Paleoecology Lab

James Ebert
State University of New York (SUNY) College at Oneonta
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This activity gives students practice in identifying fossils in the context of assemblages and allows them to make paleoecological interpretations.

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This is a lower to upper level course required of majors in Geology, Water Resources, Earth Science and Adolescence Education Earth Science. It is typically the second geology course that these students take. It is also taken by majors in Elementary Education who have concentrations in Earth or General Science.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must be able to recognize fossils of major invertebrate phyla and should understand that these were once living creatures which should enable them to make interpretations of the paleoecology and environment represented by each assemblage.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity takes place early in the course and follows a lab on taphonomy and modes of preservation.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Recognition of fossils in assemblages
Reconstruction of ecological roles of organisms
Reconstruction of environmental conditions

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Interpretation of observations
Synthesis of paleoecological information

Other skills goals for this activity

Working in groups

Description of the activity/assignment

In this lab activity, students make observations on four assemblages of fossils, identify the major groups represented, interpret ecological roles and interactions and use this information to reconstruct environmental conditions.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Student written reports are evaluated on two criteria: 1) thoroughness of observation (e.g., are all major groups present in assemblage reported) and 2) reasonableness of interpretations of environmental conditions with supporting evidence.

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