Lab Overviews

1. Living in a Carbon World
In Part A of this lab, you will trace the pathway of carbon moving from the atmosphere into trees where carbon can be stored for hundreds to thousands of years. In Part B, you will go outdoors and measure the amount of carbon in a local tree. In Part C, you will use molecular model kits and Jmol images to explore how carbon compounds are built and how they are transformed into new carbon compounds as they move through the carbon cycle. In Part D, you will learn about combustion, a carbon cycle process that burns fossil fuels. You will analyze graphs and videos to determine if the human activity of burning fossil fuels is changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere.

2. Carbon on the Move!
In Part A of this lab, you will explore the role of food webs in a subset of the natural carbon cycle by taking on the role of a carbon atom moving through the reservoirs of a forest carbon cycle. You will learn that photosynthesis, respiration, and decomposition are key processes that move carbon from one forest reservoir to another. In Part B, you use an interactive to explore how carbon moves throughout the global carbon cycle. In Part C, you will apply system-thinking strategies to learn about the interconnectedness of the Earth system, feedback loops, and how changes in one part of the carbon cycle can lead to other changes in the carbon cycle system.

3. Carbon in the Atmosphere
In Part A of this lab, you will use animations, charts and short videos to learn the basics of greenhouse chemistry, including what carbon compounds exist in the atmosphere and their relationship to the greenhouse effect. In Part B, you will compare historical ice core carbon dioxide and temperature data to establish the relationship between global temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. In Part C, you will analyze current current carbon dioxide data, including the iconic Keeling Curve atmospheric carbon dioxide measurements taken at Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

4. Deforestation and the Carbon Cycle
In Part A of this lab, you will learn about the impact of deforestation on the carbon cycle and will investigate a mini-case study on "slash and burn" farming in Central America In Part B, you will use the Global Forest Watch mapping tool to conduct your own research on changes in forest cover.

5. Soil and the Carbon Cycle
In Part A of this lab, you will explore the relationship between soil and the carbon cycle by focusing on soil carbon storage and the role of microbes in decomposition and soil respiration. Then, you will design and carry out an experiment to determine how temperature affects the rate of soil respiration. Finally, you will investigate what ranchers are doing to create carbon-rich healthy soil, a process that has the potential to mitigate climate change. In Part B, you will learn about soil respiration dynamics in permafrost, a frozen soil with the potential to further unbalance the carbon cycle if it thaws.

6. Oceans and the Carbon Cycle
In Part A of this lab, you will use interactives and videos to learn about the oceans' carbon cycle with a focus on the oceanic biological pump's role in moving carbon down to the deep ocean. In Part B, you will investigate the role of phytoplankton in moving carbon into the ocean and how nitrogen availability and other environmental variables can limit that movement.

7. Ocean Acidification
In Part A of this lab, you will explore what changes are resulting from the increasing amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolving and accumulating in the world's oceans. You will the investigate the chemistry of ocean pH and its effect on ocean life. In Part B, you will learn how ocean acidification is impacting shell-building organisms such as corals, crabs and coccolithophores. Then, you will use the Virtual Urchin lab, developed by Stanford University, to investigate the effects of a more acidic ocean pH on the ability of sea urchins to form their carbonate internal skeletons.

8. Slowing Down an Amplifying Greenhouse Effect

In Part A of this lab, you will learn about the role that technology can play in reducing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. In Part B, you will take on the role of a journalist, writing a blog on a promising carbon reduction technology for WIRED, a design and technology magazine. In your research, you will evaluate the pros and cons of the technology and present your findings to your class and/or others.