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Teaching geologic time and rates of landscape evolution with dice
Kate Ruhl, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Landscape evolution provides a convenient framework for understanding geologic time and rates because students can observe how processes like erosion and deposition shape their surroundings. In this example, students build 3-D sandbox models based on topographic maps and design and stage a "virtual adventure race." Sandbox landscapes are used to illustrate erosional processes,while local examples are used to discuss landscapes as transient or steady over different time- and length scales. Dice experiments illustrate radioactive decay and the shape of the age equation curve, and 14C dating, geochronology and thermochronology are introduced as "stopwatches" that start when a plant dies, a crystal forms, or a rock nears the surface and cools to a certain temperature. The sandbox model and thermochronometer "stopwatches" are combined to measure erosion rates and rates of landscape change. Ultimately, model rates (cm/hour) calculated from stopwatch times on the order of seconds can be related to geologic rates (km/My) calculated from real million-year-old samples.

Investigative Case - Living in an Alkaline Environment
Developed by Monica Bruckner, Montana State University, based on the Living in an Alkaline Environment Activity by Sarah Bordenstein, Marine Biological Laboratory.
Living in an Alkaline Environment is a three-part interactive activity that explores the ecology and diversity of life in alkaline environments.


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