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Climate History from Deep Sea Sediments

Michael Taber, Cinzia Cervato, William Ryan, Robert Arko, Doug Fils, Victor Fitzjarrald, Earth Exploration Toolbook Chapter

This activity focuses on reconstructing the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) as an example of a relatively abrupt global warming period. Students access Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) sediment core data with Virtual Ocean software in order to display relevant marine sediments and their biostratigraphy.

Activity takes three class periods. Computer access required.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
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Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
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Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
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A) Processes that shape the Earth.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:B) Heredity and evolution
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B) Heredity and evolution.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:C) Systems and connections
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C) Systems and connections.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Pairings of students suggested - each pair with a computer.
  • Might be useful to precede activity with student investigation of the PETM and its significance climatologically.
  • A wrap-up discussion about what students learned and how to relate these lessons to the current discussion of global warming is necessary.
  • Ideally educators develop the inquiry questions together with students after an introduction to the tool.

About the Science

  • This detailed activity examines a period of abrupt climate change (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum or PETM) using data from a variety of sources - International Ocean Drilling Project and CHRONOS data portal - with Virtual Ocean Software.
  • Focus is on impact of this period on biota, linking paleoclimatic events to current projections for climate change impacts.
  • Students work with real data and get great insight into the work scientists do.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Addresses process of science - how we know what we know.
  • Includes concise and accurate information about observations and interpretation of the PETM. Links the PETM to present climate change by analogy.
  • Places the search for information about the PETM in the larger plate tectonics context.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity is carefully designed to lead users through multiple steps of downloading software and data, manipulating data, and using both to answer questions about the PETM.
  • Support is provided throughout activity via show/hide options.
  • Assessment for this activity is spread throughout.
  • Instructions are well-written but complex.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Requires computer, Internet access, and ability to download Virtual Ocean software.

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