Introductory Courses > Activities > Paleotempestology Lab

Paleotempestology Lab

Kira Lawrence
Lafayette College

This activity has been selected for inclusion in the CLEAN collection.

This activity has been extensively reviewed for inclusion in the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network's collection of educational resources. For information the process and the collection, see

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

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

This page first made public: May 21, 2008


Paleotempestology Lab: this lab activity is designed to help students gain experience in relative and absolute dating techniques as well as a sense of how scientific investigations proceed.

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This lab activity is designed for an introductory geology course primarily for non-majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students will need to have attended lectures that explain the concepts of relative versus absolute dating and have some sense of the sea level rise associated with the transition from the last glacial maximum to the Holocene.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is a stand-alone lab activity which can be completed in a 3 hour lab period.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

After completing this lab student will gain hands-on experience with the concepts of stratigraphy and relative versus absolute dating.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

By completing this activity students will gain experience in the process of scientific inquiry, formulating and testing hypotheses, and interpreting scientific data.

Other skills goals for this activity

During this activity students will have the opportunity to experience what scientific collaboration is like, the challenges of building a consensus and the limitations of a scientific budget.

Description of the activity/assignment

This introductory lab introduces students to stratigraphic correlation and the dating of geologic materials. Students analyze sediment cores derived from coastal marshes that preserve a record of past hurricane activity. The task is for students to assess the past frequency and intensity of hurricane activity in the region from which the cores were derived. In teams, students log the sedimentological variations in the cores. Then each individual student builds stratigraphic columns for each core. Based on their stratigraphic columns, students try to preliminarily correlate hurricane events between the cores. In small teams, they then collectively decide to "purchase" absolute dates using a fixed budget to test their preliminary correlations and arrive at an overall interpretation of the hurricane activity in the region.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students must submit their stratigraphic columns as well as answer questions that test their conceptual understanding of the activity.

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