Geo Week News

October 4, 2011

Lidar comes to Tahoe upper crust

The tagline for the event is: “You will be amazed!” So, who’s performing? Is it David Copperfield? Dominique Dawes? Cirque du Soleil? Nope. It’s Dr. Graham Kent, director of the Nevada Seismological Laboratory and professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. And he’s going to be talking lidar.

That’s right. If you’re going to be in the Lake Tahoe area tomorrow, you should swing by the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences and take in “Lidar Map of Lake Tahoe: Seeing Faults, Landslides and Other Landforms with Lasers,” which will feature Dr. Kent taking the audience through an airborne lidar survey of the Tahoe basin, which was commissioned by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in 2010. 

Now, I don’t think the $5 suggested donation at the door is going to put the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center in the black, but I do think this kind of community outreach is a terrific idea. It’s an acknowledgement that this stuff is cool! No, it’s not ridiculous to think that people would come out on a Wednesday night just to look at the pretty pictures of the place where they live. 

“Active faults, landslides and other landforms jump off the screen! Enabling discoveries such as the landward extension of basin-forming faults (such as the West Tahoe and Incline Village faults)! Paleo-landslides abound! Together with Sonar mapping in the lakes of the Tahoe Basin, the first true baseline of the basin is recorded!”

Okay, okay, I added in those exclamation points, but doesn’t it read like an advertisement for the latest blockbuster movie? I’m hoping they’ve got one of those brand-new 3D flatscreens lined up or something, because that would really make the data jump. (And, hey, there’s a cash bar, so people might be more receptive to the effects of those lasers…)

But why does this kind of thing matter? Well, when you take this kind of presentation out into the community, people see the value in it. They’re smart enough to realize that the pretty pictures have value, too. If they, with their untrained eyes, can pick out features of the earth that would be much less transparent with normal photography, they’re smart enough to realize the huge benefit this could provide to trained professionals. And then, when the county or the town or some other agency is looking for a few bucks to pay for another such survey, maybe they’ll be less likely to resist that expenditure. Or maybe they’ll donate to the local university to help start up a geospatial program. You never know. 

Kudos to the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences and Dr. Kent. Wish I could attend.

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