Initial Publication Date: July 18, 2006

Short Demonstrations B


New Approaches to field-based analysis of stratigraphic sections (Paul Myrow, Colorado College)
See a classroom activity on this topic

The ability to interpret processes of deposition and paleoenvironments from outcrop is a fundamental skill and provides the foundation for advanced sedimentological and stratigraphic study. In this session I will describe in detail a project that covers data collection, separate interpretation of depositional processes and paleoenvironments, use of cut slabs and thin sections, and the use of mock expert "consulting" sessions with groups of students.

Core Description, Stratigraphic Correlation, and Mapping: A capstone project for an undergraduate course in Sedimentary Geology (David Matchen, Concord University, West Virginia)
See a classroom activity on this topic

Given a single course in which to teach both stratigraphy and sedimentology many principles of sedimentary geology can be combined to produce a project that tests a students ability to describe rock, construct stratigraphic columns, correlate that data to surrounding core holes, and produce maps and cross sections. Students are provided with a core to describe, core descriptions from the West Virginia Geological Survey, and basemaps. They must determine the number of separate coal beds present in the region and the lateral extent of those coals.

Designing a sedimentary geology course around field-based class projects that yield publishable research (Jim Ebert, SUNY College at Oneonta)
See a classroom activity on this topic : PowerPoint presentation on this topic (PowerPoint 2.5MB Aug12 06)

Field-based research projects can be the heart of a course in sedimentary geology. Course content, organization, readings and laboratory experiences are dictated by the nature of the specific project. Less content may be covered with this approach, but students depth of understanding, sense of accomplishment, and growth in confidence are greatly enhanced. Scientific reasoning skills, which are generally not addressed in the traditional lecture/lab format, increase noticeably. Using this approach, 50% of class projects over 4 years were of sufficient merit to present at regional GSA conferences.


Formation and Preservation of Raindrop Imprints (Carol Mankiewicz, Beloit College)
See a classroom activity on this topic

Interpretation of sedimentary structures is important in deciphering key aspects about paleoenvironments. Many students, however, over-interpret the importance of a single sedimentary structure because they don't appreciate the variables involved in its formation and preservation. I have used an open-ended, small-group project dealing with raindrop imprints to give students a better understanding of variables contributing to formation and preservation of this feature and to sedimentary structures in general. The exercise also provides practice in designing experiments, posing hypotheses, and presenting information orally, graphically, and in writing.

Chemical and Physical Weathering Field and Lab Experiment: Development and Testing of Hypotheses (Lisa Greer, Washington and Lee University)

A discussion of weathering can easily become a laundry list of processes and equations. This session will outline an integrated field and laboratory experiment with a significant writing component that addresses chemical and physical weathering processes via hypothesis development and testing. Students use geologic and topographic maps to create hypotheses concerning the nature (composition, grain size distribution, sorting, shape, etc.) of sediments found at several pre-determined field locations. Students are then responsible for the development and execution of sampling and analysis protocol to test their hypotheses. Results and 'lessons learned' must be presented in a larger context (does this 'fit' with what you learn in your textbook?).

Growing Salt: An Independent Course Research Project Investigating Chemical Sediments (Kathy Benison, Central Michigan University)
See a classroom activity on this topic

In this assignment, students design, implement, and report on their own mini-research project involving the growth of salts. This gives students practical research experience, as well a better understanding of how water chemistry and conditions affect chemical sedimentation and early diagenesis.


Demystifying the Equations of Sedimentary Geology (Larry Lemke, Wayne State University)
See a classroom activity on this topic :PowerPoint presentation on this topic (PowerPoint 892kB Aug12 06)

One of the great challenges in teaching undergraduates is finding ways to get them to apply knowledge or skills learned in one class to problems encountered in subsequent classes. Case in point: the use of algebra, trig, and even rudimentary calculus in geology classes! This session will explore practical ways we can use to build student confidence in their ability to peer into the meaning of the equations they encounter in sedimentary geology. These techniques include: (1) Surgical Strike Reviews—5 to 10-minute review of relevant math principles at the beginning of the appropriate lecture, (2) Unit Analyses—assigning fundamental units of Mass, Length, and Time to test whether an equation has been derived correctly or to explore the meaning of derivative units of measure that may be unfamiliar to students, and (3) Perturbation Interrogation—asking students to identify whether the quantity of interest described by an equation will increase or decrease when individual components of the equation increase or decrease.

Visualizing the Shields Parameter (Tom Hickson, University of St. Thomas)
See a classroom activity on this topic

The Shields parameter is a fundamental dimensionless variable that embodies the complex factors that interact to initiate motion on a sediment bed. Many students have trouble grasping this (and most other) dimensionless numbers, yet they are fundamental to understanding the controls on sediment transport and deposition. In this short session, I will demonstrate the use of a simple spreadsheet that allows students to explore the shields diagram and investigate the controls on sediment transport.

Quantitative Analysis vs. Field Estimations: Helping Student to "Make Calls" and Practice Consistent Reporting Techniques when Solving Geological Problems (Tom Morris, Brigham Young University)
See a classroom activity on this topic

This discussion will focus on a field demonstration wherein students are divided into "teams" and asked to calculate the discharge of an ancient exhumed fluvial channel (Jurassic Morrison Formation). No other instructions are given. In one aspect of the exercise the students are delighted to discover that they are able to make relatively precise quantitative calculations (based on grain size, bedforms, and water depths). However, in another aspect they are challenged with the dilemma of having to make estimations based on very non-quantitative field problems (e.g. channel width). The groups are then asked to report and defend their calculations. The importance of being consistent in choosing variables used to calculate the discharge is discussed (e.g. max., min., etc.). Group dynamics and leadership roles also become obvious during the exercise.