Educational Resources: Higher Education

Because Critical Zone (CZ) Science is so important and new, it is vital to help everyone learn about it: STEM education professionals, their students, general public, and others. CZ Science is well suited for the K-12 Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

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× A view from Mt. Lemmon.  Two hikers stand on a rock outcrop and look down onto the steep valleys below.

Grades K - Professional

Mt. Lemmon science tour app

All Disciplines

App • Tour

Use a narrative "science tour" app for the drive up Mt. Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson, Arizona. Travel from desert to pine forest, listening to the audio guide and watching slideshows and videos. Learn how our world is sustained by natural environments, systems, and cycles.

Educational Objectives

Describe the natural history of Mt. Lemmon with special attention to geology and biology. The tour follows the Catalina Highway to the top of Mt. Lemmon.

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Audience: K-12 • General Public • Higher Education • Research Community

Observatory: Catalina-Jemez CZO

Author: Producer: Shipherd Reed (Univ. of Arizona)

Funding: NSF CZO, Contributions from UA College of Science and other regional organizations

× Screenshot of a webpage including a Google Street View spherical panorama of a highly instrumented tree at the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory.

Grades 3 - 16

Technical tools of real and virtual fieldwork

All Disciplines

Virtual Fieldwork • Activity • Project

See an annotated list of technical tools for creating Virtual Fieldwork Experiences about a site. Tools include smartphone apps for capturing imagery and other data as well as accessing information (ie geologic maps). Desktop and web-based software is also included, as is some hardware.

Educational Objectives

Users will both create and access media to explain why a site looks the way it does.

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Audience: K-12 • General Public • Higher Education • Research Community

Observatory: National CZO

Author: Don Haas (PRI)

Don
Haas


× Trees within the Shale Hills focus catchment have all been catalogued. Different colors show different species.

Grades 3 - 16

Shale Hills Tree Survey, Google Earth File

Biology/Ecology • GIS/RemoteSensing • SoilScience/Pedology

Virtual Fieldwork • Computer Activity  • Demo • Dataset

This kmz file contains basic data on every large tree within the Shale Hills catchment, including species and Diameter at Breast Height (DBH). Explore the data and look for patterns of species distributions by clicking on and off different species. This file is included within the Shale Hills VFE.

Educational Objectives

The listed objectives are suggestive. Teachers may design activities using the dataset with their own objectives.

The survey can also serve as a model for surveying trees (or other elements) in your local environment.

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Audience: K-12 • General Public • Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO • Shale Hills CZO

Author: Don Haas, Sarah Sharkey

Don
Haas

Sarah
Sharkey


× The Virtual Fieldwork Experience (VFE) Graphic Organizer for the Shale Hills VFE. The graphic organizer structures sets of questions that can be investigated at any field site. The overarching question is, 'Why does this place look the way it does?'

Grades 3 - 14

Virtual Fieldwork in the Critical Zone

All Disciplines

Virtual Fieldwork • Activity • Curriculum • Lesson Plan • Computer Activity 

This webpage serves as an introduction to both CZ science and the use of Virtual Fieldwork Experiences (VFEs) for exploration of the CZ. Embedded within this page you will find VFEs of Shale Hills Susquehanna, Southern Sierra CZO and Luquillo CZOs.

Educational Objectives

Objectives for specific VFEs are included within those VFEs.

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Audience: K-12 • General Public • Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO • Luquillo CZO • Shale Hills CZO • Sierra CZO

Author: Don Haas (PRI), Alexandra Moore (PRI), Michelle Gilmore (SSCZO)

Don
Haas

Alexandra
Moore

Michelle
Gilmore


× Very colorful map of Bedrock Geology for the U.S.  Maps of very different characteristics in the landscape can reveal surprising connections.

Grades 6 - 14

Mapping Earth systems

All Disciplines

Information • Dataset • Activity

View ten maps of the contiguous 48 states, each highlighting different geographic features. Viewing the maps collectively reveals connections among different Earth systems.

