sets email us at
  • Virtual Field Mapping

    Crusta, a virtual globe that enables remote geologic mapping, and LiDAR Viewer, which supports visualization of LiDAR point clouds and extraction of orientation measurements, are used as teaching tools in upper division geology classes at UC Davis. Following a traditional field mapping exercise students revisit this same area virtually using ArcGIS, Crusta, and LiDAR Viewer. This virtual mapping exercise allowed the students to quickly explore the region surrounding the original field area and interpret the regional tectonic context by synthesizing their field observations with those made using the virtual analysis. Crusta and LiDAR viewer are both available for download.

Research On Learning

  • Why Use Virtual Reality for Geoscience Education?

    * Visualizations, 3-D models, and virtual reality environments can enhance students understanding of complex and abstract concepts and phenomena. * Geology is among the most visual of the sciences, so geology students benefit immensely from visualization in a 3-D virtual reality environment. * 3D visualizations allow direct perception of geologic concepts that cannot be manipulated or experienced in the real world such as complex 3-D relationships, and vast spatial dimensions and time scales. * Virtual environments are engaging and have been shown to gain and hold students attention, which increases their motivation to learn.
  • Spatial Ability and Visualizations

    Spatial visualization is required for understanding many geological concepts. Students are expected to be able to visualize and mentally rotate objects in order to understand many key geologic concepts. However, research in geoscience education and cognitive science shows that not all students have equally developed spatial thinking skills, and that some students are naturally better at spatial visualization than others. In particular, students exhibit conceptual difficulty in interpreting various 2D diagrams showing 3D phenomena. Incorporating 3D visualizations into teaching geology can remove barriers related to spatial thinking, and may help improve spatial ability.


Workshops and Courses

Arts Collaborations