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Instructional Resources

Virtual Field Trips

A collection of virtual field trip resources designed for instructors to lead online trips and to improve in-person field experiences.

Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) take a variety of forms based on the goals of particular courses and the teaching style of instructors. Here at Stanford EARTH Field Education, we are producing VFT resources that can be flexibly used in a variety of different ways. We distinguish between virtual field sites, self-guided virtual field trips, and virtual field exercises.

Although these virtual resources were jump-started to address the current needs for online learning, these resources will also be useful situations in which in-person field trips may not possible. They can also be used to augment in-person field experiences, provide better accessibility and improve inclusivity. They prepare students, making trips more efficient, safe, and effective. 

These are all in progress, with more features, trips, and topical resources being added regularly. Please contact Ryan Petterson with feedback and suggestions. For Stanford University instructors, if you are interested in collaborations, creating new VFTs for your own local area, or would like to talk about ways of incorporating this content in your teaching, please reach out as well.

Virtual Field Site

Waiake Bay, New Zealand

A collaboration between University of Auckland and Stanford.

Gently dipping turbidite sequences at Waiake Bay, Auckland, New Zealand. This tour provides examples of faulting and fracturing in these alternating sandstone and mudstone layers, which were originally deposited in the Miocene Waitemata Basin. 


Possible topics: Normal faulting, fractures, coastal erosion, turbidite sequences

Credits: James Muirhead (UoA), Ryan Petterson (Stanford)

Virtual Field Site

May Lake (Yosemite NP)

A short hike to a classic Sierra lake. Offers striking views of the glaciated peaks of the Yosemite National Park, as well as metamorphosed sediments that were likely transported from the Mojave!

Possible topics: lodgepole pine forests, glaciation, granite batholiths, metamorphism, xenoliths, tectonics

Virtual Field Site

Aeolian Buttes, CA

Part of a series on the Bishop Tuff. A collection of rock outcrops just north of the Long Valley Caldera, overlooking the Mono Basin.

Virtual Field Site

Devil's Gate (White Mountains, CA)

A narrow canyon filled with structurally complex exposures of the Reed Dolomite.

Possible topics: faulting, folding, sedimentary structures, entrenched stream

Virtual Field Site

Sierra Nevada (Yosemite NP)

This virtual field site covers some highlights of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Yosemite National Park along the CA 120 Highway.

More details about the geology of the park can be found in "The geologic story of Yosemite National Park," from the USGS.

Possible topics: glacial history, regional tectonics, volcanism, metamorphism, petrology.

Virtual Field Site

Gaylor Lakes (Yosemite NP)

Possible topics: glacial history, kettle ponds, metamorphic rocks, batholithic margin

Virtual Field Site

Long Valley Caldera

An iconic location in the Eastern Sierra region of California. This VFS covers a large area in and around the Long Valley Caldera, with specific stops for the Bishop Tuff and several post-caldera eruptions. Field guides and other information about the geology can be found at USGS - Long Valley Caldera.

A Field-trip guide to Long Valley Caldera is also available as a PDF for free from USGS.

Possible topics: volcanism, regional tectonics, Bishop Tuff, Mammoth Mountain

Virtual Field Site

McGee Creek

Possible topics: glacial history, geomorphology, faulting, regional tectonics

Self-Guided Virtual Field Trip

Stanford Dish

This Stanford Dish VFT is part of a collaboration for GEOLSCI 42: Moving and Shaking in the Bay Area. This VFT includes videos and other content specific to that course. Its a good example of how these VFT can be tailored to more specific needs.

The Dish at Stanford is generally open to the public for personal visits. Please be sure to check https://dish.stanford.edu/ for up to date times and restrictions. Any off-trail activity or educational tours must be authorized and approved prior to the activity (application here).

Credits: C. Baden, G. Hilley, R. Petterson, A. Steelquist

Virtual Field Exercise

Topography Exercise

This virtual exercise is an example of how a VFS might be used. It is an exercise designed to get students familiar with locating themselves on a topographic map, using bearings and topographic features. This exercise is designed to be used with "The Dish" SGVFT and a Google Jamboard.