Tuesday, 7 October 2008: 4:15 PM
George R. Brown Convention Center, 332BE
Software tools that are available for the construction and visualisation of maps, cross-sections and 3D volume models have transformed the working practices of companies across the geoscience industries. Graduates seeking employment can be expected to have some knowledge of such tools. But of far greater importance in the opinion of many employers is the ability to collect, assemble and interpret field data with or without software assistance. The acquisition of such skills requires a thorough understanding of the geometrical rules that govern structural associations and an ability to visualise the resulting geometries in three dimensions. Software tools can help with the latter and, if integrated into a well-defined fieldwork and structural geology curriculum, can illustrate and reinforce learning of the former. The danger is that their use becomes a substitute for the acquisition of these skills, leading to a situation where it is the software rather than the user that is aware of the geometrical rules and, most importantly, the limitations, of the algorithms used.
In recognition of the benefits and pitfalls of this approach, MVE and a consortium of Universities have begun development of materials that exploit the company's suite of structural modelling software for use at all levels of the undergraduate curriculum. These include, inter alia, support of basic geological map interpretation classes, exploration of the geometry of linked fold/fault systems (in intermediate level structural geology teaching) and the capture and modelling of student field mapping data. Examples will be discussed from each of these application areas, but the emphasis of the initiative is in developing applications that support the acquisition of students' field skills. In particular we are concerned to improve their ability to integrate map and cross-section views into a three-dimensional model and evaluate the validity of their interpretations by the rigorous analysis of such models.