Laura Guertin

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Earth Science
Penn State Brandywine

Laura Guertin is an associate professor of Earth science at Penn State Brandywine. For more information, visit Laura Guertin's faculty web page from Penn State Brandywine.

Materials Contributed through SERC-hosted Projects

Activities (43)

Connecting Cross-Sectional Data from the Red Sea to Plate Tectonics part of MARGINS Data in the Classroom:MARGINS Mini-Lessons
Before completing this assignment, students should have been introduced to the types of plate boundaries and volcanic activity at plate boundaries. The assignment has students examine three cross-sectional profiles from a northern, central, and southern location of the Red Sea. Students answer a series of questions reading data from the profiles, then examine images and volcanic data in Google Earth to determine the type of plate boundary located in the Red Sea and to make predictions of tectonic activity in the future.

Reducing Volcanic Hazards to People and Property - An Assignment with Electronic Peer Review part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Peer Review:Examples
Through an electronic peer review assignment, students write a general summary of major hazards to humans in the vicinity of volcanoes. Then, students are provided a list of volcanoes and must choose one to determine what actions they would take to minimize the risks to a population.

Viewpoint on Causes of Global Warming - An Assignment Using Anonymous Electronic Peer Review With a Dropbox part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Peer Review:Examples
Studies exist that suggest human activities are not causing warming of the Earth. This electronic peer review assignment gives students the opportunity to write about their viewpoint on this highly-debated issue while providing anonymous commentary to a peer's report.

GEOLogic: Volcanologists part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
GEOLogic questions are puzzles that were developed to support students understanding of geoscience concepts while challenging them to develop better logic and problem solving skills. In this example, students are asked to resolve how many days each of 5 volcanologists spent at a volcano and what day they started for the volcano. There is also a second part where students are asked to do some additional research about volcanoes on the web.

Human Impacts on Sharks: Developing an Essay Through Peer-Review on a Discussion Board part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Peer Review:Examples
Through computer technology, students develop a paper topic (in this case, the human impacts on sharks) that is peer reviewed by additional students answering guided questions. The original student must respond to the comments by the fellow classmates. All of the communication is conducted through an electronic discussion board.


JiTT - Dam Removal - A Good Idea or Not? part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What are some of the biological effects of dam removal (good and bad)? 2) What are some of the more pressing/compelling reasons to remove a dam? Explain. 3) The Stanley and Doyle (2003) article states that, "dam removal cannot be avoided." Hypothetically, let's say you are placed on a committee to oversee the removal of the Aswan High Dam, since Doyle et al. (2003) states that, "the functional lifespan of most dams is approximately 60-120 years." What scientific studies would you conduct before/during/after dam removal? Why?

JiTT - Geologic Dating part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) How are zircons formed? 2) Which of the following statements describes relative geologic dating? a) the Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex went extinct at the same time b) dinosaurs came later than horseshoe crabs c) the southern Atlantic Ocean began forming 20 million years after Pangaea split apart d) the oldest piece of Atlantic Ocean crust is ~135 million years old, while the oldest piece of Pacific Ocean crust is ~165 million years old e) orangutans separated from the hominid lineage 14 million years ago 3) Which of the following statements describes absolute geologic dating? a) the Triceratops evolved after the Stegosaurus b) the dinosaurs died out 60 million years before humans split from chimps c) gorillas evolved before chimps d) the northern Atlantic Ocean formed before the southern Atlantic Ocean e) the Ice Ages ended 10,000 years ago, before the Cambrian Explosion ~545 million years ago 4) Why are zircons the most reliable timepiece we have for looking at Earth's early history?

JiTT - Ethics of Fossil Collecting part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What do you think it means for a fossil resource to be "abused"? 2) What's the issue with fossil hunting on federal land (such as National Parks)? Explain what your interpretation of the conflict is. 3) Do you think commercial dealers and scientists can work together? How? Is this a good idea?

Using Field Observations and Field Experiences to Teach GeoscienceAn Illustrated Community Discussion part of Cutting Edge:Geoscience in the Field:Field Experiences:Posters

Examining Short-Term Tree Growth and Environmental Variables near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania part of Cutting Edge:Undergraduate Research:2014 Workshop:Activities
The Smithsonian Institution's Global Tree Banding Project is a citizen science program that contributes to research about tree biomass by tracking how trees respond to climate. Students around the globe are monitoring the rate at which their local trees grow and learn how that rate corresponds to Smithsonian research as well as comparing the work to other students worldwide. But at Penn State Brandywine, we are going beyond the requirements of the Smithsonian project. Instead of only taking two measurements in the spring and two measurements in the fall, undergraduate researchers are taking measurements every two weeks. We started taking measurements of ten trees on campus April 3, 2012, and we will continue until each and every tree outgrows its tree band. As a result, we have a rich database that not only contributes to scientific research but can serve as a foundation for student inquiry-based projects. The data is available for download in Google Spreadsheets for students to examine changes in tree diameter within one or between growing seasons, supplemented with temperature and precipitation data.

