In this activity, students will use oxygen isotope values of two species of modern coral to reconstruct ambient water temperature over a four-year period. They use Microsoft Excel, or similar application, to create a spreadsheet of temperature values calculated from the isotope values of the corals by means of an algebraic equation. Students then use correlation and regression techniques to determine whether isotope records can be considered to be good proxies for records of past temperatures.
Activity takes about two lab periods or can be done as a homework assignment. Computer with Excel software is required.
About the Science
- The dataset and conversion equation used in this module were contrived though are based on actual datasets and conversion equations used for corals.
- The spreadsheet is based on the PDB standard and the equation given in the presentation uses SMOW standard. Instructors need to clarify the difference between the standards.
- Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.
ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION AND TEACHING MATERIALS
Technical Details/Ease of Use
- Instructor version is available by request to the author (a link is provided).
- PowerPoint and associated files are available for download from the activity sheet.
- Even though these PowerPoint slides are very dense, they are given as a .ppt file and could be broken up and modified easily.
TEACHING NOTES / CONTEXT FOR USE
- Forming groups of students (especially pairing students of different level of experiences in Excel) will enhance the effectiveness of the activity.
- Strong guidance of students is required in order to ensure they don't simply follow the instructions but understand the relevance in terms of paleoclimatology.
- Include a final discussion on the relevance of what students learned on their understanding of global temperatures.
- This activity is designed to improve students' quantitative skills.
- Activity relies heavily on Excel use, and students need to very comfortable with formulas in Excel to follow the activity.
- Modeling aspect of this activity may be engaging for some students.
This resource engages students in using scientific data.
Assessment is at the discretion of the educator as to how the resource is used.
Activity created by Dorien McGee - University of South Florida , Washington Center for Improving Undergraduate Education