Resources for Educators

This page highlights resources and documents related to using lidar topography and OpenTopography in the classroom. To learn more about using OpenTopography or lidar data, please visit the tutorials page. Other resources are highlighted on the resources for students and resources for researchers pages, which we encourage users to explore. If you have any questions, visit our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) or email us at

Lidar in the Classroom

OpenLandform Catalog The OpenTopography OpenLandform Catalog serves as a resource to explore geologic landforms in high resolution digital topography for teachers, students or any interested user. This resource brings real world cutting edge digital topographic data to an accessible level that can be interrogated and explored using free tools, such as Google Earth.
imageimageimageimage(left to right) Wallace Creek hillshade image, point cloud image, and Fish Springs Cinder Cone hillshade image, point cloud image.

Undergraduate Topographic Differencing Exercise We design an undergraduate laboratory exercise where students learn how geologists use airborne lidar data to answer these questions for a synthetic earthquake along the Wasatch Fault in Salt Lake City, Utah. Students use remote sensing data to measure how much and in what direction the ground moves during an earthquake.
Teaching with Lidar These resources are designed to introduce educators to the use of cutting-edge earth science data, web-based data access and processing tools, and data visualization to enhance their teaching of fundamental earth science concepts.
Title & Link
ASU Short Course: Techniques in Active Tectonic Study
by J Ramon Arrowsmith and Gayatri Indah Marliyani
  • Wealth of content for different techniques applied to active tectonics studies. Full lecture videos and links to exercises, data and software.
  • Paleoseismological, seismic hazard and active tectonic analysis examples from Japan, Virginia (USA), Italy and California (USA).
ASU Short Course
Wallace Creek Virtual Field Trip
  • Introduction to San Andreas Fault and Wallace Creek, a famous tectonically offset channel.
  • Thought questions for teaching concepts in this area.
Earth Science Lidar Topography Application
  • Introduction to types of topographic data.
  • LiDAR applied to earthquake studies.
OpenTopography Short Course
How do I use GIS in Introductory Geoscience?
  • Methods to Use GIS at the introductory Level.
  • Bypassing perceived barriers to using GIS at the introductory level.
TeacherTech Workshop: Teaching Earth Science with High-Resolution Topography
  • Materials from workshop held at SDSC in 2009.
  • Discusses using LiDAR in the classroom and provides material for teaching around Wallace Creek.
Investigating Earthquakes: GIS Mapping and Analysis
  • General tips on how to adapt a chapter of the Earth Exploration Toolbook to a college-level geoscience course.
  • Skills taught: access and download online data, format the data so it can be uploaded into GIS software, and preparing maps.
Teaching with Google Earth
  • A complete guide to Using Google Earth in the geoscience classroom.
  • Complements Google Earth data, custom data and the OpenLandform Catalog available on OpenTopography.
Classroom Tools This table features more hands on resources and tools for applying lidar data to teach Earth science. Resources were sourced from OpenTopography short courses as well as the Earth science education community. If you have a lab or exercise associated with lidar or OpenTopography, please email us at if you'd like it included in this list.
Title & Link
Topics & Content
Wallace Creek Field Trip Student Guide
  • Measure offset channels by San Andreas fault using hillshade imagery in Google Earth.
  • Plate motion by GPS velocities.
  • This exercise is paired with Wallace Creek Virtual Field Trip.
OpenTopography Short Course Undergraduate
Advanced GIS: Building DEMs with Airborne LiDAR
  • Exercise with video tutorials on how to download NOAA ISEMP Bridge Creek lidar point cloud data from OpenTopography.
  • use ArcGIS to build a terrain dataset and export to DEM.
Dr. Joe Wheaton, Utah State University Undergraduate - Graduate
Processing and Use of LiDAR data
  • Exercise using El Mayor-Cucapah Earthquake lidar point cloud data from OpenTopography.
  • Exploring the offset using high resolution topographic data.
Dr. David Harbor, Washington and Lee University Undergraduate
Making a Geologic Map with ArcGIS
  • Making a geologic map using ArcGIS 9.3.
  • Georeferencing basemap and digitizing geologic maps.
GSA Short Course, Dr. Mike Oskin, UC Davis Undergraduate
Slip Rates and Uncertainty at Wallace Creek
Wallace Creek Sample data (.zip)
  • Examines calculation of slip rates for strike-slip fault.
  • Uses simple measurement, geomorphic mapping, and quantitative matching to determine and compare slip rates.
GSA Short Course, Dr. Mike Oskin, UC Davis Undergraduate - graduate
LaDiCaoz Tutorial
LaDiCaoz Software (Dropbox)
  • LaDiCaoz: A MATLAB GUI to calculate lateral displacement of offset geomorphic features.
  • Featured in several short course exercises listed below.
Dr. Olaf Zielke, Arizona State University, OpenTopography Short Course Undergraduate - Graduate
Extracting Information from DEMs in ArcMap
  • Sample activities for extracting information from DEMs in ArcMap.
  • Point and profile queries as well as raster math.
OpenTopography Short Course Undergraduate
Measuring Earthquake-Generated Surface Offsets from High-Resolution Digital Topography
  • calculating surface slip offsets using LiDAR-derived DEMs.
David Haddad, Arizona State University Undergraduate - Graduate
Recognizing and mapping faults using lidar and field data SERC Undergraduate
GIS 4 Geomorphology Lessons
By Skye Cooley
  • GIS tutorials for working with DEMs to do geomorphic analyses on mountainous landscapes and watersheds.
  • Instructions are for ArcGIS 10.x, the Spatial Analyst extension, and the 3D Analyst extension.
GIS 4 Geomorphology
Using lidar to explore the Critical Zone
By Adrian Harpold (CU Boulder), and Tim White (Penn State).
  • Explain the CZO and lidar data.
  • Using FUSION to view lidar data.
Critical Zone Observatories