Educational Objectives

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NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns • Systems and System Models

NGSS Science & Engineering Practices: Developing and Using Models

NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas: ESS2 - Earth’s Systems • ESS3 - Earth and Human Activity


Audience: K-12 • General Public • Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO

Author: Don Haas (PRI)

Don
Haas


× Cover of 'In the Trenches' journal.  It features State College High school students with TeenShale Network measuring stream discharge and additional water quality parameters of Black Moshannon Creek. [Photo by Earth & Environmental Systems Institute, Penn State University]

Grades 6 - 14

In The Trenches CZO Theme Issue

All Disciplines

Article

Learn about educational initiatives and resources for teaching CZ Science. This issue includes seven articles that describe approaches to teaching CZ Science, why teaching CZ Science is important, and how such approaches can satisfy NGSS expectations. Full access requires NAGT membership.

Educational Objectives

Describe a range of approaches to, and resources for, teaching CZ Science.

As this is a collection of seven articles, the educational objectives are too numerous to list here. They are listed in the individual entries for each article.

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Audience: K-12 • General Public • Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO • Luquillo CZO • Reynolds CZO • Shale Hills CZO

Author: D. Haas, T. White, S. McGee, N. Rodriguez, J.Z. Williams, S. Dykhoff, J. Pollak, S.L. Brantley, K.P. O’Neill, J.F. Rice, D. deB. Richter, C. Roemmele, S. Smith, A. Moore

Don
Haas

Tim
White

Steven
McGee

Jennifer
Williams

Susan
Brantley

Katherine
O'Neill

Daniel
Richter

Alexandra
Moore


× The Reynolds Creek Virtual Tour

Grades 6 - 14

Reynolds Creek Virtual Tour

Biogeochemistry • Biology/Ecology • Climatology/Meteorology • SoilScience/Pedology • Outreach/EducationResearch

Tour • Video • Website • Information

Take a virtual tour of the Reynolds Creek Critical Zone Observatory! Track snowfall and predict soil thickness. Learn about soil carbon and how climate change and sagebrush ecosystems are modeled.

Educational Objectives

Objectives being written.

Tracking Snow:  Measuring Nature’s Water Reservoir.  

Organic Carbon:  The Key Variable in a Changing Climate.  

Inorganic Carbon:  A Different Type of Carbon.  

Predicting Soil Thickness:  Anywhere on a Landscape.  

CORE Sites:  The Most Advanced Ecosystem Measurements Anywhere.  

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Audience: K-12 • General Public • Higher Education

Observatory: Reynolds CZO

Author: Sindelar, H., Kanode, C., and S. Lanier. Montana State University. School of Film & Photography.

Funding: The Reynolds Creek Critical Zone Observatory: EAR # 1331872 and ICER # 1445246

× About 5.5 pounds of the six pound weight of a gallon of gasoline is carbon. This graphic shows a gallon of gasoline beside 5.5 pounds of pure carbon in the form of graphite.

Grades 6 - 14

Where Does Gasoline Go?

Climatology/Meteorology • Biology/Ecology • Outreach/EducationResearch • SocialScience

Information • Demo • Video

In the U.S., we burn over a gallon of gasoline per person, per day. What becomes of all that? What does it have to do with the Critical Zone? This blog post investigates these questions with powerful but simple visuals that can be easily translated to classroom use.

Educational Objectives

  1. Explain why burning a six pound gallon of gasoline produces 19 pounds of carbon dioxide.
  2. Communicate the scale of carbon dioxide emissions by describing the carbon cycle through the story of gasoline.
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Audience: K-12 • General Public • Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO

Author: Don Haas

Don
Haas


× Cover for a special issue of The Earth Scientist journal, published by National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA). The issue was sponsored by the Critical Zone Observatory Network.

Grades 9 - Professional

The Earth Scientist: Critical Zone Theme Issue

All Disciplines

Article

Learn about a range of educational initiatives and resources for teaching about the Critical Zone. This issue includes eight articles that describe approaches to teaching CZ Science, why teaching CZ Science is important, and how such approaches can offer excellent ways to satisfy the NGSS.

Educational Objectives

Describe a range of approaches to teaching CZ Science.

As this is a collection of eight articles, the educational objectives are too numerous to list here. They are listed in the individual entries for each article.

