Category Archives: Resources

A Virtual Marine Sediment Core Collection

Caroline Robinson, Geology Department, James Madison University; John Firth, Curator, Integrated Ocean Discovery Program, Gulf Coast Repository, Texas A&M University; and Kristen St. John, Geology Department, James Madison University,

Overview: A primary objective of marine science classes is to learn the location and formation of ocean sediment types. Nearly 50 years of scientific ocean drilling has produced a tremendous scientific collection of cores from the global ocean floor. In addition, there are large online databases and related publications that have a wealth of associated information to supplement physical cores. Here we created a virtual marine core collection that provides exemplars of the primary ocean sediment lithologies, along with links to expedition reports and datasets, and tips for making requests for real core samples to use in education.

This Google Earth Virtual Marine Sediment Core Collection shows core locations and how their location influenced their sediment type. Each exemplar core has information on the sediment type, with links to images, core descriptions, maps, geologic interpretations, and other data. The virtual core collection provides comprehensive, efficient access to information condensed down to essentials for learning. An interactive animation shows core photos emerging from the ocean floor, illustrating where the sediment cores originate. This is an educational resource for those wanting interactive teaching options for basic Earth and ocean science. It can be used alone or with another Google Earth resource on marine sediments: a virtual map of >2500 marine sites showing the distribution of primary seafloor sediment types (

Audience: Intended for use in undergraduate Oceanography, Marine Geology, Paleoceanography, and Sedimentology courses.

Download the Virtual Core Collection: Virtual_Core_Collection_06-08-19.kmz

Request Marine Sediment Samples: While this virtual core collection makes learning about ocean sediment more accessible, educators can also request real ocean sediment samples for use in teaching. This is done using the same system that scientists use to request research samples: Click on the green Sample and Data Request button. This will take you to a new link where you can set up an account and submit your request. Requests can be made for samples (e.g, 10 to 20 cc) that represent each of the primary sediment types in the ocean from these (or similar) cores. In addition, representative smear slides (i.e., like thin sections but of unconsolidated sediment instead of rock) can be requested. For tips on making sample requests for education purposes contact Kristen St. John ( See also:

References and Acknowledgements: Data used in this educational resource comes from the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP,, the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP, The IODP Google Earth Bore Hole Map was used as a starting point for data access, and a model for organizing access to scientific reports and data. The resource was modeled after a new virtual marine sediment map of the ocean floor that was developed as part of the GEODE project. Information on core sites and lithologies were derived from the scientific reports associated with each research expedition. A cross section generator program was adapted to use to elevate photos of cores rising up from the seafloor. Development of this educational resource was supported by the NSF-funded GEODE project.



GigaPan, 3D model, and VFE resources for Tempe ETX meeting

Wind River Canyon, Wyoming (HTML5-based)

Wind River Canyon, Wyoming (Flash-based)

Massanutten Synclinorium, Virginia (HTML5-based)

Massanutten Synclinorium, Virginia (Flash-based)

Rathlin Island: kilometer to micron (HTML5-based)

Rathlin Island: kilometer to micron (Flash-based)

Sedimentary deposits in the Canadian Rockies (HTML5-based)

Sedimentary deposits in the Canadian Rockies (Flash-based)

Siccar Point, Scotland (HTML5-based, including 360° spherical photos and 3D models)

All our GigaPans, in chronological order

All our GigaPans, organized into thematic “galleries”

All of our 3D models on Sketchfab

Rock identification review exercise 1 via 3D models

Metamorphic rocks virtual collection (HTML5-based)

Metamorphic rocks virtual collection (Flash-based)

NOVA mineralogy reference page (lots of hand sample and thin section GIGAmacros, plus YouTube videos of thin sections rotating under PPL and XPL)

Glacial geomorphology online lab exercise : Part I (field and hand sample imagery) and Part II (maps, also in GigaPan form)

Sediment samples virtual collection (Google spreadsheet w/ links)

Fake field trip 1: Geologic history of a cross-section (Externally hosted; Flash based)

GIGAmacro viewer demo: collection of images related to the Spechty Kopf diamictite & related units, West Virginia

GIGAmacro viewer utility: determining geopetal “up” direction (blog post)

Welcome to the Grand Tour of the Terrestrial Planets

From here you can download tiny ‘leader’ KML files linking to our four tours. A paper describing them has been submitted to the Journal of Geoscience Education. It is currently accepted subject to revision. We will upload it here along with supplemental documents including lesson plans and pre-/post tests as soon as we hear whether our revision manuscript has been accepted.


Click here


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The Moon

Click here


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Thanks to the NASA New Horizons mission, we now have spectacular new surface imagery of Pluto. Click here to download a KMZ file that you can open in Google Earth. It contains the highest resolution surface imagery of Pluto from the New Horizons Flyby in 2015. Note that it is a ground overlay on Google Earth so the Google Earth ruler, terrain, atmosphere, water, sunlight, etc., should be turned off.


Canadian Rockies GigaPan-based virtual field experience

The image below links to a KMZ file (3.76 MB) that can be used as a basis for a Canadian Rockies virtual field experience (VFE). The VFE consists principally of embedded GigaPan imagery, but there are also some regular-resolution photographs and two geologic base maps, one for western Alberta, and one for eastern British Columbia. There are 85 total GigaPans in this trip, arranged in chronological order of principal themes.

Summary: The Canadian Rockies are a world-class example of a fold-and-thrust belt. The geologic story begins in the Neoproterozoic with sedimentary deposition that continued until the Cretaceous, with most exposed sedimentary rocks being Paleozoic in age. Notable in particular is the Cambrian section, which includes the soft-bodied fossils of the Burgess Shale. Deformation associated with the accretion of exotic terranes west of the Rocky Mountain Trench during the Laramide Orogeny folded, cleaved, and faulted these strata toward the Western Interior Seaway. During the Pleistocene, extensive glaciation sculpted the landscape into a classic suite of alpine glacial geomorphological features. Many glaciers still exist, and can be viewed from the excellent roadways of the Canadian national park system. Recently, episodes of catastrophic flooding have dramatically altered low-lying valley regions, especially in the Canmore and Evan Thomas area. All of these features can be seen in whole or in part using this VFE platform.


Here’s a video preview of the trip:

Questions, suggestions, critique, and comment should be directed to Callan Bentley.

Users are welcome to modify the VFE to suit their needs. If you develop any ancillary assignments or student worksheets, please share them here.