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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Earth Science

Undergraduate Course: Topics in Palaeobiology and Evolution (EASC10100)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThis course will introduce students to the unique aspects of the evolution of life on Earth. They will gain a critical understanding of how we study key evolutionary processes, and explore how these systems have evolved over geological time. The requisite reading will ensure that learning is informed by forefront developments in the field. Presentation skills to an informal audience will be practised, and students are generally expected to offer professional level interpretations and critically identify the major/ current issues in a selected, specialised field.
Course description This course is designed to introduce you to key topics in evolutionary palaeobiology, with an emphasis of active research topics being undertaken in the School of GeoSciences. We wish you to engage with research level scientific thinking and scholarship by becoming familiar with the primary literature; honing your skills of synthesis, analysis, and critical thinking; and presenting your work to your fellow students using posters and talks in a professional setting.

This course will deepen understanding of the evolution of life over time and how scientists study fossils, the fossil record, and evolution in deep time. The focus will be on cutting edge palaeontological and geobiological research topics and controversies, particularly those that are being researched by Edinburgh-based scientists. The first four course sessions will each focus on a particular integrative topic. Students will be given a selection of primary literature to read before each session. The session will begin with a short lecture on the weeks topic, in which the subject is described, the work being actively undertaken in Edinburgh is summarised, and the primary methods used to the study the topic are outlined. Following the lecture there will be a discussion of the lecture and literature readings, which will then be followed by either a practical exercise in which students get first-hand experience with the research techniques discussed in the lecture, or a group discussion of continuing controversies. Groups and individuals may be asked to make informal oral presentations. The fifth session will be a local fieldtrip in which students identify fossils in the field, use those fossils to reconstruct ancient environments, and produce a field report.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Pass in Palaeontology and Sedimentology (EASC10106), or equivalent is required.
Additional Costs Costs are to be confirmed. They will be reviewed on a yearly basis and are subject to change. Please be aware that students who are taking this course as an elective will pay full price and not a subsidised fee. Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons, including security risks, increased costs or inability to access field locations. Any changes to the main destination of the field course will be announced as soon as possible.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesPrior knowledge of palaeontology and sedimentology is required (to be assessed on a case by case basis).
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2017/18, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  35
Course Start Semester 2
Course Start Date 15/01/2018
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 16, Fieldwork Hours 8, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 74 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Written Exam: 0%, Course Work: 100 %, Practical Exam: 0%.

You will be assessed by two pieces of work:
1) Presentation (50%) and
2) Poster based on the Fieldtrip (50%)

Students will be randomly assigned to groups.

Reading will be assigned just prior to course start.

Presentations/reports/posters - during the week of each topic

Feedback Each course meeting will in large part be discussion based, so there will be constant formative feedback, as well as peer feedback. Students will give presentations and/or posters, and these will be critiqued by fellow students, as well as staff. Verbal and written feedback on both the poster and presentation will be given. The fieldtrip also offers a forum for discussion.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Develop a research-level understanding of selected topics from the contemporary palaeontology and evolution literature. Develop skills of literature synthesis and analysis, and advanced skills in presentation (verbal, powerpoint slides and poster)
  2. Acquire skills in statistical techniques to understand biodiversity and evolution and fluency in techniques for palaeoecological analysis
  3. Understanding of the use of diverse geochemical proxies, and biogeochemical processes
  4. Ability to conduct and interpret phylogenetic analyses
  5. Acquisition of integrated paleontological field skills and biostratigraphy
Reading List
General texts:

Knoll, A.H., Canfield, D.E., and Konhauser, K O., Editors, 2011. Fundamentals of Gebiology, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester.

Brusatte, S. 2012. Dinosaur Paleobiology, Wiley-Blackwell

Additional primary literature will be provided before each topical session
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Presentation skills;
Writing skills;
Critical analysis;
Time management;
Team working;
KeywordsPalaeontology; geobiology; geochemistry; phylogeny; evolutionary dynamics; the fossil record
Course organiserDr Rachel Wood
Tel: (0131 6)50 6014
Course secretaryMiss Eilein Fraser
Tel: (0131 6)50 5430
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