Digital Outcrop Methodology 

Virtual Outcrops and Virtual Fieldtrips – A practical guide

John Howell and Jessica Pugsley – Virtual Outcrop Group, University of Aberdeen

Over the past 20 years the use of virtual outcrops in the geosciences has transitioned from niche research topic to mainstream tool. Today, the majority of virtual outcrop models are typically built using photogrammetry, a method of building 3D models from multiple photos (typically hundreds). Drones are used to acquire the optimal imagery and recent advances in low cost, easy to fly systems has made them an essential part of the field geologists kit.

Once created, virtual outcrops have a wide range of applications. They can be used to supplement traditional fieldwork, especially in mapping and measuring inaccessible cliff sections. Virtual outcrops are also a key part of building Virtual Fieldtrips (VFTs). VFTs provide a virtual experience that can be used to augment or even replace traditional fieldtrips.

This workshop we will subdivided into two parts. During the morning we will review data acquisition, model building and applications, specifically:

  1. Provide an overview of the history of virtual outcrops over the past 20 years. From laser scanners to drones
  2. Present a workflow for the acquisition of a typical virtual outcrop using a consumer drone, covering outcrop selection, survey planning and data acquisition.
  3. Provide an overview of the key steps in processing models using Metashapes
  4. Review the use of virtual outcrops in sedimentology
  5. Available software, storing and sharing 3D models

The afternoon session will focus on building and deploying virtual fieldtrips, using the Lime software. The session will be a practical and participants will be encouraged to bring computers with the software loaded and to build a VFT during the session.  

  1. Overview of VFTs, what they are and how they compare to traditional fieldtrips
  2. Types of VFT
  3. Designing a VFT, virtual outcrops and other data (logs, photos, videos etc)
  4. Building and deploying VFTs
  5. Experience from running VFTs

By the end of the workshop, participants should be able collect and build virtual outcrops and have a working understanding of Virtual Fieldtrips.