Teach the Earth > Paleontology > Teaching Activities > Bioturbation Exercise

Bioturbation Exercise

Ron Martin
University of Delaware
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: May 12, 2009


  • Students are given data for three unidentified hypothetical environments and asked to determine the relative effects of mixed layer thickness, sediment accumulation rate, and bioturbation rate based on a simple diffusion-based model of bioturbation.
  • Students are asked to identify the three unknown environments based on the data.
  • Students are then asked questions regarding the effects of the model on temporal resolution and porewater chemistry and the resulting fossil assemblages.

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This exercise has been used in a junior level paleo course, junior level strat course, and grad level strat course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Basic concepts of sedimentology and depositional environments.

How the activity is situated in the course

Varies, depending on when section on taphonomy is taught.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

To understand the relative effects of sedimentation, mixed layer thickness, and bioturbation rate on temporal resolution in each of three different environments.
By the end of this exercise, the student should:
►understand how and where bioturbation takes place.
►determine the relative effects of sedimentation, mixed layer thickness and bioturbation rate on each of three different environments using a simple model.
►understand the drawbacks ("caveats") of the simplistic model.
►understand the effects of bioturbation on porewater chemistry and preservation in marine environments.
►have a basic understanding of how bioturbation occurs on multiple spatial and temporal scales.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Determining whether students have met the goals

Assignments (plots, written answers) are collected and examined in relation to plots and lecture notes.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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