GEOS 212
Paleobiology Spring 2020
Division III
Cross-listed BIOL 211 / GEOS 212

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The fossil record is a direct window into the history of life on Earth and contains a wealth of information on evolution, biodiversity, and climate change. This course investigates the record of ancient life forms, from single-celled algae to snails to dinosaurs. In addition to the intellectual discovery of fossils as organic relics and the ways in which fossils have been used to support conflicting views on nature, geologic time, and evolution, we will cover a range of topics central to modern paleobiology. These include: how the fossil record informs our understanding of evolutionary processes including speciation; the causes and consequences of mass extinctions; how fossils help us tell time and reconstruct the Earth’s climactic and tectonic history; statistical analysis of the fossil record to reconstruct biodiversity through time; analysis of fossil morphology to recreate the biomechanics of extinct organisms; and using fossil communities to reconstruct past ecosystems. Laboratory exercises will take advantage of Williams’ fossil collections as well as published datasets to provide a broad understanding of fossils and the methods we use to study the history of life on Earth, including using the programming language R (no previous experience is required). We will also view a diversity of fossils in their geologic and paleo-environmental context on our field trip to Eastern New York. This course is in the Sediments and Life group for the Geosciences major.
The Class: Type: lecture/laboratory; field trip to the the Paleozoic of New York State
Limit: 15
Expected: 12
Class#: 3600
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: lab assignments, short quizzes and writing assignments, and a final exam
Prerequisites: any 100-level GEOS course or BIOL 102, 203 or 205
Enrollment Preferences: sophomore and junior GEOS majors
Unit Notes: does not satisfy the distribution requirement for the Biology major
Distributions: Division III
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
BIOL 211 Division III GEOS 212 Division III
Attributes: EXPE Experiential Education Courses
GEOS Group B Electives - Sediments + Life
MAST Interdepartmental Electives

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