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Audience: K-12 • Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO • Calhoun CZO • Luquillo CZO • Sierra CZO

Author: M. Augustinsky, K. Cook, D. Haas, A. Dye, J. Flowers, M. Gilmore, S. McGee, M. Meadows, M. Menon, K. O’Neill, D.D. Richter, N. Baez Rodriguez, E. Stacy, L. Sullivan, T. White

Don
Haas

Michelle
Gilmore

Steven
McGee

Matt
Meadows

Katherine
O'Neill

Daniel
Richter

Erin
Stacy

Tim
White


× Illustration of the Critical Zone, showing a slice of Earth's near surface pulled out of the ground.  Labels are shown for air, biota, soil, water, and rock. Image credit: After Chorover et al, 2007. Catalina-Jemez CZO (artwork by R. Kindlimann).

Grades 9 - 14

What is the Critical Zone?

All Disciplines

Information • Video

A short web page that answers questions like: what is the Critical Zone? Why it is so important? Why does it need to be studied? The page includes text, images, and video.

Educational Objectives

Be able to discuss where the Critical Zone fits on Earth's surface and its importance to Humans and all life. 

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Audience: K-12 • General Public • Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO • Boulder CZO • Calhoun CZO • Catalina-Jemez CZO • Christina CZO • Eel CZO • IML CZO • Luquillo CZO • Reynolds CZO • Shale Hills CZO • Sierra CZO

Author: CZO National Office

× A screengrab of the Critical Zone entry in Oxford Bibliographies.

Grades 13 - Professional

Critical Zone Oxford Bibliography

All Disciplines

Article • Information

Delve into Critical Zone Science (history, future directions, and components) via an annotated bibliography of selected resources (last updated May 2016). Note that access to all of the content requires a subscription to Oxford Bibliographies.

Educational Objectives

This resource is an annotated bibliography of Critical Zone related selected resources, making it a gateway to satisfying a wide range of objectives.

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Audience: Higher Education • Research Community

Observatory: National CZO

Author: Tim White (Penn State) and Sarah Sharkey (Penn State)

Tim
White

Sarah
Sharkey


Funding: NSF CZO

× Screenshot from a video showing several drainages in cultivated fields.  Screenshot is from a webinar titled 'Blue Revolution: Water scarcity in a changing world'

Grades 13 - Professional

2017 CZO Webinar Series: Critical Zone and Society

All Disciplines

Video

Watch six science lectures that highlight the importance of the Critical Zone on society and environmental sustainability. Many topics are discussed including soil degradation, drought resilience, water security, flooding, landslides, wildfire, ecosystem services, public policy, and more.

Educational Objectives

Viewers will be able to discuss the aspects of the CZ vulnerable to the presence of humanity, and how they may be altered due to global climate and land-use change. 

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Audience: Higher Education • Research Community

Observatory: National CZO • Catalina-Jemez CZO • IML CZO • Shale Hills CZO • Sierra CZO

Author: Susan Brantley (PSU), David Breshears (UoA), Jason Field (UoA, Praveen Kumar (UIllinois), Roger Bales (UC-Merced), Jon Pelletier (UoA) and Steve Banwart (ULeeds)

Susan
Brantley

David
Breshears

Jason
Field

Praveen
Kumar

Roger
Bales

Jon
Pelletier


Contact:

Sarah
Sharkey


× Colorful 3D data visualization comparing LiDAR point cloud data and a canopy model.  The data help map the distribution and severity of the Las Conchas forest fire.

Grades 13 - 16

Using LiDAR to explore the Critical Zone

GIS/RemoteSensing • Biology/Ecology

Computer Activity 

Use LiDAR data and display software to analyze the effects of a forest fire in New Mexico. LiDAR is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure distances to Earth. It enables the Critical Zone to be explored at fine scales (~1 m) over large areas (>100 km2).

Educational Objectives

This activity requires a fast PC computer and basic computer skills.

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Audience: K-12 • Higher Education

Observatory: Catalina-Jemez CZO

Author: Adrian Harpold (Univ. of Nevada) and Tim White (Pennsylvania State University)

Adrian
Harpold

Tim
White


Funding: NSF CZO

× Satellite image showing a massive sandstorm blowing off the northwest African desert.  The storm is blanketing hundreds of thousands of square miles of the eastern Atlantic Ocean with a dense cloud of Saharan sand. NASA SeaWiFS image acquired February 26, 2000.

