From Isotopes to Temperature: Working With A Temperature Equation

In this activity, students will use oxygen isotope values of two species of modern coral to reconstruct ambient water temperature over a four-year period. They use Microsoft Excel, or similar application, to create a spreadsheet of temperature values calculated from the isotope values of the corals by means of an algebraic equation. Students then use correlation and regression techniques to determine whether isotope records can be considered to be good proxies for records of past temperatures.

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Dorien McGee
University of South Florida
Washington Center for Improving Undergraduate Education

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Forming groups of students (especially pairing students of different level of experiences in Excel) will enhance the effectiveness of the activity.

Strong guidance of students is required in order to ensure they don't simply follow the instructions but understand the relevance in terms of paleoclimatology.

Include a final discussion on the relevance of what students learned on their understanding of global temperatures.