Paleontologists are the geoscientists who discover and study fossil evidence of past life. Sometimes they even find the footprints of dinosaurs that roamed the surface of the Earth long ago. Ever wonder how paleontologists are able to determine, based on fossil evidence, whether a particular dinosaur was walking or running when it left footprints behind? These two activities will help you to learn how these scientists can do that.
Nitrogen is an element that is found both in living things and the nonliving parts of the Earth system. In this classroom activity, students play the role of nitrogen atoms traveling through the nitrogen cycle to gain understanding of the varied pathways through the cycle and how nitrogen is relevant to living things.
How do archaeologists learn about climatic conditions and their effects on people in the past? In 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted so violently that the sound of the eruption could be heard 1,600 miles away. Gases from the volcano shot into the stratosphere almost six miles above the Earth’s surface and lingered for years. Sulfur dioxide combined with water molecules to form sulfate particles that reflected sunlight away from Earth, gradually causing the planet’s surface to cool. The colder temperatures caused severe weather events worldwide.
In this 50-minute activity, you can use NASA satellite data to find out where there are the greatest concentrations of aerosols over the course of a year in the tropical Atlantic region, and where these aerosols come from.
Climate scientists study evidence in the geologic record, such as fossils, to figure out what climate was like over hundreds of thousands of years (“paleoclimate”). One fossil they use is pollen, a part of a flowering plant that helps make a seed. Pollen can be blown into lakes, where it is preserved in sediment. Pollen from spruces, which do well in cold climates, can suggest what climate was like when spruce pollen was deposited.
People depend on their energy resources, so they need to know how to use them wisely. How do you think people can use the energy they rely on to heat their homes more efficiently?
People interact with Earth’s water (hydrosphere) in a variety of ways. We depend upon water for survival, but we also need it to keep clean and help avoid spreading disease. On our ever-changing Earth, the supply of fresh water can be limited for some humans. We need good techniques to make the best use of the fresh water we do have.
For example, when you wash your hands, how do you do it? With soap and water? With water alone? Do you scrub your hands or simply rinse them under the faucet? Does it even matter? Yes, it does!
Each group will design a water filtration system and present to the class, why they picked their design.
Bombarded by Web sites, the evening news, newspapers, and popular magazines, citizen scientists often have to interpret scientific information directly from the media. Sometimes this can be a confusing process. How can you, as a citizen scientist, figure out whether science information you get from the media is reliable? More importantly, how can you find out what the information means for your life and the decisions you make?
The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), an international marine research program, offers a unique perspective on these issues. Like many research organizations, IODP sends press releases about scientific discoveries to the media that you may eventually read, hear, or see reported. This activity will use IODP as an example to help you find ways of checking science news stories for accuracy.
Archaeological remains include artifacts (portable) and features (non-portable) made and used by humans. Archaeologists use these objects to understand how ancient people lived. How well archaeological remains survive depends on the materials they were made of, the ways they were used, the manner in which they were discarded, and the environment in which they were deposited. Organic remains generally decay in a short time unless preserved in special conditions.