Grades 13 - 16

The influence of dry deserts on tropical rain forests

Climatology/Meteorology • Biology/Ecology

Activity • Website

Investigate how African dust storms transport particles with a unique chemical signature to downwind Caribbean Islands. Download rainwater chemistry data and look for seasonal patterns of Ca inputs. Interpret how this Ca compares with seasonal patterns of Saharan airflow and dust inputs.

Educational Objectives

The objectives of this activity are to demonstrate that:

  1. Earth’s ecosystems and Critical Zones are inextricably linked via feedback processes, and,
  2. nutrients that feed ecosystems can be derived from outside the system.
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NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns • Systems and System Models • Stability and Change

NGSS Science & Engineering Practices: Analyzing and Interpreting Data

NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas: LS2 - Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics • ESS2 - Earth’s Systems


Audience: Higher Education

Observatory: Luquillo CZO

Author: Adam Wymore (Luquillo CZO, Univ New Hampshire) Nick Guy (University of Wyoming), William H. McDowell (Luquillo CZO, Univ New Hampshire)

Adam
Wymore

William
McDowell


Funding: NSF CZO

× Muddy, brown water rushes down a stream. Image: Brantley, S. (2014, April 9)

Grades 13 - 14

The Case of the Muddy Waters

Hydrology

Computer Activity 

The Case of the Muddy Water uses authentic data to investigate the impacts of hydrofracturing. The objective of this lesson is to introduce the potential impacts of natural gas extraction through data analysis.

Educational Objectives

Conceptual Learning Outcomes

Practical Learning Outcomes

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Audience: Higher Education

Observatory: Shale Hills CZO

Author: Sharon Dykhoff (Dominion Christian School), Susan Brantley (The Pennsylvania State University), and Liza Brazil (CUAHSI)

× A Pennsylvania cliff, illustrating a cross section of the Critical Zone with trees, soil, and bedrock.

Grades 15 - 16

CZ Science 0. Undergrad course (7 modules)

All Disciplines

Curriculum

This 15-week upper-level undergraduate course introduces and examines the life-sustaining services and resources provided by the Critical Zone using publicly-available CZO data and literature. This course is hosted by InTeGrate SERC (Science Education Resource Center).

Educational Objectives

At the end of the course students will be able to:

Find additional information in the course's Instructor Materials

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Audience: Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO

Author: Timothy White (PSU), Adam Wymore (UNH), Ashlee Dere (UNO), Adam Hoffman (DBQ), James Washburne (UoA), Martha Conklin (UC Merced), Susan Gill (SWRC), Editor: David Gosselin (UNL)

Tim
White

Adam
Wymore

Jim
Washburne

Martha
Conklin


Contact:

Adam
Wymore


Funding: National Science Foundation–funded SERC InTeGrate project

Related Resource:

× A Pennsylvania cliff, illustrating a cross section of the Critical Zone with trees, soil, and bedrock.

Grades 15 - 16

CZ Science 1. Critical Zone background

All Disciplines

Curriculum

The primary goal of this module is to recall, infer, and interpret a wide variety of scientific principles that analyze the Critical Zone as a complex system of interacting regolith, water, air, energy and life. This module is part of a undergraduate course on CZ Science hosted by InTeGrate SERC.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this module students will be able to:

More on this module's objectives can be found here

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Audience: Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO

Author: Timothy White (Pennsylvania State University)

Tim
White


Contact:

Adam
Wymore


Funding: National Science Foundation–funded SERC InTeGrate project

Related Resource:

× A Pennsylvania cliff, illustrating a cross section of the Critical Zone with trees, soil, and bedrock.

Grades 15 - 16

CZ Science 2. Methods of Critical Zone Science

All Disciplines

Curriculum

This module introduces methods used for investigations of the natural environment as well as human-induced changes to the environment such as perturbations to the hydrologic cycle, carbon and nutrient cycles and soil degradation. This module is part of a CZ Science course hosted by InTeGrate SERC.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this module students will be able to:

More on this module's objectives can be found here.

