Frequently Asked Questions

Carbon Cycle Frequently Asked Questions


What is the GLOBE Carbon Cycle project about?

The GLOBE Carbon Cycle brings cutting edge research and research techniques in the field of terrestrial ecosystem carbon cycling into the classroom. Students will collect biomass and carbon storage data at their school field site through the Carbon Cycle protocols. They will also participate in classroom activities to understand the collected data. In addition to the traditional GLOBE experience, students will have the opportunity to integrate their data with emerging and expanding technologies including global and local carbon cycle models. This instructional design will allow students to explore research questions from local to global scales with both present and future environmental conditions.


Why should we be interested in the carbon cycle?

Carbon is the most abundant element in living things and accounts for approximately 50% of the total mass of plants and animals. Carbon is also present in Earth's land, atmosphere and oceans and, over time, is cycled between all of these components of the environment. The carbon cycle has a large impact on Earth, both globally and locally. At a global scale, the carbon cycle influences Earth's climate and is a key factor keeping ecological systems in balance. Locally, the carbon cycle plays a large role in basic ecological processes such as plant growth and accumulation, as well as the death and decay of plant material. The carbon cycle also includes carbon that is in molecules of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a principal greenhouse gas and the primary cause of climate change. Because ecosystems across the land surface store as much carbon as the atmosphere, carbon taken up by plants and soils plays an important role in regulating climate. With climate change at the forefront of both science and policy discussions, a better understanding of all aspects of the carbon cycle is needed. Students involved in the GLOBE Carbon Cycle project will not only contribute to our current state of scientific knowledge, they will also be filling society's growing need for informed citizens and trained professionals in future generations.


Who can participate?

The carbon cycle is of global importance; therefore one of the goals of this project is to allow participation by the entire international GLOBE community. Activities have been developed which are both interesting for the students and compatible with the science curricula of all schools that wish to participate.


What data will be used?

Models require data inputs (e.g. climate, biome), which are available online. If students can collect data for their own field site they will be able to compare their own measurements to the data provided, as well as use their collected data as model inputs. In addition to model inputs, student collected data such as tree diameter and biomass will be used to assess site level carbon budgets and compare them to other GLOBE school sites, calculate student or school carbon footprints, and perform other analyses that students find interesting.


What will the students do?

Students will collect data on biomass and carbon storage in vegetation around/near  their school. Students will then be able to analyze their data comparing it to previous results or with data collected by other schools around the world. Students will also be able to use computer models to look at patterns of data at different spatial and temporal scales. The performance of these tasks will be focused on answering larger research questions about the role terrestrial ecosystems play in the carbon cycle. Students will have the opportunity to look at questions that scientists ask in their daily work, as well as to ask their own questions. Students will be encouraged to explore and answer these questions through individual and group research projects.


What grade levels can participate?

Students at the secondary school level (grades 6-12) will be able to participate most readily, based on where the carbon cycle lies within curriculum standards. However, many introductory activities can be modified to fit with younger audiences.


What technology is needed to participate (computer, internet access, software, etc.)?

A computer with internet access is necessary the computer modeling activities, and field protocol data entry and analysis. Some activities require a spreadsheet program.