Module 2: Methods in CZ Science
Summary and Overview
This module presents basic scientific methods, such as literature searches and graphing (Unit 2.1) as well as Critical Zone specific methods, such as biogeochemistry, isotope geochemistry, geospatial investigation, and systems modeling (Unit 2.2), that will be used in later modules. The exercises presented in the two units are designed to introduce students to skills that they will build on in this course and in other geosciences courses.
Strengths of the Module
In this Module:
- Illustrate how geosciences related grand challenges are addressed by Critical Zone methods.
- Hone students' data visualization and analysis skills using authentic data.
- Instruct students on how to use biogeochemistry and isotope geochemistry methods to investigate natural and anthropogenic influences on the Critical Zone.
- Familiarize students with geospatial techniques necessary to investigate Earth's Critical Zone.
- Investigate systems modeling as a method to illuminate Critical Zone processes.
- Introduce students to library reference resources and the construction of an annotated bibliography around a self-identified research question related to the interdisciplinary nature of Critical Zone science.
Specific Module Goals
- Introduce students to effective literature review methods and hypothesis development.
- Improve students' capacity to interpret and present data using standard graphical methods.
- Engage students in specific methods to understand the nature of Critical Zone science.
- Students are able to organize data from different data sources effectively, including online data sources.
- Students are able to interpret spatial and temporal trends from data records.
- Students can summarize systems modeling and geoscientific research approaches to design a sampling program.
- Students are able to infer trends from multiple strands of data to answer questions about Critical Zone services.
Linking Unit Content to Overall Course Objectives
Below is a brief outline of examples within each Learning Unit where instructors can find resources that meet the overarching and four primary learning objectives for the whole Critical Zone curriculum.Overarching Learning Objective: Describe and characterize how interaction among the atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and soil (The Critical Zone) support and influence life.
Four primary objectives:
Objective 1) Identify grand challenges that face humanity and societies, ways which humans depend upon and alter the Critical Zone, and the potential role for Critical Zone science to offer solutions for these challenges.
Objective 2) Use and interpret multiple lines of data to explain Critical Zone processes.
Objective 3) Evaluate how the structure of the Critical Zone influences Critical Zone processes/services.
Objective 4) Analyze how water, carbon, nutrients, and energy flow through the Critical Zone and drive Critical Zone processes.
This module uses a variety of assessment approaches:
- Introduce scientific literature and how to conduct a literature search around a specific topic.
- Look at data that has been analyzed and look at effectively plotted data.
- Introduce systems modeling, research approaches, infrastructure and sample design.
- Unit 2.1: Basic Tools and Analysis (Two 75 min class sessions)
- Students will complete an annotated bibliography organized around a research question then, based on the literature search, will refine that research question.
- Students will explore different means of data visualization and analysis to enhance the capacity to interpret different types of data.
- Unit 2.2: Basic Critical Zone Concepts (Two 75 min class sessions, one of which is student presentations)
- Students will be introduced to systems modeling as a means to understand Critical Zone processes.
- Students will be introduced to geospatial techniques to situate sites and data in the Critical Zone.
- Students will explore biogeochemistry and isotope geochemistry techniques that are used in Critical Zone research.