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Listed below are some example lab activities that you might find useful as examples of others have used or even as lab activities to have your students do. Please make sure when using these activities to acknowledge the authors of the page. If you know of other sources of activities that you find useful for online courses, we encourage you to fill out an activity submission Geology relative dating animation or contact Karin Kirk. General Exploring Earth Investigations Geology relative dating animation McDougal Littell Publishing - numerous online activities that use animations, interactive graphics, and imagery to help students gather information gleaned from lecture content Geology Lab Videos by Tom Braziunas at North Seattle Community College - students can view short video demonstrations of dating 4 rock fans of the physical geology lab activities Reynolds, et al. Exploring Geology, 2nd Edition.
In geology, when an igneous intrusion cuts across a formation of sedimentary rock , it can be determined that the igneous intrusion is younger than the sedimentary rock. There are a number of different types of intrusions, including stocks, laccoliths , batholiths , sills and dikes. Cross-cutting relationships[ edit ] Cross-cutting relations can be used to determine the relative ages of rock strata and other geological structures.
The principle of cross-cutting relationships pertains to the formation of faults and the age of the sequences through which they cut.
Faults are younger than the rocks they cut; accordingly, if a fault is found that penetrates some formations but not those on top of it, then the formations that were cut are older than the fault, and the ones that are not cut must be younger than the fault. Finding the key bed in these situations may help determine whether the fault is a normal fault or a thrust fault. For example, in sedimentary rocks, it is common for gravel from an older formation to be ripped up and included in a newer layer.
A similar situation with igneous rocks occurs when xenoliths are found. These foreign bodies are picked up as magma or lava flows, and are incorporated, later to cool in the matrix. As a result, xenoliths are older than the rock which contains them. Original horizontality[ edit ] The principle of original horizontality states that the deposition of sediments occurs as essentially horizontal beds.
Observation of modern marine and non-marine sediments in a wide variety of environments supports this generalization although cross-bedding is inclined, the overall orientation of cross-bedded units is horizontal. This is because it is not possible for a younger layer to slip beneath a layer previously deposited. This principle allows sedimentary layers to be viewed as a form of vertical time line, a partial or complete record of the time elapsed from deposition of the lowest layer to deposition of the highest bed.
As organisms exist at the same time period throughout the world, their presence or sometimes absence may be used to provide a relative age of the formations in which they are found. Based on principles laid out by William Smith almost a hundred years before the publication of Charles Darwin 's theory of evolution , the principles of succession were developed independently of evolutionary thought. The principle becomes quite complex, however, given the uncertainties of fossilization, the localization of fossil types due to lateral changes in habitat facies change in sedimentary strata , and that not all fossils may be found globally at the same time.
As a result, rocks that are otherwise similar, but are now separated by a valley or other erosional feature, can be assumed to be originally continuous. Layers of sediment do not extend indefinitely; rather, the limits can be recognized and are controlled by the amount and type of sediment available and the size and shape of the sedimentary basin. Sediment will continue to be transported to an area and it will eventually be deposited.
However, the layer of that material will become thinner as the amount of material lessens away from the source. Often, coarser-grained material can no longer be transported to an area because the transporting medium has insufficient energy to carry it to that location. In its place, the particles that settle from the transporting medium will be finer-grained, and there will be a lateral transition from coarser- to finer-grained material.
The lateral variation in sediment within a stratum is known as sedimentary facies. If sufficient sedimentary material is available, it will be deposited up to the limits of the sedimentary basin. Often, the sedimentary basin is within rocks that are very different from the sediments that are being deposited, in which the lateral limits of the sedimentary layer will be marked by an abrupt change in rock type.
Inclusions of igneous rocks[ edit ] Multiple melt inclusions in an olivine crystal. Individual inclusions are oval or round in shape and consist of clear glass, together with a small round vapor bubble and in some cases a small square spinel crystal.
The black arrow points to one good example, but there are several others. The occurrence of multiple inclusions within a single crystal is relatively common Melt inclusions are small parcels or "blobs" of molten rock that are trapped within crystals that grow in the magmas that form igneous rocks. In many respects they are analogous to fluid inclusions. Geologists have studied the order in which fossils appeared and disappeared through time and rocks.
This study is called biostratigraphy. Fossils can help to match rocks of the same age, even when you find those rocks a long way apart. This matching process is called correlation, which has been an important process in constructing geological timescales. Some fossils, called index fossils, are particularly useful in correlating rocks. For a fossil to be a good index fossil, it needs to have lived during one specific time period, be easy to identify and have been abundant and found in many places.
For example, ammonites lived in the Mesozoic era. If you find ammonites in a rock in the South Island and also in a rock in the North Island, you can say that both rocks are Mesozoic.
Different species of ammonites lived at different times within the Mesozoic, so identifying a fossil species can help narrow down when a rock was formed. Correlation can involve matching an undated rock with a dated one at another location. Suppose you find a fossil at one place that cannot be dated using absolute methods. That fossil species may have been dated somewhere else, so you can match them and say that your fossil has a similar age.
Some of the most useful fossils for dating purposes are very small ones. For example, microscopic dinoflagellates have been studied and dated in great detail around the world.