Reynolds, S. J. and Johnson, J. K. 2002. Interactive 3D Geological Maps. In: Bobyarchick, A. 2002. Visualisation, Teaching and Learning in Structural Geology. Journal of the Virtual Explorer, 9, 41-42.
Interactive 3D Geological Maps
Placed in Dynamic Review - 3 December 2002

Stephen J. Reynolds and Julia K. Johnson*

Department of Geological Sciences, Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona 85287-1404

*Current Address: Applied Science Department/Geology,
Glendale Community College, Glendale, Arizona 85302


A goal of introductory geology and structural geology courses is to teach students how to understand and visualize geologic maps. Students are asked to recognize how geology and topography interact, visualize geology in the subsurface, and reconstruct geologic history from maps and cross sections. Traditional geologic maps, which show the distribution and orientation of rock units and geologic structures at Earth’s surface, have long served as effective tools for conveying spatial geologic information, but the three-dimensional aspects of these maps are commonly difficult for students to visualize. Also, students have great difficulty focusing their concentration on individual aspects, such as contacts, structural geometries, and topographic contours.

We have taken traditional geologic maps to the next level by adding a third-dimension perspective in order to helps students better visualize the individual components of geologic maps. Interactive 3D Geologic Maps contains QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR) movies of geologic maps draped over digital topography. Students can spin the draped terrain around a vertical axis to obtain views from any perspective. Other movies are QTVR panoramas that give students the ability to scroll and zoom in or out on a specific map area. Interactive 3D Geologic Maps have been used in laboratories for introductory geology and structural geology courses with great success.

Keywords: Geologic maps, introductory geology, structural geology, three-dimensional visualization, QuickTime.




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