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Utah Geological Survey Offers Virtual Excursions

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Ed Yeates Reporting Though some schools can't afford to take field trips anymore, the Utah Geological Survey is unfolding a way to take those excursions without ever going there.

In 1993, the country's most costly massive landslide ever slowly rolled down a mountainside near a place called Thistle. It's a place every Utah teacher would like to take his or her students to see, but maybe it just can't be done. Well, now they can do it in the classroom, by simply going to Google Earth and visiting the Utah Geological Survey's new GEOSITES.

This virtual arena via Google Earth is the brainchild of Lucas Shaw. He wanted to capture the look and feel of Utah's geologic wonders as if you were there, as if you could fly above it all for a whole new perspective. "It's such a massive slide, even if you were to drive up there, you wouldn't get a full-scale of how large it is," said Shaw. "Google earth is nice because you can go up to the head of the slide and see how large the source area is and see where it flows and even the roads that were blocked."

For example, a class in Monticello may not have the resources for a field trip to come see our infamous Wasatch Fault. And again, even if they could, they might not get the big picture.

But, imagine the best of both worlds. For classes that could make the field trips to see and touch the very depths of the fault, the school beforehand could supplement the learning experience with a bigger picture, the distance and magnitude of the fault as a virtual experience. UGS currently has about 20 sites programmed into Google Earth. The plan now is to add three sites per year.

Shaw says there are potentially hundreds of sites in Utah that could qualify for these virtual trips.

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