11 Jun 2021

11 Jun 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal GC.

Introduction to Teaching Science with Three-dimensional Images of Dinosaur Footprints from Cristo Rey, New Mexico

Valeria V. Martinez and Laura F. Serpa Valeria V. Martinez and Laura F. Serpa
  • Department of Earth, Environmental, and Resource Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso, 500 W. University Ave., El Paso, Texas, 79968 USA

Abstract. In this paper we discuss the use of three-dimensional (3-D) imagery and virtual field trips to teach lower level (i.e. K-14 level) geoscience courses. In particular, 3-D pdfs can be used to either prepare students for, or completely replace, a field trip when logistical problems make the actual trip too difficult to be effective or when some students need an alternative accommodation. Three dimensional images can replace or supplement classroom activities, such as the identification of rocks and minerals from hand samples or the identification of geologic structures from 2-D photographs and limited field observations. Students can also become involved in data collection and processing to further their understanding of photogrammetry and visualization. The use of 3-D imagery can make additional time available to instructors to cover more advanced topics and teach students more about the role of science in geologic research.

We use an example from Cristo Rey, New Mexico, where dinosaur footprints and tracks are present but difficult to see in many cases and often in places that are hard to access for many people. At this site, approximately 10,000 photographs were collected and processed as 3-D images to show one approximately 72 m2 area of known footprints. However, we also conducted some very simple digital manipulations of the images that allowed us to identify new footprints and tracks that were not apparent when viewed in the field. The photographs and 3-D images have been donated to the Insights museum that owns the fossil site and they are now being used to develop educational materials and lessons for the nearby communities.

Valeria V. Martinez and Laura F. Serpa

Status: open (until 06 Aug 2021)

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Valeria V. Martinez and Laura F. Serpa

Valeria V. Martinez and Laura F. Serpa


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Short summary
In this paper we suggest that introductory level geoscience students can learn more about the Earth and the processes that change it through well designed interactive videos and 3-D images than they typically can learn from a field trip or live lecturer, textbook, and hand samples. This is particularly important at this time because many schools and universities are moving away from actual field experiences and there is a common viewpoint that geology is not a "real" science.