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Mapping Landslides in the Austrian Alps

May 7, 2015

Each year, more than twenty student researchers in the MSc Engineering Geology program at the Technical University of Munich take advantage of the Fulcrum for Education program to study and map landslides in the Austrian Alps. As GPS and GIS technology replaces paper maps and handwritten notes, these students are being trained to use modern field data collection tools and techniques in their landslide mapping courses.

Landslide Mapping

Understanding Landslides

To understand the processes inside a landslide, it is important to record all morphologic structures inside the motion area. As a part of their coursework, students develop their own Fulcrum applications to collect this information. The full semester course includes a week long field study where student researchers go through the process of using the apps they designed to map the geotechnical conditions on a major landslide in the Austrian Alps. Data collected from the field is loaded into GIS software for additional study and analysis.

Landslide Mapping

Fulcrum in the Classroom and the Field

In addition to exposing students to mobile data collection technology, integrating Fulcrum into the coursework has provided some additional, unexpected benefits.

  • The interface for generating apps is a very intuitive way to demonstrate database set-up and rule-based programming.
  • Implementing categories derived from industry-approved standards helps reinforce students memory of important terms and definitions.
  • When rules in the app are set by the students from the comfort of a warm, dry classroom or lab, they then become responsible for ensuring all important quantities are recorded in the field.

PhD student Lukas Paysen-Petersen, who is recording potential landslides inside the foothills of the Bavarian Alps with Fulcrum, notes:

This last benefit is fantastic from a demonstrator’s point of view, as “ticking the boxes” is actually somehow satisfying, as opposed to what is often seen as an arduous task for students to remember and write down all the important data on a fragile, dirty, and sometimes wet map or notebook.

Cooling Off After Collecting Data

Cooling off after collecting data in the Alps

Providing access to the Fulcrum platform for educational institutions continues to be a priority of ours. We love hearing about all the innovative ways folks are reimagining fieldwork for research, so be sure to join the conversation @fulcrumapp.