Northeastern Section - 40th Annual Meeting (March 14–16, 2005)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 1:00 PM


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

Modern analogs are significant for professional geologists and undergraduate geology majors alike for the information analogs provide that aids interpretation of processes behind the origin of sedimentological and paleontological observations. Modern analogs play a subtlety different but equally significant role in the education of the lay public, including college non-science majors: discussion of modern analogs fosters a more intuitive understanding of local rocks, provides insights into how scientists study the geological past, and emphasizes how much the world can and does change through geologic time. These are among the most essential "take home" messages we attempt to convey in educational programming at the Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution ( Museum of the Earth exhibits, PRI publications such as The Teacher-Friendly Guide to the Geology of the Northeastern U.S., and associated hands-on interactive presentations use local geology to explore global issues and the science behind the study of Earth processes and history.

As an example, one of the most requested education programs at the Museum focuses upon the interpretation of the rich fossil record of central New York and the layers of strata exposed in many local gorges. This interactive presentation starts with hands-on exploration of rugose corals and brachiopods, first exploring what they might be and how we know. Through guided inquiry, over the course of the presentation participants use what they know about modern analog environments and organisms to gradually "discover" for themselves the environments represented by the rocks that are common in their own neighborhoods and in outcrops around central NY. Use of modern analogs in the presentation leads to (jargon-free) discussion of various forms of uniformitarianism and the importance of confluence of evidence in historical sciences.

If visitors and program participants understand the concept of modern analogs, they may also be more likely to consider the relevance of understanding analogs from the geological past as models for understanding the future. In addition to implications of such analogs for the societal relevance of paleontology and paleoclimatology, they also lead logically to serious consideration of current global change and environmental stewardship.