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Audience: Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO

Author: Susan Gill (Stroud Water Research Center) and Ashlee Dere (University of Nebraska - Omaha)

Ashlee
Dere


Contact:

Adam
Wymore


Funding: National Science Foundation–funded SERC InTeGrate project

Related Resource:

× A Pennsylvania cliff, illustrating a cross section of the Critical Zone with trees, soil, and bedrock.

Grades 15 - 16

CZ Science 3. Critical Zone architecture & evolution

Geology/Chronology • Geomorphology • GIS/RemoteSensing

Curriculum

The goal of this module is a basic understanding of geologic processes and their relationship to Critical Zone processes and science. The focus is on the lithosphere's presence and role in CZ form and function. This module is part of a CZ Science course hosted by InTeGrate SERC.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this module students will be able to:

More on this module's objectives can be found here.

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Audience: Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO

Author: Timothy White (Pennsylvania State University)

Tim
White


Contact:

Adam
Wymore


Funding: National Science Foundation–funded SERC InTeGrate project

Related Resource:

× A Pennsylvania cliff, illustrating a cross section of the Critical Zone with trees, soil, and bedrock.

Grades 15 - 16

CZ Science 4. Land-atmosphere exchange

Climatology/Meteorology • Hydrology • SoilScience/Pedology

Curriculum

This module analyzes how energy and carbon flow through the CZ and how they drive CZ processes. Learn how to analyze data and use simple models to interpret spatial and temporal trends in energy flow to answer questions about CZ processes. This module is part of a CZ Science course hosted by SERC.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this module students will be able to:

More on this module's objectives can be found here.

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Audience: Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO

Author: Jim Washburne (The University of Arizona)

Jim
Washburne


Contact:

Adam
Wymore


Funding: InTeGrate: Interdisciplinary Teaching about Earth for a Sustainable Future Banner, Critical Zone Science

Related Resource:

× A Pennsylvania cliff, illustrating a cross section of the Critical Zone with trees, soil, and bedrock.

Grades 15 - 16

CZ Science 5. Water transfer through the Critical Zone

Hydrology • WaterChemistry • Biology/Ecology

Curriculum

This module teaches how to evaluate the water balance of an ecosystem---a growing challenge as we face increasingly unpredictable water supplies coupled with rising demand for water across all sectors. The module is part of a undergraduate course on CZ Science hosted by InTeGrate SERC.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this module students will be able to:

More on this module's objectives can be found here.

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Audience: Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO

Author: Martha Conklin, SSCZO staff and students (University of California, Merced)

Martha
Conklin


Contact:

Adam
Wymore


Funding: National Science Foundation–funded SERC InTeGrate project

Related Resource:

× A Pennsylvania cliff, illustrating a cross section of the Critical Zone with trees, soil, and bedrock.

Grades 15 - 16

CZ Science 6. Geochemistry & biogeochemistry

Geochemistry/Mineralogy • Biogeochemistry

Curriculum

This module examines the integrated roles that biology, geology, and chemistry play in the CZ. Use data from real world systems to understand how the CZ is involved in key biogeochemical functions. This module is part of a undergraduate course on CZ Science hosted by InTeGrate SERC.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this module students will be able to:

More on this module's objectives can be found here.

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Audience: Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO

Author: Adam Hoffman (University of Dubuque) and Adam Wymore (University of New Hampshire)

Adam
Wymore


Funding: National Science Foundation–funded SERC InTeGrate project

Related Resource:

× A Pennsylvania cliff, illustrating a cross section of the Critical Zone with trees, soil, and bedrock.

Grades 15 - 16

CZ Science 7. Humans in the Critical Zone

GIS/RemoteSensing • SocialScience

Curriculum

This module examines how geoscientists study processes in the Critical Zone and the interactions between natural processes and human activities that affect it. The module is part of a undergraduate course on CZ Science hosted by InTeGrate SERC.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this module students will be able to:

More on this module's objectives can be found here.

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Audience: Higher Education

Observatory: National CZO

Author: Susan Gill (Stroud Water Research Center), Ashlee Dere (University of Nebraska - Omaha), and Jim Washburne (Pima Community College and University of Arizona)

Jim
Washburne

Ashlee
Dere


Contact:

Adam
Wymore


Funding: National Science Foundation–funded SERC InTeGrate project

Related Resource: