Field collection and community analysis project

Karen A Koy
Missouri Western State University
Author Profile

  1. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

    This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

    • Scientific Accuracy
    • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
    • Pedagogic Effectiveness
    • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
    • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

    For more information about the peer review process itself, please see

  2. This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see

This page first made public: May 21, 2009


The class will take field trips to different fossil localities in Missouri, where students will collect and identify the fossils they find. They will perform a community analysis, using a statistics program. The end product will be a report written in the style of a scientific article.

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Upper-level elective paleontology course for biology majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

basic math
data organization

How the activity is situated in the course

This project spans several weeks, with field collection, fossil identification, quantitative analysis and writing happening in several stages.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

field collection techniques
identification of fossils

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

analysis of data in terms of biodiversity
synthesis of data with literature
reconstruction of a paleocommunity using data & literature

Other skills goals for this activity

using web- and library-based resources
using statistical programs

Description of the activity/assignment

Lectures which precede this activity cover the different fossil groups, time period & depositional environment of the localities, as when as basic ecology & biodiversity. During class, the students go on a field trip to fossil localities to collect their data. Back in class, the students use the primary literature, fossil id books and web-based resources like Paleontology Portal to identify their fossil organisms. They perform a quantitative analysis of biodiversity, and reconstruct the paleocommunity based on their data and the literature. The end product is a scientific-style paper.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Did the students work properly in the field? Did they collect an adequate amount of data?
Did they correctly identify their fossils? Did they correctly interpret their ecological niches?
Did they use the appropriate statistical tests? Do their results accurately reflect their data?
Did they correctly reconstruct their paleoenvironment, including all the organisms they identified in their proper ecological roles.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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