InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Critical Zone Science > Module 2: Methods in CZ Science
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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The materials are free and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Module 2: Methods in CZ Science

This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

  • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
  • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
  • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
  • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
  • review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.


This page first made public: May 15, 2017

Susan Gill (Stroud Water Research Center) and Ashlee Dere (University of Nebraska - Omaha)

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.

Jump down to: Strengths of the Module | Module Goals | Assessment | Module Outline

Strengths of the Module

This module is an introduction to methods that will be used in the remainder of the course. Critical Zone science is the study of Earth's surface, where all humans live. The methods introduced here provide a base for investigations of the natural environment as well as human-induced changes to the environment such as perturbations to the hydrologic cycle, carbon and nutrient cycles and soil degradation. The unit will also provide a basis to investigate the environment from an interdisciplinary perspective. Specifically, this module will:
  • 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.

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Module Goals

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.
Learning Objectives
  • 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.
  • Unit 2.1: Provides skills on how to conduct library research on critical-zone topics.
  • Unit 2.2: Introduces critical zone specific methods used to investigate Earth's Critical Zone.

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.
  • Unit 2.1: Provides an opportunity for students to identify a Critical Zone topic to investigate.
  • Unit 2.2: Provides practice on manipulating data to explore Critical Zone topics.

Objective 2) Use and interpret multiple lines of data to explain Critical Zone processes.
  • Unit 2.1: Allows students to review literature and interpret data sets in order to draw conclusions.
  • Unit 2.2: Introduces students to Critical Zone specific methods that can provide multiple lines of information that address Critical Zone processes.

Objective 3) Evaluate how the structure of the Critical Zone influences Critical Zone processes/services.
  • Unit 2.1: Provides students with an exposure to scientific literature that discusses the multiplicity of processes and services acting on the Critical Zone.
  • Unit 2.2: Provides students with experience in techniques used by Critical Zone scientists as they seek to investigate Earth's Critical Zone.

Objective 4) Analyze how water, carbon, nutrients, and energy flow through the Critical Zone and drive Critical Zone processes.
  • Unit 2.1: Provides students an opportunity to investigate the interdisciplinary complexity of Earth's Critical Zone through an examination of existing scientific literature.
  • Unit 2.2: Provides students with an understanding of the interlocking methods used by scientists as they investigate how water, carbon, nutrients, and energy flow affect and are affected by Earth's Critical Zone.

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Assessments

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.

Module Outline

  • 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.

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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »