November 2006 Journal of Geoscience Education

Volume 54, Number 5

Evaluation of the Impact of the NWC REU Program Compared with Other Undergraduate Research Experiences
Wilson J. Gonzalez-Espada, Arkansas Tech University
Daphne S. LaDue, University of Oklahoma
Undergraduate research is increasingly valued as a critical component of a good undergraduate science education. Through research, it is expected that students will develop significant knowledge, skills and dispositions. The NSF REU provides such an opportunity for college students. One of the authors recently reported an analysis of applicant characteristics, "best practices" implemented since 2001, and new additions to the program. This paper provides a research-based synthesis on the effectiveness of REU programs in general, summarizes the history of the National Weather Center REU program and its positive impact on students, describes the unique characteristics of the current program, and uses students' written comments to evaluate the program's effectiveness. It was found that REU students were significantly more committed to attend graduate school at the end of the program. No statistically significant difference was found on the students' career plans and interest in becoming research scientists before and after the program. A qualitative analysis provides a context from which the statistical data can be interpreted.
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Analogue Model for the Gravity Sliding of Sediments
David C. P. Peacock, Fugro Robertson Limited
The gravity-driven sliding of soft sediments is modeled using a simple and reusable experiment. Sand, mud and water are shaken in a sealed plastic bottle. When the sand has partially settled, the bottle is tilted by several degrees and left on a stable surface for several hours, until a layer of mud is deposited above the gently dipping sand surface. Gentle squeezing or tapping of the bottle causes the sand to liquefy and pack more closely. Water is expelled from the sand and becomes trapped beneath, and therefore supports, the mud. The water beneath the mud becomes overpressured because it supports the weight of the mud. Friction between the mud and sand drops to zero, so the mud slides under gravity. Extensional structures develop towards the top of the slope, and buckle folds and thrusts develop in the mud towards the bottom of the slope. The experiment illustrates how earthquakes or storms can trigger liquefaction and overpressuring, and therefore gravity sliding of soft sediments.
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Introducing Geoinformatics for Earth System Science Education
Anupma Prakash, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Geoinformatics provides an environment for the integration of geospatial data, models and knowledge. An upper undergraduate level introductory geoinformatics course was established at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2004, with collaborative efforts of three academic schools, three research institutes, and two data providers. The course consists of distinct but interrelated units on introduction to Earth system science, field data capture, photogrammetry and remote sensing, geographic information systems, database management, cartography, and geo-information visualization. Assessment data from two years for this course reveal that students taking the course could use geoinformatics to address a variety of Earth system science problems. The undergraduate course was retailored and extended to train high school teachers. Parts of the course material were introduced to high school students. Based on assessment data, observations, and experience in teaching the course, the author recommends that spatial concepts should be reinforced from the beginning in elementary schools, and components of geoinformatics should be integrated within the science and geography curricula in secondary school. At the undergraduate level, geoinformatics can be introduced as a specialization within an existing program, or as a program by itself.
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Teaching with Catastrophe: Topographic Map Interpretation and the Physical Geography of the 1949 Mann Gulch, Montana Wildfire
Karl Lillquist, Central Washington University
Topographic map interpretation is typically taught by "imaginary landscape" or "classic terrain" approaches. This paper details how a "catastrophic approach" involving the August 1949 Mann Gulch, Montana wildfire may be used to teach topographic map interpretation in a university-level Introduction to Physical Geography course. The Mann Gulch wildfire erupted from lightning-struck trees to a blowup that killed twelve smokejumpers and one fire and recreation guard as it burned 3000 acres in ten minutes. Two smokejumpers survived by outrunning the fire and one lived by lying in the ashes of his escape fire. The wildfire and its tragic outcome were the culmination of topography, fuels, weather, and human response to calamity. The mix of topographic map interpretation as well as physical geography questions in multiple-choice, explanation, and calculation formats target key steps taken by the fire crew over a ~2 hour period. This approaches' effectiveness stems from its mental and emotional involvement of students as they holistically analyze the landscape and the firefighter's actions within a very real and dynamic setting. Variations of the exercise have been successfully used in three different courses over the past eight years. Numerous other examples of catastrophe could be used to enhance topographic map interpretation in various geography and geology courses.
