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Paleontological Research Institution, Ingrid Zabel


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Chemistry, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type

  • Videos, 5 minutes, 27 seconds

Regional Focus



YouTube Video

Big Insight from Little Things: An Introduction to Isotope Analysis in Climate Science

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  • This video from the Paleontological Research Institution describes how scientists can determine ancient climates using isotopes of oxygen in ancient ocean sediments. 
  • Students will learn how scientists do chemical analyses of fossilized shells in sediment cores to determine historical temperatures. 
Teaching Tips


  • Students will learn how to use different resources to research paleontological climate data.
  • The diagrams used are simple and do a great job of explaining the processes being described.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should have a basic understanding of the hydrologic cycle.
  • Students should be familiar with atomic structure.
  • The Museum of Earth website link in the description is broken.


  • Students can research climates from 100, 1,000, 10,000, 100,000, and 1,000,000 years ago and analyze the processes scientists used to determine each.
  • Students can explore the additional resources listed in the description.
  • Biology and chemistry classes could use this video for lessons about atomic structure, subatomic particles, the uses of stable isotopes in medicine, ecology, biology, and Earth sciences.
  • Students can also explore this lesson about isotopes and getting past temperatures from ice cores.
  • For more information about isotopes, students can explore this lesson about different types of isotopes and how they can be used to make scientific discoveries.
Scientist Notes
This 5-minute video discusses how we know what the Earth's climate was like tens and hundreds of thousands of years ago via climate proxies such as carbon isotopes found in microscopic shells and other sources. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • 6.ESS2.4 Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
      • HS.ESS2.1 Develop a model to illustrate how Earth’s internal and surface processes operate at different spatial and temporal scales to form continental and ocean-floor features.
      • HS.ESS2.5 Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes.
    • PS1: Matter and Its Interactions
      • 7.PS1.1 Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures.
      • HS.PS1.5 Apply scientific principles and evidence to provide an explanation about the effects of changing the temperature or concentration of the reacting particles on the rate at which a reaction occurs.
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