Walking Through Time
Just how long is 545 million years? About a half mile.
Our life span may last 80, 90 or 100 years at the most. And our view of historic time may get blurry beyond three or four generations. It is no wonder that Earth science scholars can be challenged by the concept of geologic eras (several 100 million years) and eons (approximately one billion years), at least until they have walked through one.
The Geologic Time Scale Walk at Kent State University at Stark puts time into perspective. The half-mile path around the campus pond and wetland research area uses colorful, informational signs to space out Earth’s most recent 545 million years — through Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras. Using the same scale, the origin of the Earth, 4.6 billion years ago, would be at the Akron-Canton Airport. Visitors learn about each time period’s plants and animals as they explore the geology and paleontology of Ohio.
Carrie Schweitzer, Ph.D., professor of geology at Kent State Stark, designed the walk and directed its installation in 2008 for Kent State Stark’s first Earth Day celebration. She modeled the exhibit after other time scale walks in the U.S., including those at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado and the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
“The expanse of geologic time surprises people,” Schweitzer says. “Students are shocked by how long dinosaurs existed compared to how short a time humans have existed. And they often don’t know about the interesting mammals that lived after the dinosaurs.”
Schweitzer requires all students in her core science courses to visit the Geologic Time Scale Walk. It is open year-round to the public and is listed as one of the Geological Society of America’s EarthCache™ sites.
The walk begins outside Kent State Stark’s Main Hall, near the East Wing, and circles the pond at the campus’ northeast corner, ending near the gazebo.