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Earth System Topics: Time/Earth History

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Hot spot volcanism in western North America
James Trexler, University of Nevada-Reno
Students use real data on age of volcanism and ash thickness distribution to better understand hot spot volcanic activity.

Timeline of the Early Earth
Selby Cull, Washington University in St. Louis
Students assemble timelines of the early evolution of Earth's atmosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere by examining data from Archean rocks and minerals.

Modeling U-Series Concordia/Discordia Using STELLA
Kirsten Menking, Vassar College
U-Series dating techniques are widely used to determine the absolute ages of some of Earth's oldest rocks, but the concordia/discordia diagram can be quite difficult for students to grasp. I have produced a STELLA-based lab exercise to develop students' understanding of this important chronologic technique. Students create models of the two isotopic decay systems and run these models to create the concordia diagram. They then carry out experiments in which they "add" or "remove" varying amounts of lead or uranium in simulation of metamorphism. In the course of the lab, students are introduced to the concepts of exponential decay and secular equilibrium as well as modeling concepts such as the creation of if-then statements.