Yukon University has created tours where the territory’s geological terrain can be experienced virtually.
The project received $389,450 in funding from the Natural Resources Canada GEM-GeoNorth program, which will be in place until 2025 to support the project.
The Yukon Virtual Geology website works to make geology accessible to the public with 3D interactive tours.
It was created by Joel Cubley and Mary Samolczyk, two faculty members in the school of earth sciences and the Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining, in response to the teaching limitations that came with COVID-19 and the need for increased public geoscience literacy.
A June 12 statement by Yukon University said the team has so far developed two virtual experiences showcasing the Yukon’s geology, which include teaching videos, 3D mineral and rock hand samples, interactive tours, drone imagery and more.
University spokesperson Tanis Davey said the project will allow people to explore and learn more about the territory’s geology.
“It will be very valuable to the students’ education experience,” she said. “They saw the pandemic as an opportunity to create these virtual tours. It’s an opportunity for the public, especially those outside the Yukon, to learn about the territory. Ultimately, the website is a valuable tool for high or elementary school students to support their curriculum because it’s accessible and engaging.”
How the virtual experience works
A video posted on the website of the Yukon Virtual Geology project said that in learning more about the Yukon’s landscapes and geological history from their homes, visitors can explore different trips using tablets, laptops or desktop computers.
The website contains virtual field trips to a growing list of different destinations in the territory. Each trip is different but uses imaging technologies that help viewers to enjoy the experience without the associated travel and logistics to get there.
The video explains that engaging in the field trips requires a strong internet connection and speakers. Visitors to the page can visit the website to see the list of current field trips. They can click on the trip and be linked to a separate page to launch the field experience. Visitors can return to the homepage to explore a different trip.
The team coordinating the project said their goal is to bring greater awareness of Yukon geoscience to the public and students, creating tools that help build geology literacy among the community as a whole.
Visitors will hear from geoscience educators and students, researchers and local experts in the disciplines highlighted by each trip. For instance, they will have the opportunity to listen to a description of rock types and mineralization or explore a 3D sample of the bright blue mineral azurite.
The two virtual projects that have been developed by the team using 3D technologies, drone imagery and interactive tours include the Triassic Reefs and Fossils and the Whitehorse Copper Belt.
The Triassic reef systems of the southwestern Yukon showcases marine fossils, providing visitors an opportunity to learn about organisms and how different the Yukon was 200 million years ago.
The Whitehorse Copper Belt is a 30-kilometre belt of copper-gold ore deposits and mineral occurrences. Visitors can learn about the mining history, the geological processes involved in forming a skarn-type deposit, and the characteristic rocks and minerals that can be found within the belt.
Other ongoing virtual projects being developed include Yukon volcanoes and geoscience research in the North. The volcano project will explore volcanic features and their history across the territory, while geoscience research will help visitors learn about earth science-related research that is actively being conducted in the Yukon.
The team said they hope to create at least two tours per year and that future experiences may explore topics such as permafrost thaw and associated landforms.
Yukon University president and vice-chancellor Lesley Brown said the institution’s faculty recognize the importance of providing high-quality learning experiences that are accessible to all.
“Yukon Virtual Geology is an innovative educational tool that will not only be used by our earth sciences students, but it promotes geology in engaging ways to anyone around the world,” Brown said.
Federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said that, through partnerships with Yukon University, “we are expanding Canada’s knowledge base and ensuring that important information is engaging and accessible for Yukoners and all Canadians.”
“This innovative learning tool will help to increase scientific literacy and provide an important showcase the unique geology found within the Yukon,” he said.
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