EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Thoughts on cooking up a virtual field-trip in Google Earth and its digestion

Oscar Fernández
Oscar Fernández
  • Dept. of Geology, Univ. of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria (

Field work is one of the fundamental tools for teaching structural geology. Remote teaching conditions over the past two years have represented a major challenge to in-person field trips with students. Whereas online and outdoor teaching are completely different in nature, online activities can be used to reach many of the objectives typically associated with in-person teaching.

In this presentation I will discuss the example of a 2-hour virtual field-trip organized for a specialist audience composed of experienced structural geologists and experienced geologists from other disciplines. The field trip was run to the Northern Calcareous Alps (Austria) and deals with brittle tectonics (mainly salt tectonics). The same field trip has later been modified (simplified) and offered to a mixed background of geoscientists. Both experienced structural geologists and a mixed audience were surveyed after the end of the field trip.

Feedback indicates that the virtual field trip proved to be a time- and resource-effective way of delivering overview content and fostering targeted discussion. Of particular value was the fact that the virtual environment made it possible for attendees to individually explore information in a georeferenced setting (in Google Earth) and key outcrops that had been generated in 3D and loaded to an open website (

Attendees also noted that the main drawbacks of the virtual setting were being at the usual workplace and the lack of the opportunity to think and discuss during field stops. They also highlighted that the single most critical factor in making a virtual field trip a success is the instructor (over other factors such as length or format of the field trip material). Finally, attendees mostly indicated that the virtual field trip would not replace an in-person experience, but rather acts as a complement.

Although the experience obtained with this field trip is limited and lacks a comparison to the equivalent in-person field-trip, it supports the idea that virtual field-trips can be used as: 1) complementary activities to in-person field-trips, particularly to deliver pre-trip background; 2) a cost- and time-effective way of delivering project results and enabling peer-to-peer discussions.

How to cite: Fernández, O.: Thoughts on cooking up a virtual field-trip in Google Earth and its digestion, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-7158,, 2022.


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