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: Aug 8, 2014
During this multi-week or semester-long assignment, students collect sediment cores in the field, perform a series of basic descriptive and analytical studies on the collected samples, and summarize their work in writing. Students will learn how to pre-survey an area, allowing them to pick the most suitable sampling location. In the field, students will gain first-hand sampling experience. After the study of their samples, students will have a basic understanding of some simple methods used by sedimentologists. They will learn how to prepare and work with samples, produce and present data, and summarize their finding graphically as well as in writing.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
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Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
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Description and Teaching Materials
Fig. 1: Location of Texas A&M University Corpus Christi (Ward Island) and the Oso Bay study area.
At the beginning of the semester, students, with guidance from the instructor, pose a geologic question to be addressed that semester and develop a working hypothesis. Ultimately, each student (or small groups) will choose subtopic(s) that best suits their interests, e.g. geochemistry or paleontology, in addition to the general sediment analysis performed by all students. The individual contributions will help create a bigger picture and to compile more data than otherwise possible.
Step 1 of the project revolves around brainstorming research questions for the study area. An example for Oso Bay could be: Have hurricanes that hit the region in the past century left a record in the sediments of Oso Bay? If so, what do those records look like? Geologic significance? Often, questions will not develop until the core samples have been taken and analysis begun. This is in line with true exploration and encourages students to think creatively.
Step 2: Sediment cores are taken in the field after the sampling locations have been carefully picked following group discussions in the class (fig 2). Students learn how to use GPS units and how to take sediment cores.
Fig. 2: 6 cm diameter gouge auger sediment core from the Blind Oso, Corpus Christi, TX. (Photo courtesy of Mark Besonen, TAMUCC)
Step 3: Introduction to the fundamentals of sediment core analysis. Students learn how to open cores, create a photographic record, and document a basic description of the cores followed by smear slide descriptions and a grain-size analysis. During this phase of the project it is important for students to learn time-management skills, record data, and how to work neatly, paying attention to details.
Step 4: Students work on their individual contributions (e.g. micro-organism study)
Step 5: Writing component of the project. Students learn how to summarize their findings, including suitable ways in which to present data (graphs, tables etc.). First introduction to writing a scientific abstract, a bibliography etc., all critical skills needed for upper level geology courses.
Step 6: Presentation of the data. Students will present their work to the class either in form of Power Point presentations or posters. This can vary from semester to semester. Either way, the presentations can be set up as a mock conference. Students will learn how to comply with rules and guidelines such as time limits for presentations, formatting guidelines for posters etc.
Teaching Notes and Tips
References and Resources
Core Understanding – Core description and Lithostratigraphy
How to prepare smear slides for sediment analysis
Regional Reading Material/ Resources Oso Bay