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A Physical and Virtual Marine Sediment Core Kit

Caroline Robinson, Geology Department, James Madison University; John Firth, Curator, Integrated Ocean Discovery Program, Gulf Coast Repository, Texas A&M University; and Kristen St. John, Geology Department, James Madison University,

Overview: A primary objective of marine science classes is to learn the location and formation of ocean sediment types. Paper text and online multimedia both fall short of the experience of handling real ocean sediment. Real samples enhance learning through sight, touch, and smell, and microscope slides (smear slides for use with a petrographic microscope) allow students to better comprehend the tiny sizes and forms of various sediment components.

Real samples provide only pinpoint examples of the ocean floor, yet they swim within a virtual ocean of geological data that is best utilized with online visualization tools like Google Earth. We have merged both the real and the virtual by creating a Google Earth based supplemental information resource for each example of ocean sediment from an IODP sediment Core Kit consisting of core catcher sections and sediment smear slides that teachers may borrow for classroom instruction.

47 years of scientific ocean drilling has produced over 50,000 short core catcher sections that are sparsely used for post-cruise scientific research, making them an excellent resource for teaching, providing opportunity for engaged active pedagogies, and a more scientific approach to learning about the Earth.

IODP’s online databases and publications have a wealth of associated information to supplement physical cores. To complement the Physical Core Kit, we created a virtual resource for each section in the kit. This Google Earth Virtual Core Kit addition shows core locations and how their location influenced their sediment type. Each core has a information on the sediment type, with links to images, core descriptions, maps, geologic interpretations, and other data. The Virtual Core Kit provides comprehensive, efficient access to information condensed down to essentials for learning. An interactive animation shows core photos emerging from the ocean floor, illustrating where the sediment cores originate. The Physical and Virtual Core Kit is an exciting new educational resource for those wanting hands-on and interactive teaching options for basic Earth and ocean science. It can be used alone or with other Google Earth resources on marine sediments, including a new virtual map of >4000 marine sites showing the distribution of primary seafloor sediment types (

Audience: Intended for use in undergraduate Oceanography, Marine Geology, Paleoceanography, and Sedimentology courses.

Download the Virtual Core Kit: Core Kit 4-6-16

Request the Physical Core Kit: The physical core kit can be requested via the same system that scientists use to request research samples: Click on the green Sample and Data Request button. This will take you to a new link where you can set up an account and submit your request. The core kit contains the 8 core sections and representative smear slides of the sediments within those sections. For your convenience, the following link is an excel file containing the core information that you can use in your sample request for the core kit:

References and Acknowledgements: Data used in this exercise comes from the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP,, the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP, The IODP Google Earth Bore Hole Map was used as a starting point for data access, and a model for organizing access to scientific reports and data. The resource was modeled after a new virtual marine sediment map of the ocean floor that was developed as part of the GEODE project. Information on core sites and lithologies were derived from the scientific reports associated with each research expedition. A cross section generator program was adapted to use to elevate photos of cores rising up from the seafloor. Development of this exercise is supported by the NSF-funded GEODE project.