GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 330-6
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


WHITE, Lisa D., University of California, Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, CA 94720-4780, DUGGAN-HAAS, Don, Paleontological Research Institution, Amherst, ROSS, Robert M., Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, BEAN, Jessica R., Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, CLITES, Erica C., University of California Museum of Paleontology, 1101 Valley Life Sciences Building, Berkeley, CA 94720-4780 and MARSHALL, Charles R., Department of Integrative Biology and Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley, Valley Life Sciences Building, Berkeley, CA 94720-4780,

Virtual field experiences (VFEs) are unique educational tools that capture the physical context in which geological and primary paleontological data are collected to bring the field experience to life in the classroom. A new Thematic Collection Network, Eastern Pacific Invertebrate Communities of the Cenozoic (EPICC), led by the UC Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) and eight collaborating partners, uses VFEs to engage students more holistically and authentically with paleontological data. The VFE modules are designed to reveal information sequentially, inviting inquiry and providing opportunities to analyze and interpret data similar to what scientists do in the field, which directly supports the implementation of the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices.

Our partners at the Paleontological Research Institution use high-resolution panoramic imagery and other techniques to digitally integrate selected field areas in California with the rich Cenozoic invertebrate paleontological collections in our museums. The first of several modules focuses largely on the estuarine deposits and the molluscan-rich communities from the Plio-Pleistocene Etchegoin, San Joaquin, and Tulare formations of the Kettleman Hills in central California, which accumulated during a time of significant plate motion, climate, and sea level change. This backdrop allows students to investigate questions such as why are marine fossils present in a dry and arid modern environment and what data do environmental changes leave behind in the paleontological and stratigraphic records. Guided by these overarching questions, learners use gigapixel-resolution images and Google Earth to zoom into and navigate along outcrops and access digital images of museum specimens. As they do, further questions unfold focusing on discrete stratigraphic horizons and faunal zones that highlight sedimentological changes and shell variations reflective of local circulation and global sea level changes. The VFEs will also be integrated with UCMP’s new Understanding Global Change web resource as an example of how global Earth system processes affected ancient communities. The VFE resources will include visualizations of how the drivers of global change interact with the Earth systems to produce the physical effects we measure in Kettleman Hills strata.