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What are the educational opportunities that can be developed to showcase this Deep Earth science  

What are the educational opportunities that can be developed to showcase this Deep Earth science? What types of activities or resources could be developed? Where can Deep Earth science be introduced in the geoscience curriculum (e.g. mineralogy, petrology, geochemistry, geophysics courses...)? Let us know what would be useful: tutorials on topic X (webpages or powerpoints); annotated bibliographies from the literature for deeper exploration by students; problem sets; annotated visualization collections, laboratory exercises;... Check out the list of Hot Topics that the conveners started to stimulate ideas for teaching about the Deep earth.


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There are many topics that can be used to introduce Deep Earth science. In addition to the ones that John McDaris alluded to in the previous post to this thread (mineralogy, petrology, geochemistry, and geophysics courses), any class session that touches upon phenomena that are surface manifestations of deep Earth processes could serve as a segue into the deep Earth, if appropriate. One opportunity of this ilk would be a presentation on seismic events and volcanism in a natural hazards course. I co-teach a course on Long Island geology. Prior to the time we devote to the obvious glacial and coastal processes themes, we focus on the tectonic history of the area, and I take the students on a "field trip" to the Mineral Physics Institute's High Pressure Laboratory, where we learn about multi-anvil equipment, and how it relates to researching deep Earth processes that drive plate motions.


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Following on Glenn's final point, how about a virtual "field trip" to the MPI High Pressure Laboratory?


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We make much of topography when teaching Deep Earth to students at many levels, including introductory classes, where they are featured prominently in many current textbooks. The basic concepts (and I mean the real basics) of tomography are pretty simple, and I'd like to see, or participate in the development of, simple exercises that demonstrate how tomography works. I could envision paper-based exercises as well as graphical computer exercises (which I do not have the programming/java expertise to generate).


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I teach my Geophysics class as a lecture/activity section with an additional lab, so I have lots of opportunities to insert the kinds of activities we will be talking about here. I've only taught the class once so far, so I have the beginnings of a few activities and have repurposed several things from SERC but there is a lot of room to develop more (and improved) activities.

Geophysics is an upper level elective though, so students don't take it until senior year, and only about 25% (?) of students take it at all. One thing I'm curious about is how to introduce Deep Earth topics at other points in the curriculum, sharing resources without telling colleagues what to teach, etc. Of course there are some who incorporate some deep Earth ideas but I think there are many more opportunities.


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There are many online data sources that could to be worked into problem sets (paper or computer-based), virtual field trips (I like this idea from above!), and activities or labs. A few that come to mind are geochemical data from PetDB, seismograms from IRIS, observational data from Hawaii's Volcano Observatory, and Earthscope archived and real-time data. Others?


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The IRIS web site has some E&O resources about tomography that we should be aware of, use and build upon.

IRIS animations about seismic tomography:


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I don't work directly with tomography, so I will admit to my limitations (ignorance). That said, it seems that initial consideration of tomographic images often seems to lead to the unwarranted simplifications that fast = cold and slow = warm. Or that cold = dense and hot = not as dense. Consequently, I think it would be nice to develop some resources that help a student work through the factors that might result in a velocity anomaly, to reinforce the idea that there are several factors at play. This could be quantitative (an exercise in which a student varies the values of parameters like bulk modulus, density, shear modulus to quantitatively investigate the effect on velocity) or maybe even graphical (overlapping contour sections through the mantle showing tenperature, density, pressure, mineral phase, etc. where they speculate what parts of the section might have fast/slow velocity anomalies).


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I like Vince's idea above - incorporating exercises that can have both a quantitative and maybe more instinctive quality to them. That way we can pick up those who do think mathematically as well as those who are made nervous and lost by the equations.

I've also been trying to incorporating more examples of real data into my geophysics course (which I'll have to leave the workshop a bit this morning to go teach). This is my 2nd time around teaching the class and the kiddos last year really wanted more examples. I think that seeing and playing with real data geophysics becomes a bit less ethereal to upper level geology students. I think.


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Following on Anna's comment in #6, NAGT is co-sponsoring a workshop in Hawaii this summer on using the online data streams that are coming from the Volcano Observatory to teach undergrad geoscience. (You can find out more about the workshop at
They are going to be generating a body of activities that may be something you'll want to use. So keep an eye out for them (or go take part in the workshop!)


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I am thinking about an exercise to have students explore the question "what's at the core-mantle boundary?" It will involve questions about pallasite, perhaps include phase diagrams, and also a plume component (eg from Burke et al 2008 EPSL paper). I'm still brainstorming, and would like to hear especially from geophysicists who can help me develop this exercise.


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I would like to see an exercise that allows student to appreciate (dare we have them calculate?--actaully simple enough that students should be able to do this) surface elevation, or changes in elevation, as related to density anomalies in the mantle. This topic seems to have appear within the middles and edges of other threads, to oral conversations. The goals of such an exercise would be to help students to understand isostacy, a simple yet so powerful tool/concept once students make it their own, and an appreciation for how the deep Earth affects the surface, statically, as well as through time.


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My students are Gen Ed, so many of them are not geoscience majors. I would like to be able to present them with a way to critically think about how the interior of the earth can be looked at if we are not able to drill. Scale and spatial reference is a huge hurdle for many of these folks.
Another question I seem to hear a lot is." why is this important to me.. I am a ___ major".. But it is important because the way we do science is the way you will do research in your field..whether it is accounting or criminal justice.. So I would like to create an exercise that maybe introduces the interior of the earth based the technology that is used. I am still thinking.. But I like Brennan's idea of getting to tomography and being able to have a class of 48 do something with pencil and paper..


