Remote Exercise on Folds Near The San Andreas Fault

May 4, 2020

Given the necessity for online and remote learning on account of the coronavirus pandemic, we have designed an exercise for structural geology classes where students learn about the classical Painted Canyon site near the Southern San Andreas Fault, California, by analyzing a point cloud of a fold located near the fault. This activity is designed to serve as an alternative to typical field activities with a structural geology emphasis. Like in the field, students must design a strategy to collect data to answer a geologic question, but they also examine a point cloud using state-of-the-art software.

In this exercise, students are given a point cloud of a fold in Painted Canyon. The point cloud dataset was produced by structure from motion (SfM) photogrammetry from photographs collected with a small Uncrewed Aerial System (sUAS) or drone and is now available on the OpenTopography Community Dataspace. Students use the Compass tool in CloudCompare to visualize the point cloud and measure fold limb orientation. They plot their measurements in Stereonet (or could do so by hand), solve for the axial plane orientation, and calculate the average strain rate recorded in the folded unit. Students relate their measurements to the San Andreas Fault.

More information about the exercise can be found at:


This exercise was highlighted in the Designing Remote Field Experiences Webinar series hosted by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) . In the OpenTopography webinar, we discuss the Painted Canyon Exercise beginning at minute 35.