Mapping geomorphology: A journey from paper maps, through computer mapping to GIS and Virtual Reality
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Maps are integral components of research in geomorphology and Quaternary geology. Visual presentation of the spatial and temporal distribution of a phenomenon often provides clues to the process(es) that generated the phenomenon. Compiling information on maps, interpreting spatial patterns, and using standard topographic maps were fundamental parts of the undergraduate experience. Why have such experiences been slowly disappearing from undergraduate curricula? How are geology majors taught map scale, map projections, and the pitfalls associated with the display of spatial information? Neglect in preserving the mapping tradition places the geology major at a disadvantage. The use of maps and mapping is undergoing a renaissance; use in the classroom has a bright future because of digital scanning, computer cartography, geographic information systems (GIS), and virtual reality. Pen and ink techniques should be relegated to museums. Pencil sketches can be scanned and perfect products generated every time. These techniques, however, do not eliminate the need for basic map knowledge such as scale, projections, and generalization. What assumptions about map projections have been built into the software? How are spatial data and attribute data integrated into the resultant map in a geographic information system (GIS)? Because the application of virtual reality to geomorphic processes looms on the horizon, geologists must recognize how the current spatial revolution can help with the assessment of geologic phenomena and teach students to function with the new technology.