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Abstract Detail

Paleobotanical Section

Ickert-Bond, Stefanie [1], Metzgar, Jordan [2], Mori, Hirotsugu [3], PIGG , KATHLEEN B [4].

BACK: Biodiversity Assessment using Coal “Kugeln” (Coal Balls).

Natural history collections provide a wealth of temporal and spatial data about biological organisms of the present and the past.  These collections can be used in many novel waysto support hands-on experiences that illustrate fundamental core science concepts for undergraduate education. As part of NSF-RCN “AIM-UP!” (Advancing Integration of Museums into Undergraduate Programs, we are developing hands-on educational modules on plant paleobiodiversity using Pennsylvanian-aged calcium carbonate permineralizations, known as coal balls. Coal balls are found along the margins of coal seams and are known from numerous localities in the North American Appalachian, Illinois and Midcontinent Basins, as well as Carboniferous basins in England, Russia, the European continent and China. They have been studied extensively, both taxonomically and ecologically, by paleobotanists and provide rich anatomical details of the plants that inhabited the Carboniferous coal swamps. Much of what we know about plants of the Paleozoic comes from the study of anatomically preserved structure in coal balls. In addition illustrating plant evolution through time, coal balls readily lend themselves to the development of a variety of exercises that can teach students fundamental concepts about plant structure/function. The study of coal balls enables the incorporation of two fundamental core science concepts as indicated in the Vision & Change in Undergraduate Education (AAAS) document: 1) evolution: discovery of plant diversity over time; and 2) structure and function: the relationship of structural diversity and function yields adaptations. The BACK educational kits that include coal balls, materials to make coal ball sections ("peels"), and associated lesson plans provide a hands-on method for students to explore the biodiversity and evolution of major plant lineages, including diagnostic traits, species identification and morphological change over time. After initial identification (who is where and how do we recognize them) of the major groups of plants represented in coal balls, students will be able to discuss structural/functional aspects of past plant diversity. Tree growth is a great example using evidence from structures preserved in coal balls to demonstrate how different plant groups (pteridophytes with extant relatives including lycopods, horsetails and marattialean ferns and extinct seed plants) converged on the tree growth habit using several very different “solutions”. Quantitative analysis of community structure based on coal balls allows students to deduce controls on paleoecological distributions as they changed from earlier, wetter swamps to later, drier conditions in the Paleozoic much in the same way ecologists study modern landscapes.

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Related Links:
NSF-sponsored Research Coordination Network AIM-UP! (Advancing Integration of Museums into Undergraduate Programs)

1 - University Of Alaska Museum Of The North, Herbarium (ALA) And Dept. Of Biology And Wildlife, University Of Alaska Fairbanks, 907 Yukon Dr., Fairbanks, AK, 99775, USA
2 - University Of Alaska Fairbanks, Museum Of The North, 907 Yukon Drive, Fairbanks, AK, 99775, USA
3 - University of Alaska Fairbanks, Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, 900 Yukon Dr., Fairbanks, AK, 99709, USA
4 - Arizona State University, SCHOOL OF LIFE SCIENCES FACULTY & ADMIN, BOX 874501, Tempe, AZ, 85287-4501, USA

coal balls
undergraduate education.

Presentation Type: Poster:Posters for Sections
Session: P
Location: Eyrie/Boise Centre
Date: Monday, July 28th, 2014
Time: 5:30 PM
Number: PPB002
Abstract ID:341
Candidate for Awards:None

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