Marine and Ecological Sciences
Florida Gulf Coast University
Taxonomy & Phylogeny: Building and Comparing a Taxonomy and Phylogeny of Bivalve Mollusks part of Cutting Edge:Paleontology:Activities
This is a two-part exercise that introduces the principles and methods behind taxonomy and phylogenetics. In part I, students, by describing the morphology of various species of modern and fossil bivalve mollusks, intuitively develop a taxonomy. In part II, a detailed character matrix is constructed and this used to find the most parsimonious phylogeny using cladistics (MacClade software). The two products are then compared.
Macroevolution: Patterns and Processes of the Cambrian Metazoan Radiation part of Cutting Edge:Paleontology:Activities
Diversification patterns for clades belonging to the Cambrian Fauna (i.e., one of Sepkoski's Three Great Faunas) are generated and then used to test whether deterministic or random processes drove this radiation. It has been proposed that adaptive radiations (which are deterministic in nature) are likely to generate clades that are "bottom heavy" and should exhibit greatest diversity early in the clade's history. Diversification patterns that are driven by random processes are more likely to produce a symmetrical pattern of diversity through time. Students generate clade diversity diagrams for numerous clades among the Cambrian Fauna (using the Sepkoski compendium), use description statistics to determine whether the clades are bottom-heavy, compile their results, and interpret the data collaboratively.
Functional Morphology: Philosophy and Methodology part of Cutting Edge:Paleontology:Activities
This is short thought exercise used to introduce the subject of functional morphology. Students are asked to use their intuition to generate hypotheses of functional morphology. Through this students recognize the need to approach functional analysis rigorously. The conceptual change model from inquiry-based educational practice is employed.
Capstone Research Project: Holocene History of Estuarine Environmental Change part of Cutting Edge:Paleontology:Activities
This is a collaborative, semester-long research project that students conduct as their capstone activity for the course. The project is designed to be comprehensive and apply numerous concepts, topical units, and methodologies from the course.
The Fidelity of the Fossil Record: Using Preservational Characteristics of Fossils within an Assemblage to Interpret the Relative State of Spatial and Temporal Fidelity part of Cutting Edge:Paleontology:Activities
This exercise introduces students to the concept of temporal and spatial fidelity, to the different types of fossil assemblages, and how the taphonomic characteristics of an assemblage can be used to assess the relative state of fidelity. The exercise is suitable when introducing the discipline of taphonomy, typically covered near the beginning of a course in paleontology or paleobiology.
Geobiology part of Cutting Edge:Paleontology:Courses
Geobiology introduces the basic principles used in the study of paleontology (study of the fossil record) and illustrates how this science is applied to problems in the geological and biological sciences (e.g., macroevolution, paleoecology, biostratigraphy, phylogeny, biogeography, and environmental science). For example, the fossil record provides: information about environmental change; an historic framework within which to understand human-induced environmental alteration; a database with which to test hypotheses about evolution; and a chronological framework for Earth history. These are among the applications the course considers. In addition, the course introduces students to the various groups of fossil organisms preserved throughout Earth history.