Exploration to Mars... or Not? An Exercise with Split-Screen Electronic Peer Review part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Peer Review:Examples
Split-screen technology is utilized for an electronic peer review assignment that has students justify whether humans should continue their investigations of the Red Planet or not.

JiTT - Marine Archaeology and Technology part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) How has technology helped marine archaeological investigations? How has it hurt? 2) What are some of the "costs" involved with using technology for marine archaeology? Are the "costs" worth it? 3) Tell me about Bob Ballard's 1999 Ashkelon expedition. What did they find, and how? Is there any significance to this marine archaeological site? Explain.

Quicksand Questions: Short In-class Activity part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Interactive Lectures:Examples
Students are prompted with questions during a lecture on quicksand. Student answers can be collected with classroom response systems. The responses (both individual and the class as a whole) are recorded on the instructor's computer. Alternatively, students can be asked to respond using a think-pair-share activity. In either case, an instructor can review the answers with the class and immediately address any points of misunderstanding or content areas that need clarification.

GEOLogic: Lagerstatten and Unique Fossils part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
GEOLogic questions are puzzles that were developed to support students understanding of geoscience concepts while challenging them to develop better logic and problem solving skills. In this example, students are asked to match up several unique fossils with the sites and locations where they were found, as well as their geologic age.

GEOLogic: Museums and their Dinosaur Displays part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
GEOLogic questions are puzzles that were developed to support students understanding of geoscience concepts while challenging them to develop better logic and problem solving skills. In this example, students are asked to match up five top Museums with 2 fossils that they have on display based on clues presented from various points of view.

GEO-Logic: How Much of the State is Wet part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
GEOLogic questions are puzzles that were developed to support students understanding of geoscience concepts while challenging them to develop better logic and problem solving skills. In this example, students are asked to match up students with their home state, and their states with the area and percentage of area of surface water that they contain, as well as where each of the states rank nationally in terms of water area. Students are given clues from various perspectives to help them deduce the answers to the problem.

GEO-Logic: Continental Drift and Plate Tectonics part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
GEOLogic questions are puzzles that were developed to support students understanding of geoscience concepts while challenging them to develop better logic and problem solving skills. In this example, students are asked to match up lecturers with what day and time they teach, and how many students they have based on clues given from several different perspectives. In the second part of the activity, students are asked to learn more about the historic figures mentioned in the activity by doing reading and web research.

GEO-Logic: How Well Do You Know Your National Parks and Memorials part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
GEOLogic questions are puzzles that were developed to support students understanding of geoscience concepts while challenging them to develop better logic and problem solving skills. In this example, students are asked to associate historical figures with a particular National Park or Memorial (and its size) as well as the number of points they scored in a fictitious game show, based on clues about the situation given from various perspectives.

GEOLogic: The Three Stooges and Their Pet Dinosaurs part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
GEOLogic questions are puzzles that were developed to support students understanding of geoscience concepts while challenging them to develop better logic and problem solving skills. In this example, students are asked to match up each of the Stooges with their favorite group and species of dinosaur based on clues given from different perspectives.

GEOLogic: The Big Five Mass Extinctions part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
GEOLogic questions are puzzles that were developed to support students understanding of geoscience concepts while challenging them to develop better logic and problem solving skills. In this example, students are asked to match up the five largest mass extinction events with their relative dates, approximate duration, and severity (percentage of species that became extinct) based on clues given from various perspectives.

GEOLogic: State Fossils part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
GEOLogic questions are puzzles that were developed to support students understanding of geoscience concepts while challenging them to develop better logic and problem solving skills. In this example, students are asked to identify states with their state fossil and the year in which it was declared, based on clues given from various points of view.

GEOLogic: Terrestrial and Jovian Planets part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
GEOLogic questions are puzzles that were developed to support students understanding of geoscience concepts while challenging them to develop better logic and problem solving skills. In this two-part example, students are given clues about properties about the terrestrial and Jovian planets respectively and asked to match up the planet with the correct equatorial radius, mean orbital velocity, and period of rotation. There are also some overarching questions dealing with both groups of planets.

GEOLogic: Dinosaur Trackways part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
GEOLogic questions are puzzles that were developed to support students understanding of geoscience concepts while challenging them to develop better logic and problem solving skills. In this example, students must associate different dinosaur trackways with their locations and the rock formations containing the trackways based on clues given from various points of view.

