Teach the Earth > Paleontology > Teaching Activities > Paleoecology Lab

Paleoecology Lab

James Ebert
State University of New York (SUNY) College at Oneonta
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  1. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

    Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review 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 http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

  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 http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: May 28, 2009


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.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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