In this activity, students calculate temperatures during a time in the geologic record when rapid warming occurred using a well known method called 'leaf-margin analysis.' Students determine the percentage of the species that have leaves with smooth edges, as opposed to toothed, or jagged, edges. Facsimiles of fossil leaves from two collection sites are examined, categorized, and the data is plugged into an equation to provide an estimate of paleotemperature for two sites in the Bighorn Basin. It also introduces students to a Smithsonian scientist who worked on the excavation sites and did the analysis.

In this video a scientist explains how DNA extracted from ancient tree remains provides insights about how trees/plants have adapted, over time, to changes in CO2 in the atmosphere. Her lab research investigates changes in plant genotypes under experimental conditions that simulate potential changes in CO2 levels in the future.

This video describes the role that dendrochronology plays in understanding climate change, especially changes to high elevation environments at an upper tree line. Dendrochronologists from the Big Sky Institute sample living and dead trees, describe how correlations between trees are made, and explain how tree cores record climate changes.

This series of activities is designed to introduce students to the role of sediments and sedimentary rocks in the global carbon cycle. Students learn how stable carbon isotopes can be used to reconstruct ancient sedimentary environments. Students will make some simple calculations, formulate hypotheses, and think about the implications of their results. The activity includes an optional demonstration of the density separation of a sediment sample into a light, organic fraction and a heavier, mineral fraction.

This activity uses geophysical and geochemical data to determine climate in Central America during the recent past and to explore the link between climate (wet periods and drought) and population growth/demise among the Maya. Students use ocean drilling data to interpret climate and to consider the influence of climate on the Mayan civilization.