Document Type

Honors Thesis




Jacquelyn Gill

Committee Members

Melissa Ladenheim, Molly Schauffler

Graduation Year

May 2023

Publication Date

Spring 2023


Geologic timescales are central to many concepts in the natural sciences, including evolution, climate change and plate tectonics. However, geologic time scales can be challenging to appreciate, especially for those who have not had exposure to such topics previously. During primary and secondary education (K-12) students are provided with foundational information about geology that is then further developed in specialized classes in college. Yet most students are not getting this foundation, which could arguably lead to deficits in their post-secondary education. Despite the importance of these concepts, especially for those interested in careers associated with geologic timescales, there have been few studies assessing undergraduate understanding of geologic timescales. This study sought to address the described knowledge gap with a survey of college undergraduates, of which a total of 92 students were surveyed. Survey results point towards undergraduates having misunderstandings when it comes to the chronological order of events in earth history and the time between said events and how long those events lasted. The prevalent gap in knowledge identified in this survey suggests an opportunity to include more coverage of geologic time in high school and college curricula, or creation of supplemental materials or activities. Of which either can help facilitate a deeper understanding of other core topics in natural sciences.