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Digital field methods in geoscience education and outreach

The scientific discipline "geology" has relied on outcrops as the primary source of information since its beginnings. The initial equipment to analyse the rocks in these outcrops was simple: hammer, hand lens, compass, and diluted HCL. Topographic maps proved useful to find the location of the outcrop. Fieldbooks and material for sketching were – and are – used to document the findings. The documentation was further improved by cameras which became available for everyone in the second part of the 20th century. With the beginning of the 21st century handheld GPS systems became common and hence simplified the localisation. Soon thereafter, smartphones, with their integrated GPS and growing versatility due to a plethora of installable apps unified all the aforementioned analogue tools into one compact device. In the second decade of the 21st century drone-technology became popular. These devices enabled an entirely different view on the outcrops. Structure-from-motion-techniques allow for uncomplicated construction of 3D models. Now, that access to mobile internet is given everywhere (except the Eifel), digital and virtual content can be created and accessed everywhere. The smartphone app OutcropWizard combines all the recent advances in technological development. The basic approach of OutcropWizard is to show and geological highlights worldwide and to enable everybody to contribute content to this project. Even though a smartphone can fulfil most of the tasks, it still cannot replace a hammer. We suggest being loyal to our tradition and carry this piece of equipment as it has been done since the dawn of geology.


Gösta Hoffmann, Valeska Decker, Sabine Kummer, Edouard Grigowski, Rosalie Kunkel
Uni Bonn, Germany
GeoKarlsruhe 2021