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This post was editted by Glenn Richard on Feb, 2010
Brennan Jordan, Anna Courtier, and Wendy Mao:

What visuals, animations, or activities would you like to see in a virtual field trip or a virtual high pressure experiment? If it is a tour of a high pressure laboratory, perhaps the Bragg's Law Applet (See ) could be included in an activity.

Also see the photographs below, of equipment in the Mineral Physics Institute High Pressure Laboratory at Stony Brook University.

Perhaps a virtual experiment can center around using X-ray diffraction to study a phase change in a selected material as pressure changes in a diamond anvil cell (DAC). Students would learn about:

1) d-spacings in crystal lattices
2) how a diamond anvil cell functions
3) Bragg's Law and X-ray diffraction
4) how do we measure pressure?
5) phase changes with increasing pressure

A challenge -> How can we make this activity "feel" as much as possible like an actual field trip or experiment?



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Following on Vince's suggestion for tomography in #8 - I tried an activity using data from my mantle discontinuity research (reflectivity rather than tomography) and had students interpret the results in terms of purely a change in temperature,then water, then iron. The goal was to have them use the phase diagram to figure out how much of an anomaly would be required for each of the three factors to cause the anomaly on its own, then estimate which is the most reasonable. Something like this might combine with the tomography activities quite well. Maybe this is a route we can go for the activity this weekend...?


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Replying to Glenn above:
What I am envisioning is a virtual field trip that allows students to get a real sense for the relationship between the physical machinery and what is actually occurring to the samples, and then to the science. The "field trip" could have a combination of photographs and diagrams/animations. It would also be cool, as you suggest, to include some activities (simulations with data analysis on the other side?), so it is not just a tour. That could all get pretty involved, but it could also be linked to other aspects of teaching deep Earth.

Also, cool Bragg's law applet.


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Replying to Brennan:
Perhaps a simple virtual field trip, as a proof on concept, would be a good way to get started. A good candidate site would be the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). Some of the components of the module would be:

1) Zoom in to a Google Earth view of where BNL and NSLS are located.
2) Photographs of the NSLS building, the electron ring, and some of the beamline stations.
3) A diagram of the facility, indicating what research some of the beamlines are being used for.
4) Photographs of the high pressure equipment being operated by COMPRES.
5) Diagrams indicating how the equipment operates.
6) Virtual models of mineral lattices to demonstrate lattice structures and d-spacings
7) An activity in which students use d-spacing data and the Bragg's Law Applet to identify minerals in a "mystery sample".


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your example sounds great! I would defiantly use such an exercise in my Earth's Dynamic Interior class. It would provide the student with end-member cases, and, presumably to see that the end-member cases make advances, but each end-member is not quite there. And then they have the information to think about combining the three variables. To me, this captures for the student just how we tickle out what we think we know about the deep Earth.


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Some of the resources I would like to have for our undergraduate solid-Earth Geophysics course:

1. A tutorial plus exercises on non-dimensional parameters, especially in deep Earth studies

2. A tutorial plus exercises on scalar, vector, and tensor quantities--from the mathematical point of view, and also from the physical science point of view

3. A short introduction to the "classic" differential equations: heat, diffusion, wave, etc.

I'll post more as I think of them...


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I wonder if a coordinated network of labs would be willing to periodically due 'webcasts/webcams' of experimental prep and runs (not sure what they actually might be able to show during the experiment). But if a couple of different labs got into the habit of webcasting experiments, they could post monthly schedules of different types of experiments so that students could watch (potentially live) demos showing equipment 'in-use' - I'm not an experimentalist so maybe this is not really practical...


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Reply to Barbara:

Two thoughts about why this might be important for students - both might be a bit of a stretch but I think both also have a bit of merit.

1. Ultimately a major source of 'clean' energy on earth is geothermal. So knowing about why the interior of the earth is hot, how fast the heat gets to the surface, how big and long-lived the potential reservoir is, etc can possibly be tied in to the issue of energy, about which people are hearing more and more daily...

2. I was just chatting with a student last week who like geology but wants to do a Middle Eastern studies major because he want to tie together politics, resources, etc. I pointed out to him that geoscientists inherently have to be able to work at a variety of spatial and temporal scales, and integrate very diverse data sets to make (semi??-) coherent pictures of complex systems. The way we are trained to think is exactly what is needed by politicians, information analysts etc to deal with complex world situations.

So even if your class uses terms they may never see again in life outside a geology class, by helping them see the big picture model of the earth and integrate very diverse data sets to test a model (e.g. layered earth structure), your helping them to learn how to deal with very large and complex ideas. I'm becoming convinced that students need to be told this sort of thing point-blank as they don't always realize that they are learning critical thinking skills that they can and should apply outside of a specific class to other situations...

The detailed knowledge we have of the interior of the earth allows us to develop pretty accurate and testable models, considering it's not a place we'll probably ever be able to directly visit.


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HI Folks , the question has been raised about how to communicate with the media and general public. I know there are resources out there from e.g. AAAS. Here is a webpage that has tips on partnering, evaluation and dissemination. The bottom of the page has a few links to resources for communicating with the public. Can folks please add to this resource base?


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