EOSC 326 (3 cr): Earth and Life Through Time


By the end of the course students will be able to express how the concept of geological time is vital to our understanding of the evolution of the Earth System. Given the demographic of the students taking this course, a geological insight into biological evolution provides a useful perspective for students in the life sciences. In the first part of the course, students will apply basic geological principles and techniques in the interpretation of Earth’s early history of life and mass extinctions. The second portion of the course will focus on the evolution of marine life following the Cambrian Explosion and the early history of the vertebrates. Rather than a standard description of the progression of life through time, this part of the course will be developed as a series of themes in which organisms’ adaptations to specific environments will be examined.

Brief Outline of Curriculum:

Module A: Geological Principles and Stratigraphy

  1. Time Rocks and Stratigraphy
  2. Sediments and Geological Time
  3. Lithostratigraphy and Biostratigraphy – Correlating Rocks

On-Line LAB 1: Utilizing basic geological principles in the interpretation of geological sections

Module B: Origins

  1. The Building of Life’s Nursery
  2. The Early Stirrings of Life
  3. Decoding the Snowballs and the Rise of the Metazoans
  4. The Cambrian Explosion
  5. The Extinction Concept
  6. Extinction Event Case Studies

Module C: Adaptations to the ocean environment

  1. Bioherms: Understanding the origins, variations and concepts of a ‘reef’ environment.
  2. Benthic adaptations: Investigation into how various groups have adapted to life on the ocean floor including bivalves and brachiopods.
  3. Moving on the ocean floor: The trilobites, movement and the significance of the development of eyes.
  4. Moving through the water column: The cephalopod strategy for “getting off the ocean floor.”

Module D: Moving continents and life: Paleobiogeography

  1. Intro concepts
  2. Tracing the moving continents and the shifting oceans

On-Line LAB 2: Interpreting paleobiology from fossil specimens

Module E: The Vertebrates: A case study

  1. From Early Origins to Walking on Land Part 1
  2. From Early Origins to Walking on Land Part 2

Student Assessment:

  • Online quizzes (Module A and B)
  • Online laboratory exercises
  • Invigilated final exam (Module C, D and E: 45%)


Students are required to have 3rd year standing in science and a 100-level biology course.



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