In this activity, students are introduced to tree rings by examining a cross section of a tree, also known as a 'tree cookie.' They discover how tree age can be determined by studying the rings and how ring thickness can be used to deduce times of optimal growing conditions. Next, they investigate simulated tree rings applying the scientific method to explore how climatic conditions varied over time.
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.
This visualization graphically displays temperature and CO2 concentration in the atmosphere as derived from ice core data from 400,000 years ago to 1950. The data originates from UNEP GRID Arendal's graphic library of CO2 levels from Vostok ice core.
In this hands-on activity, students will learn about dendrochronology (the study of tree rings to understand ecological conditions in the recent past) and come up with conclusions as to what possible climatic conditions might affect tree growth in their region. Students determine the average age of the trees in their schoolyard, investigate any years of poor growth, and draw conclusions about the reasons for those years.
In this activity, students examine pictures of pollen grains representing several species that show the structural differences that scientists use for identification. Students analyze model soil samples with material mixed in to represent pollen grains. They then determine the type and amount of 'pollen' in the samples and, using information provided to them, determine the type of vegetation and age of their samples. Finally, they make some conclusions about the likely climate at the time the pollen was shed.
This video features research conducted at University of Colorado's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, which studies isotopes of hydrogen trapped in ice cores to understand climate changes in the past.
This NBC Learn video features climate scientists doing their research on Mt. Kilimanjaro to study the climate of the past. The scientists put the recently observed changes on the glacier into perspective by comparing past climate fluctuations, stressing that the current observed rate of change is unprecedented.
Note: you will need to scroll down the Changing Planet video page to get to this video.
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.