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Using Student-Managed Projects to Enhance the Capstone Experience
Enrique Gomezdelcampo, Bowling Green State University
Capstone courses are the culminating experience for graduating students. Typical capstone courses in the geosciences consist of senior theses or field camps. In this capstone course, the whole class works as one team assessing the environmental impact (EIA) of a real project requested by a client outside the university. The course is divided into thirds, with the last third devoted exclusively to the project. The other two thirds cover the legal aspects and methodology of EIA. The students carry out, organize, supervise, and assess all work related to the project. The course instructor only serves as a consultant to the students. Students' performance on the project constitutes a large part of the final course grade. The students find the course engaging and challenging, and the client many times actually chooses the alternative for the project based on the students' findings. This course provides several pedagogical benefits such as experiential learning, engagement, and development of professional skills.
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Laboratory Apparatus for the Demonstration of Quicksand
Michael J. Nicholl, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Melissa Karnowski, University of Idaho
The use of quicksand as a convenient plot device in television and movies often leads to misconceptions, even among students taking introductory earth science courses. Because quicksand is a familiar natural phenomenon, exploring the underlying mechanisms provides an exceptional opportunity for student learning. Studying quicksand is facilitated by an easily constructed experimental apparatus and illustrative exercises, both of which are detailed here.
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A Field-Based, Writing Intensive Undergraduate Course on Pacific Northwest Geology
Andrew M. Buddington, Spokane Community College
At Spokane Community College, a course in Pacific Northwest Geology provides students with a field-based approach to learning about the geology of the Pacific Northwest. This sophomore-level undergraduate course is a writing intensive course and meets the "W" (writing) requirements at Spokane Community College. The students participate in six laboratory field exercises where they document basic outcrop observations then submit three field reports that follow a specific field report format. Students are encouraged to view the reports as professional documents that will be provided to a client or fellow researcher. A final group project involves the creation of a web site virtual geology tour. Upon completion of the course, student field observational skills and technical writing abilities are greatly improved. Because of the high number of field trips involved, this lab science course is popular among both earth science majors and non-majors.
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An Integrative Summer Field Course in Geology and Biology for K-12 Instructors and College and Continuing Education Students at Eastern Washington University and Beyond
Jennifer A. Thomson, Department of Geology, Eastern Washington University
John P. Buchanan, Department of Geology, Eastern Washington University
Suzanne Schwab, Department of Biology, Eastern Washington University
For the last fifteen years, a small group of faculty members in the departments of geology and biology at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA have offered a seven to ten day interdisciplinary summer field course. The course is designed for college students, K-12 instructors, and for those seeking continuing education experiences. We have been successful in attracting students who take the course repeatedly and continue to draw a pool of new students by providing a different route each year within a 1280 km (800 mi) radius of our institution. Our academic expectations are rigorous and include reading assignments, pre-trip questions, field notebooks and journal entries as well as a research paper and follow-up post-trip questions all of which are designed to capitalize on the integration of the two disciplines. This field course is one way in which we get our students out in the field for a trip longer than a day trip or weekend trip to learn about the interaction of geology and biology on both small and large scales in the scenic Pacific Northwest. We suggest that this technique of integration may be applied to field courses at a variety of academic institutions and in any physiographic province provided that three critical aspects in the successful implementation of our approach are met: (1) Two (or more) faculty in different fields that are willing to work together during preparation and execution of the course; (2) A clear primary objective or overarching theme for the course that is well-defined and that lends itself to an integrative approach; and (3) A prominent National Park or significant geographic feature to enhance the interest in the course and to draw enrollments.
