Deciphering Earth History 

Deciphering Earth History: A Laboratory Manual with Internet Exercises

ISBN 0-89892-139-2

"The past may not repeat itself,

but it does rhyme."

Mark Twain

As Earth scientists learn more about the way in which our planet functions, we find that the decoded patterns of Earth history illustrate Mark Twains proverb. The patterns of Earth history may not be exactly the same time after time, but these patterns are very similar in many respects. Our understanding of these trends and their variation through time comes directly from the stratigraphic record. This laboratory manual, written for introductory Historical Geology courses at the university-level, covers the basic principles used by geologists and other Earth scientists to interpret the stratigraphic record. Unlike other Historical Geology manuals, this book provides a wider coverage of more topics, techniques, and applications. We have tried, where possible, to present exercises that incorporate information from several different geological areas. This is because no single area of geology can explain what we can document in Earths past. It is necessary to use several different approaches to understand our planets past. Four and a half BILLION years of history arent easy to explain using one or even two isolated approaches. Many exercises are based upon real data, allowing you to follow the lines of reasoning and logic used to decipher Earths saga. Where possible, we also have used analogies to help you appreciate the parallels between how Earth operates today and how it operated in the deep past.

Deciphering Earth History consists of exercises that are both traditional and contemporary in approach. Traditional exercises provide the foundations of our reading of Earth history, while contemporary approaches include small projects designed to demonstrate the trends on Earth over long intervals of time. As we face uncertainties about future global climate change and the response of ecosystems to this change, the recent and deep past provide models of ancient (and not so ancient) responses to similar trends. These data are found both in the biological (monerans, protists, fungi, plants, and animals) and abiological systems (for example, sedimentology and geochemistry, stratigraphy and radioisotopes, tectonics and geophysics). In the development of these exercises and overall goals of the manual, we have not relied upon any one approach to introduce the concepts. Rather, we have drawn from all available examples to demonstrate that Earth and its components are a unified whole.

So, whats new? Responding to colleagues who adopted the previous versions of this manual, we have rewritten and changed much of the text in the Introductory materials and the exercises, presenting complex concepts in more simplified terminology. Answers to some of the questions in the exercises have been changed, allowing for easier identification of the correct answer, reducing any ambiguity. Some exercises have been shortened to allow for their completion under limited laboratory time; however, instructors still have the option of picking-and-choosing portions of labs to fit the laboratory-time allotment. New line drawings have been added to clarify concepts, and eight pages of color images appear early in the book demonstrating the basic sedimentary rock types (clastic, chemical, organic, and volcanogenic), the primary sedimentological structures most commonly found in the rock record, and the environments in which both the rocks and structures form. These color figures are referenced where appropriate in the text, allowing for you to visualize the concepts introduced in the exercises; the Appendix still provides a paleobiological overview of the major animal and plant groups commonly fossilized. The mathematics behind radioisotopic calculations now are included and an exercise has been provided to apply this technique. Internet exercises that were once separate worksheets in the back of the manual have been incorporated, where appropriate, as supplemental exercises within chapters. Its still tough to get collections of Burgess Shale fauna for laboratory, allowing for web surfing. Some of the old internet exercises have been changed, others omitted. The exercise on Plate Tectonics has been converted from internet-based to hard-copy based (Exercise 16) and appears following the Geologic Map exercise (Exercise 15).

Overall, this edition of Deciphering Earth History may not have repeated itself, but it sure does rhyme.

The 3rd Edition of Deciphering Earth History - rewritten, revised, and expanded - is now available. For Information contact:

Contemporary Publishing Company of Raleigh, N.C.

3rd Edition Updated Internet Links

This site was last modified on: Tuesday, 24-Feb-2004 08:56:25 EST

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