2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


ROSS, Robert M., Paleontological Rsch Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850 and ALLMON, Warren D., Paleontological Rsch Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850-1398, rmr16@cornell.edu

Even when museum exhibits on the history of the Earth and its life are otherwise compelling, most visitors leave with only a vague conception of how geoscientists determine the ordering or numerical ages of geological events. Most exhibits rely on static visual images of relative dating or abstract descriptions of radiometric dating. Since public understanding of how scientists derive scientific information is a key component of scientific literacy, and since ordering of geological events is the foundation of our understanding of evolution of the Earth system, it is clearly desirable to create more effective approaches to exhibits on stratigraphy. CHRONOS, which will enable users to "play" with the data of geologic time, offers outstanding opportunities for innovative solutions for improving public understanding of and access to temporally-ordered geologic data.

Museums may offer the first point of contact with CHRONOS for many in the general public. In these settings, ideally surrounded by real objects, museum docents, and appropriate signage, visitors may be willing to try activities and user-friendly technology that they might not seek elsewhere. After their museum experience, visitors may be encouraged to try CHRONOS at home or in classrooms. Museums nationwide that use CHRONOS-based interactives could also be used as vehicles to promote its use in other contexts, through leaflets, Earth Science Week activities, or other dissemination techniques.

The potential exists to build a user-interface that could serve the needs of many museums nationwide. Successful application of CHRONOS to museum environments could serve as a general model for application of geoinformatics to informal learning environments. The Museum of the Earth is a new exhibits facility at the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, NY., in which most of the exhibits and educational programs are oriented around events and processes in geologic time. This setting will be used to test museum implementation of CHRONOS, for example in "Discovery Labs" with on-line computer stations, Museum classroom education programs, and teachers workshops.