High School Micro-course

Carbon cycle in the earth system

Past records of carbon dioxide concentration can indicate global temperature changes. The accumulation of greenhouse gases causes global warming and triggers environmental crises. The course introduced how to use scientific evidence to detect the earth’s temperature change, possible causes of warming, and mechanisms inhibiting temperature rise. The students learned about the carbon cycle through understanding the source and sink of methane and carbon dioxide. They further explored the amount of carbon originated from burning fossil fuels. In the lab visit, they were given a introduction of four large mass spectrometers and portable greenhouse gas detectors to understand the acquisition of scientific data.

Sea level changes with global water cycle

Global average sea level rise is closely related to global warming. Some cities will be inundated. This course started with the rise and fall of sea level and then linked to the changes of land hydrology caused by human activities, for example, extracting groundwater and building dams. It is required to understand the changes of water in various reservoirs before studying sea level changes. The professor introduced how to use the changes in gravity observed by satellites to infer changes in water stored in each reservoir, explored possible causes of the changes, and used simulation to predict precipitation and evaporation. Students were guided to use the difference between simulation and observation to discuss the mechanism affecting the simulation process.

Human land use changes on the regional climate

Changes in land water resources and land use affect regional climate. Using the land area as the starting point, the course explored the source and sink of water resources and then connected to human activity, evaporation, and evapotranspiration of plants. Continuing the water storage theory introduced last week, the course led the students to think from the perspective of scientific measurement through being in nature and answering a lot of questions. Simple experiments were designed to conduct research on exploring the correlation between precipitation and soil moisture. The professor also introduced how to use hoods, temperature probes, satellite data, etc. to estimate evapotranspiration and how global warming affects biodiversity in fog belt in the mountains. Finally, the issue of whether Taiwan’s contribution to global warming is positive or negative was brought into discussion.

Introduction of optical remote sensing to climate change

Global warming has caused environmental and ecological changes. Human activities have been affected as well. The ice cap is shrinking. The growth rate of moths is rising. Warming also brings vegetation crises, especially in the United States and Canada. However, some areas are relatively less influenced, for example, forests in Taiwan and rainforests in Congo. Scientists have conducted a number of research on this. Apart from climate change, internal mechanisms of plants are studied as well. The professor also explained how to use remote sensing to analyze changes of vegetation. In addition to introducing various types of satellites, the professor taught visible spectrum and reflectivity to connect to high school curriculum content and shared examples of applying optical remote sensing like LiDAR. 

How old is the Tatun Volcano Group?

Geological dating helps humans understand the earth history in order to learn from the past. The course discussed how to confirm the age of the Tatun Volcano Group. First, the professor explained radioisotopes and the principles of their decay, the relationship between the parent isotope and the daughter isotope, as well as the various dating methods and the range of time of each method. The students were then introduced to U-Pb dating of zircon. They visited labs to see the sample preparation process of zircon target and examined zircon under transmitted and reflected light of optical microscope. Through observing optical characteristics of hand specimens and thin sections, the students understood mineral assemblages of igneous rock and possible dating materials.

Environmental pollution and water resources

Water has played a crucial role in human life since ancient times. Even though more than 70% of the earth is covered by water, the available fresh water only accounts for 10%. In Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs)proposed by the United Nations, one of the urgent issues is that everyone can enjoy clean water resources. The course introduced the strategies and engineering used when facing water shortage in Taiwan and abroad, for example, California State Water Project, membrane and water recycling, and dam construction. The professor also brought out topics of emerging contaminants, environmental hormones, water purification methods and materials. The students were further given an introduction to different water pollution incidents and chemical principles like redox reaction. Through lab visits, they learned the making and testing machines of different materials.