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Geodesy teaching resources for undergraduates: capturing student interest through critical societal issues

  • Project Collaborators: Bruce Douglas (Indiana University); Becca Walker (Mt San Antonio College), Benjamin Crosby (Idaho State University); Donna Charlevoix, Meghan Miller, and Beth Pratt-Sitaula (UNAVCO)
  • Module Co-authors: Marin Clark, Vince Cronin, Gareth Funning, Sarah Hall, Ian Lauer, Nathan Niemi, Phil Resor, Kate Shervais, Eric Small, Leigh Stearns
  • Dates: Ongoing since 2013
  • Location(s): Published on the Internet
  • Funding Source(s): NSF EHR (TUES-1245025, IUSE-1612248, IUSE-1725347)

Written by Beth Pratt-Sitaula
18 December 2017


It can be challenging to feature ever-evolving geodetic methods when teaching undergraduates. At the same time it can be difficult to engage students in geoscience topics that may appear very distant from their lives. The GEodesy Tools for Societal Issues (GETSI) project seeks to address both these challenges by providing teaching materials that feature geodetic data and quantitative skills applied to societally important issues (climate change, natural hazards, and water resources). These materials were designed and developed by teams of faculty and content experts, underwent rigorous review and testing, and are ready for use in undergraduate classrooms and field courses at both the introductory and majors levels. Six modules are now published online. A seventh will be published in early 2018 and six more in 2019.

The GETSI project also runs short courses and webinars to help instructors gain the professional development they need to effectively implement the resources.

Initial funding came as “exploratory” grants from NSF TUES (Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM) and NSF IUSE (Improving Undergraduate STEM Education) for the classroom and field components. In 2017, GETSI received a third grant (NSF IUSE) to expand the module collection and do significantly more professional development.


Surface Process Hazards
Introductory level
Lidar, InSAR
Go to module

Ice Mass and Sea Level Changes
Introductory level
InSAR, Satellite Altimetry, Vertical GPS, GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment)
Go to module

Measuring Water Resources with GPS, Gravity, and Traditional Methods
Majors level
Vertical GPS, Reflection GPS, GRACE
Go to module

Imaging Active Tectonics with InSAR and Lidar data
Majors level
Lidar, InSAR
Go to module

GPS, Strain, and Earthquakes
Majors level
Go to module

Analyzing High Resolution Topography with TLS and SfM
Majors level; Field Collection
Terrestrial Laser Scanning, Structure from Motion photogrammetry
Go to module

Modules are designed to take ~2 weeks of course time if executed completely, but are also divided into 4-6 units each so that instructors can easily choose just the elements relevant for their course. Units include student learning outcomes, instructor notes, instructor presentations, data-rich student exercises, student assessments, and (in many cases) supporting resources such as online tools or animations.

Another field module, High Precision Positioning with Static and Kinematic GPS/GNSS, will be published in early 2018. Six more modules are being started winter 2018 and will be completed by summer 2019.

Supporting Resources

Additional supporting resources include:

Online Tools

  • Visible Earthquakes, for modeling InSAR earthquake ruptures; users adjust fault parameters to determine the most likely type of rupture for a given earthquake


Related Links

Map Center:
Boulder, Colorado


Last modified: 2020-01-28  22:54:36  America/Denver