Department of Earth Sciences
University of Minnesota
Materials Contributed through SERC-hosted Projects
Earth History part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Earth History Approach:Examples
This Earth history class is intended for non-geoscience majors and follows a chronological structure, starting with the Big Bang and finishing in the anthropogenic period. Abridged from the syllabus: This course is an introduction to the history of the Earth and its life over the last 4.6 billion years. The story of the ever changing Earth and its inhabitants is written in the rocks that make up the Earth, the fossils of past life forms found in those rocks, and the diversity of life on Earth today. To read this story, we will first learn some of the basic language and principles used by geologists, paleontologists, and biologists to describe and understand the history of our planet. Key concepts include Earth materials, depositional environments, the geological timescale, plate tectonics, and evolutionary theory. In the rest of the course, we will use these basic principles to examine the evolution of life in the context of the tectonic and climatic history of the Earth. Topics in the history of life will include the earliest evidence for life, the Cambrian explosion, the origin of ecosystems on land, life in the time of the dinosaurs, and the evolution of mammals, including humans. Throughout the course we will touch on the historical development of the fundamental ideas of modern geology and biology. The laboratory will provide additional information and exercises to reinforce understanding of the basic principles, processes, and historical patterns discussed in lecture.