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Are Humans Influencing Modern Climate?

Ryan Vachon, University of Colorado Outreach

In this short video, host Dr. Ryan interviews graduate student Amy Steiker at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research about her research, using isotopes of nitrous oxide, connecting human activity to greenhouse gas emissions.

Video length is 2:11 min.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Human activities have increased GHG levels and altered global climate patterns
About Teaching Principle 6
Other materials addressing 6c

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

  • This would be a great resource to use in the classroom as an introduction or review for a unit on greenhouse gases, isotopes, or the nitrogen cycle. The terminology is high school level, and students would need to have already been introduced to it or investigate further.
  • Educators could find data on nitrous oxide levels across the globe and have students draw conclusions about distributions and sources of nitrous oxide.

About the Science

  • Scientific studies show that changes in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, are linked to specific human activity. Samples of air are collected from all over the world and analyzed for stable isotopes by graduate student Amy Steiker at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. Streiker has found that the isotopic signature of nitrous oxide is changing due to increasing nitrous oxide released from man-made fertilizers.
  • Several sources are cited.
  • Several brief visualizations illustrate basic concepts of greenhouse gases and isotopes.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This resource introduces the importance of human activities to the increase of greenhouse gases and presents a state-of-art technique: tracking stable isotopes to understand sources and sinks of elements relevant to greenhouse gases. The points are well made that isotopes provide a unique tool because they trace processes in the global environment. Given the fact that the 120-second video can only cover limited materials, the audience will greatly benefit from supporting materials.

About the Pedagogy

  • No additional materials are provided with the video. The host, Ryan, does an excellent job of cutting down scientific jargon and explaining the basic scientific concepts behind the research.
  • Video is definitely palatable and somewhat engaging for students.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Video has high production quality with a fast pace. It is easily accessible on vimeo.

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