Geoscience Fieldwork in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond: Commentary on the Development of a Virtual Geological Field Trip to Whitefish Falls, Ontario, Canada Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant cancelation of geoscience fieldwork, as well as outstanding accessibility issues inherent in conducting fieldwork, we developed a virtual geological fieldtrip (VFT) to the Huronian age deposits in the Whitefish Falls area, Ontario, Canada. This region is a geologically significant site in which many Ontario universities conduct undergraduate teaching due to the high-quality exposures. In this contribution, we describe and comment on the development of this openly available resource, the motivations in doing so, the challenges faced, its pedagogical impact and relevance, as well as provide suggestions to others in the development of such resources. Our multimedia VFT combines 360° imagery, georeferenced data on integrated maps, and multi-scale imagery (aerial/drone, outcrop, and thin section images). The VFT was built using the Esri Storymaps platform, and thus offers us the opportunity to review the effectiveness of building such resources using this medium, as well as our approach to doing so. We conclude that the Esri Storymaps platform provides a sound medium for the dissemination of multimedia VFTs, but that some aspects of in-person fieldwork remain hard to replicate. Most notably, this affects “hands on experience” and specific activities such as geological mapping. In addition, while VFTs alleviate some accessibility barriers to geoscience fieldwork, substantial barriers remain that should remain the focus of both pedagogical and geoscience work.

publication date

  • December 1, 2021