Teaching Activities Using the Neotoma Database


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Module 1: An Ecology/Climate Scenario
Russell Graham, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
In this module, participants read a short scenario and answer a series of questions to emulate the scientific process of making observations and hypotheses. Entitled "Gotta find a better place to fish...", the scenario details observations of biological, environmental, and ecological changes to a mountain stream over time. Participants answer questions that ask them to hypothesize why some of these changes might be occurring and how they are related. Part of the Neotoma Education Modules for Biotic Response to Climate Change.

Module 2: Ecology and Paleoecology Principles
Russell Graham, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
In this two part activity, students are introduced to the principals of ecology and paleoecology and compare modern ecological relationships with prehistoric ones. In part one, students read about ecological principles such as ecological niches and competitive exclusion, and how these principles can be applied to modern and past organisms. Students answer a series of questions that ask them to apply their knowledge of ecological principles. In the second part, students are introduced to non-analogue biotas and complete a set of exercises using the Neotoma Explorer. Part of the Neotoma Education Modules for Biotic Response to Climate Change.

Module 3: Understanding Climate Patterns in North America
Russell Graham, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
Understanding the broad patterns of global climate helps in understanding more specific North American climate patterns. Understanding these climate patterns is necessary to understand the modern and past distributions of plants and animals in North America. In this activity, students are introduced to concepts of weather and climate (particularly North American temperature and precipitation patterns). Students complete a series of exercises where they analyze temperature and precipitation maps as well as historical data to learn about geographic and temporal changes in weather and climate. Part of the Neotoma Education Modules for Biotic Response to Climate Change.

Module 4: Global Records of Climate Change - The Deep Sea and Ice Cores
Russell Graham, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
In this module, students explore and analyze records of past climate. In the first part of the module, students are given background information about long-term records of Earth's climate: deep sea sediment cores and ice cores. Students are also introduced to Oxygen isotopes and how they are used as records of past climate. Students complete a set of exercises that assess their understanding of the material and ask them to analyze data about the Laurentide Ice Sheet using the Neotoma Explorer. In the second part of the module, students examine Antarctic ice core data and apply their knowledge from the beginning of the module. Part of the Neotoma Education Modules for Biotic Response to Climate Change.

Module 5: Some Modern Biotic Responses to Climate Change
Russell Graham, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
In this module, students explore biotic responses to changing climate. The module steps through different styles of response (i.e. stasis, adaptation, extinction) and provides examples of each from modern biota. Students are given a set of exercises where they create a hypothesis for future mammal distribution changes. Part of the Neotoma Education Modules for Biotic Response to Climate Change.

Module 6: Modern (Living) Animals – What Do the Habitat Preferences and Geographic Distribution of Modern Animals Tell Us about Why Animals Live Where They Do?
James S. Oliver III and Russell W. Graham, The Pennsylvania State University
Paleoecologists reconstruct past climates and ecosystems by comparing the habits and habitats preferred by living animals or ones closely related to those found as fossils. In this module, students take the first step in this process by examining modern species distributions to make observations about species habitat preferences. Given a list of species, students use the Neotoma Explorer to obtain species distribution maps and compare them to temperature and precipitation maps. A series of questions guide them through their comparison and analysis of the maps. Part of the Neotoma Education Modules for Biotic Response to Climate Change.

Module 7: Mammal Responses to Climate Change in the Past and the Future with Neotoma Explorer
Russell Graham, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
Animal distributions are frequently controlled by climate extremes, especially seasonal ones. Therefore, if the climate changes from cold to warm (or vice versa) then using modern mammal distributions and modern climate conditions it is possible to make predictions about how the mammal will respond to the climate change -- whether it is past or future. In this module students use the Neotoma Paleoecological Database to test predictions, or establish hypotheses, about how certain species of mammals have responded to climate change in the past and how they might do so on the future. Part of the Neotoma Education Modules for Biotic Response to Climate Change.

California Climate and Vegetation Change Classroom Task
Katherine Glover, University of Maine
This NGSS-aligned classroom task focuses on California's Mediterranean climate, and shifts in its floral diversity during the Holocene that reflect past climate change. Students first examine modern climate data from four disparate areas in the state and create climatographs. Using the Neotoma Paleoecology Database, students then look at past records in each of these four regions to assess pollen data as a proxy for climate change over time, and completeness of the record. Plant taxa in the fossil record are compared to modern plant tolerances and distribution available at CalFlora, and students then determine which plants are most sensitive to change by region, and preserve well as fossil pollen.

Beetles, Mammals, and Plants: Is Climate Driving Range Shifts Since the Last Glacial Maximum
Christian George, High Point University
In this exercise, students will use the Neotoma database and ArcGIS Online to create a distribution map of modern collection localities of beetle taxa associated with an assemblage of fossil beetles from the Conklin Quarry site in eastern Iowa. a data rich exercise to help students discover how organisms move in response to climate change

Relating Late-Quaternary Plant and Animal Distributions to Past and Future Climate
Samantha Kaplan, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
A guided activity for students to explore the relationship between climate and plant and animal distributions in the past, present, and future. Students use the Neotoma Paleoecology Database, USDA Climate Change Tree Atlas, USGS Atlas of Relations Between Climatic Parameters and Distributions of Important Trees and Shrubs in North America (Professional Paper 1650 A/B), and climate model output.

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