GEO-Logic: Stream Discharge Rates - Rappahannock River Station part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
GEOLogic questions are puzzles that were developed to support students understanding of geoscience concepts while challenging them to develop better logic and problem solving skills. In this example, students are asked to convert measurements in cubic feet per hour (cfh) to cubic feet per second (cfs) and then match up the names of the researchers measuring the flows at the river station with the correct flow rate and the year in which it was taken. There is also a second part in which students must graph the different flow rates with time and then answer questions by interpreting the information in the graph.

Student Peer Review Through A Discussion Board to Develop an Invasive Species Paper part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Peer Review:Examples
Through computer technology, students develop a paper topic (in this case, invasive species) with the assistance of additional students answering guided questions. The original student must respond to the comments by the fellow classmates. All of the communication is conducted through an electronic discussion board.

JiTT - Life on the Moon and Mars part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) Based on "Microbial Colony in US..." article, what are Archaea? 2) From the same article, which of the following is NOT evidence to support life on Mars? a) Mars' subsurface groundwater system b) ice caps at Mars' polar regions c) microbes live deep in the Earth d) historical volcanic activity e) methanogens can exist with only hydrogen and carbon dioxide 3) Based on "Moon Seen as Haven..." which of the following is NOT evidence to support protolife on the Moon? a) the Moon has a volcano-tectonic origin b) permanently shadowed areas of the Moon c) bursts of gases from the Moon, such as carbon and hydrogen d) lunar ice have been found to contain bacteria e) volcanic basins in the Galapagos 4) From the "Moon Seen as Haven..." article, how would you respond to Jack Green's statement that "the possibility of protolife in shadowed areas on the moon justifies additional exploration"? 5) After reading both articles... SO WHAT if we find life on the Moon and Mars? What's the big deal? What will that mean to scientists and society if we find life currently alive on both the Moon and Mars?

JiTT - Water Issues and the Aswan High Dam part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What are some of the GOOD changes for the environment and positive impacts on the local people from construction of the Aswan High Dam? 2) What are some of the BAD changes for the environment and negative impacts on the local people from construction of the Aswan High Dam? 3) There were many "costs" involved with constructing this dam. Identify some of these costs. Have the short-term and long-term impacts of the dam construction been worth it? Explain.

JiTT - The Future of Global Climate part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) According to NASA, why is Earth's climate warming? 2) Is the Geritol solution the solution to global warming? Explain what the "Geritol solution" is, and then state your opinion as to why you think we should pursue this, or why it is a bad idea. 3) Is the Earth really warming? Who should be believe? What should we do?

JiTT - La Brea Tar Pits part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What is "tar" and how does it form? 2) List the animals that have been uncovered in the tar pits that you didn't know were native to North America. Why do you think these animals are now extinct? 3) What else are scientists looking at besides the bones in the tar pits? Why?

JiTT - Neanderthals and Modern Humans part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What are Neanderthals? How do they differ from modern humans? 2) Discuss some of the new ideas as to why early human ancestors dispersed from Africa. 3) What are DNA studies telling us about human migrations and populations?

JiTT - The Big 5 Extinctions and Then Some part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What are the three leading ideas for the cause of the Permian mass extinction? What is the evidence for and against each? 2) Why are tropical forest species going extinct the quickest? 3) What are the differences between deterministic and stochastic models for population growth?

JiTT - Life in the Sahara Desert part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What the Sahara always a desert? How do we know? (*NOTE: for this question, I want you to focus on the physical environment) 2) What modern-day animals can be found in the desert? How do they survive? 3) Why have humans - past and present - gone into the Sahara Desert?

JiTT - When "Modern" Human Behavior Appeared in Early Hominids part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What is this controversy in regards to the emergence of "modern" human behavior? In your opinion, what do you think "modern" human behavior means? 2) How do beads symbolize modern human behavior and modern thought? 3) In the "African bone tools..." article, there is the following paragraph: "What has been suggested up until now... is that modern human behavior was a very late occurrence... that though people were anatomically modern in Africa from about 150,000 to 100,000 years ago, they remained behaviorally non-modern until about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, when they suddenly changed and then moved into Europe and elsewhere." Does it make sense to you that people from ~150,000 years ago would have remained in a period of "stasis" and would not have evolved or changed for almost 100,000 years? I want you to think about what causes organisms to undergo change, think of processes occurring in the modern-day environment as well, and apply some of your thinking to this answer.

JiTT - Exploring Geoarchaeology part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) How is climate connected to geoarchaeology? Explain. 2) List as many "tools" you can think of that would be useful to a geoarchaeologist and describe why it would be of use. 3) Is geoarchaeological research needed? Based on what you've read, explain your thoughts and opinions. How can this work help us (or does it)?

