Using High-Resolution Topography to Understand Earth Surface Processes

Cut out topographic image of stream and nearby road

A Summer 2020 Earth Sciences Field Issues Course

This course currently includes optional in-person field demos that will be operated in compliance with any then-current UNC, CDHE, local and State of Colorado COVID-19 guidelines.

In recent years, high-resolution topographic acquisition methods have exploded, expanding geoscientists’ ability to study earth surface processes. Previously, time-consuming survey methods (e.g., total station) or expensive airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) were the most common methods employed. With the increase in accessibility of ground-based LiDAR (also known as terrestrial laser scanning; TLS) and structure from motion (SfM), high-resolution topography can be collected by geoscientists with the proper training at a reduced cost compared to airborne LiDAR, and at a much higher resolution compared to traditional methods.

This course will spend June 30 - July 13 with online readings and discussions (~1 hr/day) about topographic data collection methods and protocols as well as the scientific applications of each. The workshop-style full-time (~8 hrs/day) component of the course will give students hands-on training July 14-25.

The objective of the course is to train students in manual and remote sensing methods of topographic data collection, including 1) GPS/GNSS surveys, 2) structure from motion (SfM), and 3) ground-based (terrestrial laser scanning, TLS) and airborne LiDAR.

Choose Graduate or Undergraduate Option

Undergraduate version of course = ESCI 491-601

Graduate version of course = ESCI 591-602

Syllabus for both courses

  • Eligibility


    Junior level class standing and completion of one of the following (or consent of instructor):

    • ESCI 330 Earth Science Statistical Analysis
    • ESCI 474 Principles of Hydrology
    • GEOG 210 Introduction to GIS & GPS
    • GEOG 307 Geographic Information Science
    • GEOG 449 Remote Sensing of the Environment
    • GEOL 460 Geomorphology

    Prerequisites require an instructor override. Please contact the instructor before registering to provide proof of completion of the prerequisite coursework. Other UNC staff are not able to assist with prerequisite overrides for registration.

    Undergraduate Students

    UNC Degree-Seeking Students

    Current UNC students can register for this course.

    Non-Degree-Seeking Students

    If you are not seeking a degree at UNC, but have earned a GED or high school diploma, you may take this course for personal interest or to transfer to another college or university. Please note, as a non-degree seeking student, you are not eligible for federal financial aid.

    Graduate Students

    UNC Degree-Seeking Students

    Current UNC graduate students can register for this course.

    Non-Degree-Seeking Students

    Non-degree-seeking graduate status refers to a student who has earned at least a bachelor's degree and who either:

    • Has applied to UNC Graduate School and not yet been admitted or;
    • Wishes to take this graduate class but not pursue a degree.

    Please note, as a non-degree seeking student, you are not eligible for federal financial aid.

  • Register

    ESCI 491-601 CRN: 40681

    ESCI 591-602 CRN: 40682

    Follow the instructions in the PDF below to register.

    • You will use the CRN (Course Registration Number) listed above when you register in Ursa.
    • Step 1 of this process can take up to 1-3 days turnaround time, so we recommend you start the process in advance of the "add/register by" deadline posted on this page.

    Directions for course registration and activation

  • Contact Us

    Sharon Bywater-Reyes, Ph.D.

    UNC Extended Campus
    Aimee Rogers
    Campus Box 21, Michener Library, Room L54
    University of Northern Colorado
    Greeley, CO 80639
    Phone: 970-351-2594
    Fax: 970-351-1870
    Office Hours: Mon-Fri 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

  • Once You Register

    Dropping and Withdrawing

    If you wish to drop or withdraw from the course, you must do so on or before the deadline dates listed in the Course Basics box.

    • If you are registered for any other courses in the same academic term, you can drop or withdraw within your Ursa account.
    • If this is your only course this term, please contact the Office of the Registrar at or 970-351-4862.

    It is your responsibility to know the drop and withdrawal deadlines and procedures.

    Billing and Payment for Your Course

    Tuition for this course is listed in the Course Basics box on this page. Any course materials costs (textbooks, digital access, etc.) would be a separate or additional expense.

    Billing notification will be sent to your Bearmail (student email) account when your bill is ready. If you have not activated your Bearmail, directions are in the directions for course registration and activation.

    • Please pay your bill by the due date listed on your eBill to avoid service charges.
    • To view or pay your bill, log into Ursa and go to the Financial tab. You will not receive a bill in the mail; UNC has an eBill system.
    • Further instructions for finding and paying your bill are available on the UNC Bursar's website. Please contact Aimee Rogers at 970-351-2594 if you have any other billing concerns.

    Syllabus for both courses