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Techniques for Mapping Theoretical Shadow Zones for Direct P and S Waves Propagated as Rays from an Earthquake Epicenter
Richard L. Kroll, Kean University
John F. Dobosiewicz, Kean University
This paper presents results about the effectiveness of different student-centered instructional methods on undergraduate student perceptions of a spatial phenomenon, earthquake P and S wave shadow zones, in introductory geology classes. Textbooks commonly illustrate earthquake P and S wave shadow zones using ray tracing techniques with an epicenter at the North Pole and the shadow zone south of the equator. Shadow zones differ for earthquake locations elsewhere. Shadow zones for earthquakes at locations around the world can be hand plotted using a globe and a map of the Earth. The plotter gains experience in using latitude and longitude for plotting, understanding global geography, translating spherical geographic data to a two-dimensional map, and gains a better understanding of seismic waves and the Earth's interior. The concept also explains how satellite orbits appear on flat maps and the concept of great circle paths. The shadow zone can also be mapped digitally using a Geographic Information System (GIS), such as ArcView GIS with the similar results. Over all, 81.5% of the student participants considered both instructional methods an enhancement to their understanding of the earth's interior, globes, maps and shadow zones. The results suggest that student alternate conceptions of the representation of geospatial data in 2D and 3D can be influenced by both traditional paper exercises and activities that teach with GIS technology.
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Active Learning Strategies for Constructing Knowledge of Viscosity Controls on Lava Flow Emplacement, Textures and Volcanic Hazards
Ben Edwards, Dickinson College
Rachel Teasdale, California State University at Chico
James D. Myers, University of Wyoming
We present instructions for a series of quantitative experiments designed to help students build their intuitive knowledge of the rheological properties of fluids. The results of the experiments are quantified by students and are used to calculate fluid viscosities using Jeffreys Equation. During the course of the experiments, students test hypotheses about the effects of temperature, dissolved H2O, and the addition of bubbles or solid particles on fluid viscosity. They extend their experimental results to assess the role of viscosity in understanding volcanic hazards due to explosive eruptions and lava flows. Students can use a Dynamic Visual Equation (DVE) for Jeffreys Equation as either a pre-lab introduction to use of the equation or as a tool to calculate viscosities during the lab in place of a spreadsheet or calculator. Informal assessments of student attitudes suggest the experiments heightened student interest and learning.
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Helping Students Make the Transition from Novice Learner of Ground-water Concepts to Expert Using the Plume Busters Software
P. Allen Macfarlane, Kansas Geological Survey
Geoffrey Bohling, Kansas Geological Survey
Kenneth W. Thompson, Emporia State University
Margaret Townsend, Kansas Geological Survey
Environmental and earth science students are novice learners and lack the experience needed to rise to the level of expert. To address this problem we have developed the prototype Plume Busters software as a capstone educational experience, in which students take on the role of an environmental consultant. Following a pipeline spill, the environmental consultant is hired by the pipeline owner to locate the resulting plume created by the spill and remediate the contaminated aquifer at minimum monetary and time cost. The contamination must be removed from the aquifer before it reaches the river and eventually a downstream public water supply. The software consists of an interactive Java application and accompanying HTML linked pages. The application simulates movement of a plume from a pipeline break through a shallow alluvial aquifer towards the river. The accompanying web pages establish the simulated contamination scenario and provide students with background material on ground-water flow and transport principles. To make the role-play more realistic, the student must consider cost and time when making decisions about siting observation wells and wells for the pump-and-treat remediation system.
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Taiwanese Earth Science Curriculum Guidelines and Their Relationships to the Earth Systems Education of the United States
Chun-Yen Chang, National Taiwan Normal University
Wen-Chi Lee, National Taiwan Normal University
Ting-Kuang Yeh, National Taiwan Normal University
The purpose of this paper is four fold as follows: (1) to sketch the Taiwanese educational system and Earth science education; (2) to introduce the mandatory Earth science components of SaLTS (Science and Life Technology curriculum Standards) for grade nine and the requisite components of TESCG (Tentative Earth Science Curriculum Guidelines) at the tenth-grade level in Taiwan; (3) to make a critical analysis comparing SaLTS (as well as TESCG) and the Earth Systems Education (ESE) of the Untied States; and finally (4) to provide a framework of school Earth-science curriculum content in the global context from the perspectives of Taiwan.
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