Open Historical Geology Lab Manual

Share-a-thon Part of Share-a-thon


Amy Weislogel, West Virginia University


I will share copies of the laboratory investigations and solicit input on the learning objectives as the are presented and addressed and potential additions to these learning objectives. I also aim to generate discussion of alternative publishing methods that could allow for collaborative development of the lab manual as an open access resource.


I have generated the first draft of an open access lab manual for Historical Geology that includes 12 "investigations", which are a combination of skills training, guided inquiry and independent research. This lab manual was used in our GEOL 104:Earth Through Time course for the first time in 2021-2022 academic year; this course serves majors and Gen. Ed students in TA-taught lab sections. The manual was developed with support by a small internal grant from WVU Libraries and the Teaching and Learning Commons. Independent review of the lab manual is planned for 2022. Currently, the lab manual is focused on developing literacy and competencies in topics related to inferring geologic history from rocks, evaluating the fossil record for evidence of biological evolution and extinction, and reconstruction past environments and climate conditions from geologic proxies. Most of the lab investigations can be conducted as remote labs, although ideally most would be conducted in a lab setting with rock/fossil samples or in a computer lab or other setting where all students have computer access. This lab manual will have accompanying slides and exams that can be modified by the end user.


The 12 Investigations included are intended for a general education audience in an introductory level course with either some or no geologic background. The contents include:
Investigation 1: Evolution of Earth Materials In The Rock Cycle
Investigation 2: Absolute and Relative Ages of Rocks & Geological Features
Investigation 3: Interpreting environmental change from sedimentary deposits
Investigation 4: Using Sedimentary Rocks to Reconstruct Ancient Landscapes (Paleogeography)
Investigation 5: Phylogenetic Relationships of Life in the Cambrian Explosion 33
Investigation 6: Fossil Record Evidence for Biological Evolution
Investigation 7: Fossil Evidence of Diversification and Extinctions
Investigation 8: Geologic Map Construction & Analysis
Investigation 9: Stratigraphic and Biostratigraphic Correlation
Investigation 10: Geologic Records of Icehouse Paleoclimates
Investigation 11: Climate and Sea Level Change
Investigation 12: Using Past Climate to Predict the Future

Why It Works

My intent is to have this manual published in a format that can be downloaded and edited to tailor it to local geology and specific curriculum goals. The topics are tailored toward inferring the history of the biosphere and climate from geologic data as opposed to gaining expertise in earth material identification and geologic data generation that is the focus of most existing textbook resources. In particular, the lab manual aims to involve data analysis and geochemistry skills as a means to demonstrate digital applications to early career students.