JiTT - Groundwater and Archaeology part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What is causing the groundwater to rise to the foundations of Egypt's archaeological structures? What damage is the groundwater doing? 2) Describe at least two different solutions that have been proposed to combat the problem of the rising water table damaging the monuments. Which do you think is the better one, and why? 3) In your opinion... do we even need to save these monuments? Why? I mean, what are they really worth - are they worth anything?

JiTT - The Future of Africa's Health with Technology part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What are the benefits and opportunities handheld technology can offer the health sector in Africa? Answer the question from the viewpoint of a health care provider and a patient. Does anyone else benefit? Explain. 2) What are the challenges to using handheld technology in the health sector in Africa? Answer the question from the viewpoint of a health care provider and a patient. Are any other people challenged by the implementation/use of this technology? Explain. 3) From what you've read and your own opinion, do you think this will work (handheld technology in Africa's health sector)? Is this something that should be continued to be explored? Can you think of any other pieces of technology that could help Africa's health sector? Explain.

JiTT - Darwin Garden part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) Why does biodiversity in an ecosystem "matter"? 2) Describe Darwin's garden experiment and the significance of it. 3) So Darwin figured out the connection between biodiversity and ecosystem health - back in the 1800's. But scientists have only been studying the connection between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning for approximately 10 years. Why do you think Darwin's experiment was "forgotten" all these years? Why do you think it took this long for modern-day scientists to make the same connection Darwin did years and years before?

JiTT - Cambrian Explosion part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) How do scientists come up with the number 2 billion years ago for the first branch of life? Explain the dating technique and information that is used. 2) Describe the evidence AGAINST the Cambrian Explosion. What are the assumptions that go along with this? 3) Based on the readings/lectures/and your own "gut instincts," what do you believe was the trigger "responsible for a huge expansion in size, complexity and body architecture of animals and all of the major animal phyla in existence today"?

JiTT - The Legs of Snakes and Whales part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What are the adaptations needed to move from water to land (whether it be an arthropod or a "pioneering amphibian")? 2) Could snakes be linked to marine lizards? What your view and interpretations of the evidence? 3) Let's say I told you that I thought marine mammals evolved independently of land mammals (meaning, both originated on their own in separate environments with no linkages). What evidence would you use to argue that my viewpoint is incorrect (.... or is it really that crazy of an idea)?

JiTT - Threats to Biodiversity part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) How is climate change a threat to biodiversity? 2) What are the impacts of pesticides on animals (including insects) and humans? 3) Can human population growth really impact biodiversity? Explain your viewpoint.

JiTT - Should Elephants be in Zoos? part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What are some of the health problems elephants in captivity face? 2) Pickrell (2002) states that, "apart from their drawing power as major wildlife attractions, zoo elephants are important for conservation, research, and public education." Can this still be accomplished with the London Zoo and Detroit Zoo having removed their elephants from the "zoo" and placed them in sanctuary? Do you think placing the elephants in new surroundings like a wild animal park will be any different for the animal? Will it hurt or help conservation, research, and public education? Explain. 3) Do elephants belong in zoos or wild animal kingdoms? Do we have any business trying to breed elephants to being with? Tell me what you think and why.

JiTT - Are Primates Worth Saving? part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What are some of the reasons extinction rates are so high for modern primates? 2) Why are some primates worth more dead than alive? Is there a way we as a society can change this? Explain your thoughts. 3) If the habitat is going to disappear anyway, should we bother with the time/effort/$$$ to save these primates? Why/why not? What might the loss be in the "bigger picture"?

Using Data to Teach Earth ProcessesAn Illustrated Community Discussion at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America part of Cutting Edge:Data, Simulations and Models:Workshop 03:Activities
The activity begins in the classroom with students graphing and interpreting apparent volcanic solar transmission values collected at Mauna Loa Observatory, HI. Students finish the exercise outside the classroom by investigating the dates of significant decreases in solar transmission and matching those dates to volcanic eruptions.

Teaching Method Modules (2)

Just in Time Teaching (JiTT) part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching
Original module developed by by Laura Guertin, Carol Ormand, Gregor Novak, and Andy Gavrin. Revised and enhanced by Scott Simkins with assistance from Gregor Novak, Marcelo Clerici-Arias, and Rae Jean Goodman. ...

Peer Review part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Peer Review
Created by Laura Guertin, Pennsylvania State University Brandywine "For generations, the academic community has relied on peer review as a way of enhancing the knowledge base and encouraging serious ...


Events and Communities

The Role of Two-Year Colleges in Geoscience Education Workshop 2010: PI

Bringing MARGINS Science to the Classroom

Course Design '02 Participants

Data, Simulations, and Models Workshop 2002 Participants

Geophotography 2013

2014 Teaching with Video Virtual Workshop Participants

Applying Geodesy Data Webinar - Jan. 31, 2014

Cutting Edge 2014 Undergrad Research