Skip to content Skip to navigation

Courses

Courses banner

Life originally evolved in the ocean. When, why, and how did the major transitions occur in the history of marine life? What triggered the rapid evolution and diversification of animals in the Cambrian, after more than 3.5 billion years of Earth's history? What caused Earth's major mass extinction events? How do ancient extinction events compare to current threats to marine ecosystems? How has the evolution of primary producers impacted animals, and how has animal evolution impacted primary producers? In this course, we will review the latest evidence regarding these major questions in the history of marine ecosystems. We will develop familiarity with the most common groups of marine animal fossils. We will also conduct original analyses of paleontological data, developing skills both in the framing and testing of scientific hypotheses and in data analysis and presentation.

The course will focus on the macroevolution of animals. We will be exploring how paleobiology and developmental biology/genomics have contributed to our understanding of the origins of animals, and how patterns of evolution and extinction have shaped the diversity of animal forms we observe today.

The advent of large, publicly accessible sources of data relevant to paleobiology has opened new avenues for quantifying large-scale patterns in the history of life and for identifying their underlying causes. How and why has biodiversity changed over time? What factors control evolutionary trends within clades? How have environmental changes affected the evolution of life? In this course, we will introduce several of the most widely accessed sources of data for paleobiological analysis, such as the Paleobiology Database and Macrostrat, develop techniques for downloading and cleaning these data, and then explore several of the most commonly used statistical techniques in paleobiology, including phylogenetic analysis, phylogenetic regression and model fitting, logistic regression, ordination, and subsampling to analyze these data.

Processes of precipitation and sedimentation of carbonate minerals with emphasis on marine systems. Topics include: geographic and bathymetric distribution of carbonates in modern and ancient oceans; genesis and environmental significance of carbonate grains and sedimentary textures; carbonate rocks and sediments as sources of geochemical proxy data; carbonate diagenesis; changes in styles of carbonate deposition through Earth history; carbonate depositional patterns and the global carbon cycle. Lab exercises emphasize petrographic and geochemical analysis of carbonate rocks including map and outcrop scale, hand samples, polished slabs, and thin sections.