GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 19-8
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM


WINKELSTERN, Ian, Grand Valley State University, Padnos Hall of Science, 1 Campus Dr., Grand Rapids, MI 49401

Work in sedimentology has become increasingly reliant on advanced methods of geochemical analysis, including studies of stable isotopes. These measurements serve as records of environmental change and are also a powerful tool for studying chemical precipitation and diagenesis. Despite this important role, a wide range of constraints often prevent undergraduates from gaining direct experience with isotopic data, particularly within a traditional “sed-strat” curriculum.

In early 2020, I developed a semester-long project to give students classroom experience with these important tools, and to facilitate all of the benefits that independent student research provides. In January of that year, Grand Valley State University Sedimentology and Stratigraphy students were allocated funds (via an internal grant) to develop their own isotope-based sedimentology projects. Student groups then decided on samples to be analyzed, developed proposals, and prepared carbonate powders for analysis. Then the pandemic reached West Michigan, effectively ending the project. The students’ samples were eventually analyzed months later, however, enabling the resurrection of this idea for the following year. All-virtual winter 2021 students were then essentially asked to pick up where 2020 students left off, and in groups analyzed and presented the datasets that their peers had initiated.

These efforts offer some insight into effective virtual versus in-person pedagogy, and demonstrate the potential for authentic research experiences in a virtual geoscience classroom. Here I will present some of the successes and failures of this effort via student feedback, survey data, and my own observations. Ultimately this project seemed to make a positive impact on student learning, and overcame many of the challenges associated with virtual teaching.