Marble Bar, Australia

Wendy Taylor, Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus
Author Profile
Initial Publication Date: July 21, 2020


The Marble Bar Chert of Western Australia, is one of the earliest sedimentary deposits on Earth. The Marble Bar Chert, along with the presence of pillow basalts, could be an important part of Earth's early oxygen story. Explore one of the oldest geologic time periods of Earth's history.

This is a self-guided virtual field trip.

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This activity is designed for use in freshman introductory geoscience and life science courses (intro to physical geology, historical geology, astrobiology), but can also be used in a wide array of formal and informal educational settings. It is a self-guided virtual field trip (VFT) with free exploration that gives the instructor maximum flexibility to customize the learning outcomes.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should be able to make field observations and be familiar with geologic time scale, igneous and sedimentary rocks, relative age dating, basic chemical elements (oxygen, hydrogen, iron).

How the activity is situated in the course

This is designed to be a stand-alone activity to be used after students have some basic knowledge of the geologic time scale, igneous and sedimentary rocks, relative age dating, basic chemical elements (oxygen, hydrogen, iron).

Activity Length

This virtual field trip contains a guided adaptive learning lab. Exploration of the virtual field site and completion of the lab (with associated videos, images and interactive gigapixel images) is estimated to take about 1 hour.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

In this self-guided VFT, students explore field sites in Western Australia to look for some of the earliest evidence preserved on Earth that microbes were photosynthesizing and producing oxygen around 3.5 billion years ago. The free exploration of the VFT gives teachers the opportunity to design and customize activity goals to fit their curricula.

Suggested outcomes could include:
Learning outcome #1: Identify features in the sedimentary rocks that indicate sediments were deposited in a deep ocean basin
Learning outcome #2: Explain how the dramatic color banding of these sedimentary rocks was formed and what it tells us about geologic processes that took place
Learning outcome #3: Recall how some features in tilted rocks can be used to determine the original orientation of the rocks
Learning outcome #4: Describe why some rocks are red and what this means about the Earth's early atmosphere

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Learners interpret evidence in the rocks of Marble Bar that indicates early microbes in the oceans may have been producing oxygen that was reacting with sediments to give them a red color.

Other skills goals for this activity

Making observations, identify patterns, providing evidence to support reasoning.

Description and Teaching Materials

This activity is accessible at through the Center for Education Through eXploration ( at Arizona State University. They build adaptive digital learning experiences for K-12 education that engage learners in virtual environments and bring Earth and space science to life.

Technology Needs

Real-time Internet access is required to view this VFT. We recommend the use of the browsers Google Chrome or Firefox for the best results. It is not optimized for viewing on mobile devices.


There are no embedded assessments associated with this self-guided VFT and it is up to the teacher to design an assessment tool to meet whatever learning outcomes they specify. Students can be asked to answer an essay question explaining some aspect of the VFT experience.

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