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

Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM


RODBELL, Donald T., Geology, Union College, Olin Building, Schenectady, NY 12308-2311 and GREMILLION, Paul T., Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northern Arizona Univ, College of Engineering and Technology, P.O. Box 15600, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, rodbelld@union.edu

The Geology Department at Union College strives to follow a hand’s-on, investigative approach to teaching, and many of our courses integrate traditional teaching with investigative learning. These courses typically include term-long research projects that emphasize research design, field and/or laboratory components, and oral and written reports. The trimester calendar that we follow is ideal for field-based courses during the Fall and Spring trimesters, but it has been difficult to incorporate this approach to teaching during the winter term, when northeastern U.S. winters make traditional fieldwork impossible.

We developed our course Lakes and Environmental Change because: 1- it provides our students with an opportunity to do a non-traditional form of field work during the winter term, 2- it takes advantage of the abundance of small lakes near campus, one of which is meromictic, that are typically safely frozen during the Winter trimester, and 3- it is fundamentally interdisciplinary and research based. The main objective of this course is to introduce students to limnology and paleolimnology using an approach that resembles an authentic research project rather than a contrived series of unrelated lab exercises. Each year two lakes are chosen for study, and students’ research evolves through the term in a logical manner from drainage basin analyses to water column measurements to surface sediment properties to sediment core acquisition and analysis.

All students are required to actively participate in collecting data and samples in the field, and in processing these data and samples in the laboratory. As with any research project, students are introduced to the primary published literature so that they can both critique papers in class, and integrate these papers into the interpretation of their own data sets. Finally, the course emphasizes scientific writing so that students become aware of what it takes to present the results of scientific research in a concise and clear fashion, and to use this understanding in the preparation of their lab reports. The course has spawned numerous senior thesis projects, and several graduates of this course have gone on to graduate programs in paleolimnology.