Data Puzzle Collection

Data Puzzles are all suitable for middle and high school classrooms. Most Data Puzzles require upwards of two 60-minute class periods to complete. Each Data Puzzle is connected to a specific scientist who has contributed their own or related real datasets for the activity.

The Data Puzzle team will be building out even more activities in the near future, so check back often. Are you interested in developing your own Data Puzzle, or is there a particular topic or dataset you'd like to see in a future activity? Let us know! Contact us at Datapuzzles@colorado.edu.

 

Data Puzzle: Tracing Carbon Through the Arctic Food Web

Arctic food web

Despite average winter temperatures of -30°F and being covered by sea ice for much of the year, the Arctic is home to a huge variety of living things (humans included) that have adapted to these harsh conditions. However, environmental conditions are changing. The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the global average and as a result, sea ice is melting rapidly. Scientists are racing to learn more about the changing Arctic climate system with some ecologists investigating the question, "how might the decline in sea ice affect Arctic organisms large and small?" 

Scientist: Arctic Ecologists

Dataset(s): Relative percentages of carbon-based fats (produced by sea ice and ocean algae) collected from various Arctic organisms.

NGSS Standards: LS2.B Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems

Teacher Guide
Slide Deck
Student Worksheet

 

Data Puzzle: The Tipping Point

Location map

Moss campion is a hearty tundra plant that lives over a wide range of latitudes from New Mexico all the way up to Alaska. For more than twenty years, ecologists have been tracking the vital rates (survival, growth, and reproduction) of moss campion from four study sites to investigate questions like, "How is moss campion reproduction affected by temperature?" Questions like this one can give scientists insight into how these plants might be impacted by climate changes.

Scientists: Ecologists Dr. Bill Morris (Duke University), Dr. Megan DeMarche (University of Georgia), and Dr. Dan Doak (University of Colorado Boulder)

Dataset(s): Moss campion reproduction rate and average July temperatures

NGSS Standards: LS4.C: Adaptations; LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience; ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

Teacher Guide
Slide Deck
Student Worksheet

 

Data Puzzle: Megadrought in the Colorado River Basin

Megadrought

Much of the western United States is experiencing drought conditions. In this Data Puzzle, students analyze authentic climate data to construct explanatory models for the following question, "What is causing the megadrought in the Colorado River Basin?" Figure credit: National Park Service

Scientist: Seth Arens, Utah Research Integration Specialist for the Western Water Assessment 

Dataset(s): Colorado River Basin temperature and precipitation over time

NGSS Standards: ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

Teacher Guide
Slide Deck
Student Worksheet

 

Data Puzzle: Megafire - Rare Occurrences or the New Normal?

Forest fire

Over the past few years there has been a lot of attention in the media given to large wildfires known as, “megafires”. But are megafires a new phenomenon? How and why has the number of megafires changed over time? Figure credit: DMCA

Scientist: Dr. Natasha Stavros, Fire Ecologist at the University of Colorado Boulder

Dataset(s): Megafire frequency over time

NGSS Standards: ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

Teacher Guide
Slide Deck
Student Worksheet

 

Data Puzzle: On a Budget

Global Temperature Anomalies

Rising global temperatures over the past century indicate that Earth’s energy budget is out of balance, with the Arctic heating up at a rate faster than the global average. What can the amount of incoming shortwave and outgoing longwave energy to and from the Arctic tell us about Arctic amplification? Figure credit: NSIDC

Scientist: Dr. Jen Kay, Atmospheric Scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder

Dataset(s): Incoming shortwave radiation (energy from the Sun) and Arctic temperatures over time

NGSS Standards: ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

Teacher Guide
Slide Deck
Student Worksheet

 

Data Puzzle: To Reflect or Not To Reflect

Graph of sea ice over time

The color of Earth's surface determines how much of the Sun's energy is reflected or absorbed, where lighter-colored surfaces are more reflective. How might the Arctic’s albedo be affected by the observed decline in sea ice? Figure credit: NASA

Scientist: Dr. Jen Kay, Atmospheric Scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder

Dataset(s): Albedo and average September sea ice extent in the Arctic over time

NGSS Standards: ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

Teacher Guide
Slide Deck
Student Worksheet
Data Nugget

 

Data Puzzle: It's All Connected

Sea ice lead

What makes the Arctic climate system so unique is the sea ice, which influences the Arctic climate in many ways. What effect, if any, do leads (cracks in the sea ice) have on the transfer of moisture between the Arctic ocean and atmosphere? Photo credit: Michael Gutsche, AWI

Scientist: Gina Jozef, Ph.D. student and drone pilot at the University of Colorado Boulder

Dataset(s): Humidity measurements upwind, downwind, and over an Arctic sea ice lead (crack) at various altitudes

NGSS Standards: ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes; ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

Teacher Guide
Slide Deck

Student Worksheet

 

 

 

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