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Activity Instructions - Explore / Explain > Using Microfossils to Understand Paleo-Climate
CLIMATE ANALYSIS USING PLANKTONIC FORAMINIFERA
AGE LEVEL--This activity is appropriate for middle school students in seventh or eighth grade. It may be adapted for use with high school students.
PREREQUISITES--Students should have an understanding of planktonic foraminifera. They should have a concept that our planet's climate has not always been as it is today. A review of the use of Neogloboquadrina pachyderma coiling ratios as a proxy for paleoclimate would be useful. Neogloboquadrina pachyderma is an excellent recorder of climatic temperatures through geologic time. When the earth experiences periods of relatively cold temperatures, ocean waters are cooler and Neogloboquadrina pachyderma forms its test (shell) such that it coils to the left. Alternatively, during periods of relatively warm temperatures when ocean waters are warmer, Neogloboquadrina pachyderma constructs its test with a coiling direction to the right. Students should be able to perform simple arithmetic procedures, namely, adding and formulation of percentage data. An answer key to the data chart is provided for you in Figure 2. In addition, the students should know how to plot scientific data on graph paper. A graph of the data is given in Figure 3.
OBJECTIVE--This exercise allows students to manipulate scientific data, plot the data and then interpret their results. You might query the students as to what is the "cause" and what is the "effect" in this scientific problem. The fact that our planet's climate has changed drastically throughout geologic time will be emphasized. Students should recognize that the climate will likely continue to change in the future.
FOLLOW-UP--You might want to follow this activity with a discussion of the causes for climate change, past, present and future. This exercise can foster discussions on current climate change. The class could discuss current evidence for climate change and what might be the potential causes, both natural and man-made, for this change.