Teach the Earth > Paleontology > Teaching Activities > Eocene Exposure Field Trip

Eocene Exposure Field Trip

Ralph Willoughby
University of South Carolina - Aiken
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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: Jun 4, 2009


This field trip visits an exposure near Aiken, South Carolina in Eocene, unconsolidated, clayey quartz sand with abundant trace fossils Ophiomorpha ichnosp. and Ophiomorpha nodosa. Early in the course, this trip gives students non-intimidating, hands-on, instructive experience with fossil material.

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Paleontology, AGLY 311 at University of South Carolina - Aiken is an elective course for minors in geology, majors in biology, and other interested students.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

This upper-level course has nominal prerequisites of physical and historical geology. Most students have a biology background but lack the prequisites, which are waived for them.

How the activity is situated in the course

Field Trip #1 takes place during the second week of class, or very early in the semester. The trip is a stand-alone exercise.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

See that the traces occur in three dimensions.
White clay outlines in red clayey sediment extend into the sediment.
Each student will cut (trowel or knife) a trace fossil and follow it into the sediment.
The instructor will discuss these traces as comparable (analogous) to burrows of extant marine animals. We will expand on this point later in class.
Field Trip #1 gets students out of the class and gives hands-on experience with fossil material in situ very early in the course.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Look. See. Compare with a modern analog. Conclude.
Remember this material for later in the course, when we consider trace fossils in greater detail.

Other skills goals for this activity

Each student sketches (OR makes digital photographs) of two or three burrows.
Each student turns in a one-page report with observations and comments.

Description of the activity/assignment

To prepare for this case study, students read "Burrows of Callianassa major Say, geologic indicators of littoral and shallow neritic environments (Robert J. Weimer and John H. Hoyt, 1964, Journal of Paleontology, v. 38, no. 4, pages 761-767, plates 123-124, 2 text-figures). This reference is 45 years old but remains highly relevant. Heavy-duty preparation is not required. The instructor and students will engage in much discussion at the road cuts. The exercise is designed as a demonstration to inspire or elicit enthusiasm.

Determining whether students have met the goals

(1) Attendance and participation are required.
(2) Students submit a one-page report with observations and comments.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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