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Abrupt Events of the Past 70 Million Years – Evidence from Scientific Ocean Drilling

Mark Leckie, Debbie Thomas, Consortium for Ocean Leadership

In this 6-part activity, students learn about climate change during the Cenozoic and the abrupt changes at the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary (65.5 million years ago), the Eocene/Oligocene boundary (33.9 million years ago), and the Paleocene/Eocene boundary (55.8 million years ago).

Activity with all parts takes about 3 to 4 hours to complete.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Can be done in a homework or lab environment.
  • This is a challenging activity with solid science and practical advice on how to use the sediment cores. To do well, it will take 3 to 4 class periods with some homework assignments and require the educator to take time to familiarize her/himself thoroughly with the background material.

About the Science

  • Resource provides a set of activities using detailed data and extensive background material, from high-quality scientific papers, on how to collect and analyze scientific data and samples from deep-sea cores.
  • Part 1 activity data on the composite stable isotope records of oxygen and carbon in deep-sea benthic foraminifers (from the Cenozoic Era - 65 million years ago to present - and the last 5 million years) and on the physical properties of sediment cores are taken from recent research papers and reports. Part 2 focuses on shore-based data and analysis of fossil samples collected from around the time of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), 55 million years ago.
  • Several diagrams in the section on the Milankovitch cycles are taken from WikiPedia without clear attribution or explanation. More information is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Milankovitch_Variations.png.

About the Pedagogy

  • Resource is suited to a college-level audience; likely difficult to use in a high school context.
  • Students examine real data from sea floor cores to find physical evidence for the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), 55.8 million years ago. Students then use shore-based data, including carbonate content and carbon isotope ratios and benthic oxygen isotope ratios, from 9 different sites around the world to examine the differences between planktic foraminifera and benthic foraminifera around the PETM.
  • Only one of the six parts of the activity involves active learning and observation; the other parts give challenging worksheet-style questions covering important topics.
  • Scaffolding is minimal but suitable for college level.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Outline of activity might be a little confusing with each of the six lessons in a separate PDF document and no clear connections between the individual activities.
  • Articles in this resource are highly technical with a lot of specialized language. Only educators with background in this material will be able to present it effectively.
  • There is no instructor's guide.

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