Integrating LiDAR topography into the study of earthquakes and faulting

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Meter-resolution topography gathered by LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) has become an indispensable tool for better understanding of many surface processes including those sculpting landscapes that record information about earthquake

Meter-resolution topography gathered by LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) has become an indispensable tool for better understanding of many surface processes including those sculpting landscapes that record information about earthquake hazards for example. For this reason, and because of the spectacular representation of the phenomena that these data provide, it is appropriate to integrate these data into Earth science educational materials. I seek to answer the following research question: "will using the LiDAR topography data instead of, or alongside, traditional visualizations and teaching methods enhance a student's ability to understand geologic concepts such as plate tectonics, the earthquake cycle, strike-slip faults, and geomorphology?" In order to answer this question, a ten-minute introductory video on LiDAR and its uses for the study of earthquakes entitled "LiDAR: Illuminating Earthquake Hazards" was produced. Additionally, LiDAR topography was integrated into the development of an undergraduate-level educational activity, the San Andreas fault (SAF) earthquake cycle activity, designed to teach introductory Earth science students about the earthquake cycle. Both the LiDAR video and the SAF activity were tested in undergraduate classrooms in order to determine their effectiveness. A pretest and posttest were administered to introductory geology lab students. The results of these tests show a notable increase in understanding LiDAR topography and its uses for studying earthquakes from pretest to posttest after watching the video on LiDAR, and a notable increase in understanding the earthquake cycle from pretest to posttest using the San Andreas Fault earthquake cycle exercise. These results suggest that the use of LiDAR topography within these educational tools is beneficial for students when learning about the earthquake cycle and earthquake hazards.