Skill Building: Methodology and Analyses

Mapping Quake Risk

Today, people are “mapping our world” with the aid of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology. Mapping can be done in the field or the lab—even from smartphones. You can make maps with real-time data about wildfires, tsunamis, and tornadoes. You can make maps with imagery collected with visible light, infrared, and radar data.

Mapping the Atmosphere

A map can represent data from an area on a flat surface. The part of our Earth system most frequently mapped is the atmosphere. Weather—the state of the atmosphere at a particular place and time—needs constant monitoring because it perpetually changes as weather systems evolve and move.

Awareness of what the weather is and is likely to be has numerous benefits. Weather can be hazardous, causing injuries, death, and loss of property. Weather maps are valuable analytical tools for informing people about current or future conditions.

Mapping Vertical Movements

This activity uses “flubber” to demonstrate the visco-elastic properties of the Earth’s lithosphere and shows isostatic rebound in action.

Measure for Measure

Geoscientists use special boats to conduct research at sea. One of these boats is named the JOIDES Resolution (JR). Unlike most oceangoing vessels, the JR has a flat bottom, a 6.4-meter hole in the middle, 12 laboratories, and a derrick towering 67 meters above the waterline! Why? So scientists can sail nearly anywhere in the world to drill for samples of rocks and sediment from below the seafloor. What for? In hopes of discovering clues about Earth's history and structure, life in the deep biosphere, past climate change, earthquakes and natural resources.

Mineral Electrical Conductivity

People must mine minerals to provide all kinds of materials that we depend on in our lives. The purpose of this activity is to test the conductivity of various minerals with a simple electrical circuit and draw conclusions about which ones would be used in electronics.

Modeling Oil and Gas Reservoirs

This activity will help you to understand some of the factors that petroleum geologists need to consider when deciding where to recommend drilling for oil. Since people use petroleum products for energy and as source materials for petrochemicals, it is important as citizen scientists to understand the science and technology behind the search for oil and natural gas.

Monitoring Life in the Rocky Intertidal Ecosystem

The five national marine sanctuaries along the West Coast monitor the health of the rocky intertidal ecosystem. One way of doing this is to collect data on the relative abundance of the organisms living in that ecosystem. Since this is such a big task, the national marine sanctuaries are training students in how to follow standardized protocols to help with the monitoring. The information collected is added to an online database that the sanctuaries use to collect baseline data and track long-term changes in the environment. This activity will allow you to learn the sampling techniques used in the field by these citizen scientists who participate in LiMPETS.

Mud Fossils

Learn about fossil preservation, paleontology, and stratigraphy in this detailed activity from the USGS.

Mystery Mollusc

Pretend to be a biologist as you 'discover' a new mollusc species and work to determine it's characteristics and habitat.

Natural Gas Formation

Natural gas, which is mostly methane, is an energy resource used for generating electricity and heating, powering transportation, and manufacturing products. Right now, one-quarter of the world’s energy comes from natural gas. In this investigation, you will make a simple model of how gases can form from decaying material. You will also explore the effects of temperature on gas formation.


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