Virtual Marine Sediment Core Collection

Caroline Robinson, Geology Department, James Madison University; John Firth, Curator, Integrated Ocean Discovery Program, Gulf Coast Repository, Texas A&M University; and Kristen St. John, Geology Department, James Madison University

This activity is part of the GEODE Project

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A primary objective of marine science classes is to learn the location and formation of ocean sediment types. Nearly 50 years of scientific ocean drilling has produced a tremendous scientific collection of cores from the global ocean floor. In addition, there are large online databases and related publications that have a wealth of associated information to supplement physical cores. Here we created a virtual marine core collection that provides exemplars of the primary ocean sediment lithologies, along with links to expedition reports and datasets, and tips for making requests for real core samples to use in education.

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Intended for use in undergraduate Oceanography, Marine Geology, Paleoceanography, and Sedimentology courses.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Some familiarity with Google Earth.

How the activity is situated in the course

When teaching about ocean sediments


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Learn the location and formation of ocean sediment types using exemplar cases.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Geospatial reasoning; connection of geologic setting and depositional processes.

Other skills goals for this activity

Using Google Earth

Description and Teaching Materials

This Google Earth Virtual Marine Sediment Core Collection shows core locations and how their location influenced their sediment type. Each exemplar core has a information on the sediment type, with links to images, core descriptions, maps, geologic interpretations, and other data. The virtual core collection provides comprehensive, efficient access to information condensed down to essentials for learning. An interactive animation shows core photos emerging from the ocean floor, illustrating where the sediment cores originate. This is an educational resource for those wanting interactive teaching options for basic Earth and ocean science. It can be used alone or with another Google Earth resources on marine sediments: a virtual map of >2500 marine sites showing the distribution of primary seafloor sediment types (

Download the Virtual_Core_Collection_06-08-19.kmz (KMZ File 3.7MB Jul17 19)

Teaching Notes and Tips

While this virtual core collection makes learning about ocean sediment more accessible, educators can also request real ocean sediment samples for use in teaching. This is done using the same system that scientists use to request research samples: Click on the green Sample and Data Request button. This will take you to a new link where you can set up an account and submit your request. Requests can be made for samples (e.g, 10 to 20 cc) that represent each of the primary sediment types in the ocean from these (or similar) cores. In addition representative smear slides (i.e., like thin sections but of unconsolidated sediment instead of rock) can be requested.For tips on making sample requests for education purposes contact Kristen St. John ( See also:

References and Acknowledgements: Data used in this exercise comes from the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP,, the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). The IODP Google Earth Bore Hole Map was used as a starting point for data access, and a model for organizing access to scientific reports and data. The resource was modeled after a new virtual marine sediment map of the ocean floor that was developed as part of the GEODE project. Information on core sites and lithologies were derived from the scientific reports associated with each research expedition. A cross section generator program was adapted to use to elevate photos of cores rising up from the seafloor. Development of this exercise was supported by the NSF-funded GEODE project.