Fossil Identification Project

Melissa Lobegeier
Middle Tennessee State University
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  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

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  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: Jun 4, 2009


The students collected 20 fossil taxa from 5 different locations and 3 different geological periods. They identified the taxa and summarize the paleoenvironmental information about their localities in a powerpoint presentation

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undergraduate required course in invertebrate paleontology

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

knowledge of important morphological characteristics of different invertebrate taxa, use of the Treastise of Invertebrate Paleontology in identifying taxa, relationship of morphology to paleocology, basic knowledge of rocks in Tennessee

How the activity is situated in the course

Culminating project (students collect taxa on the class fieldtrip and submit the taxa and powerpoint presentation at the final exam).


Content/concepts goals for this activity

collection of fossil taxa, accurate description of fossil taxa, identification of fossil taxa, curation of fossil taxa

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

using fossil taxa to formulate hypotheses about the paleocology of the rocks in which they were found, synthesis of ideas, paleoenvironmental determinations

Other skills goals for this activity

writing about fossil taxa and paleoecology of a locality in a concise way

Description of the activity/assignment

Students attend a class fieldtrip where over five locations across Tennessee representing three different geological time periods (Ordovician, Devonian, and Cretaceous) are visited. The students are required to collect 20 different taxa (5 of which must be unique to each student) and then using the knowledge they have gained in labs identify their taxa to species level. They must make a powerpoint presentation summarizing the paleocological and paleoclimatological information gained about each locality through the collection of the fossil taxa. The activity helps familiarize students with the geology of Tennessee and field collection of fossils in addition to lab identification of fossils.

Determining whether students have met the goals

I look at the students' curated collections and their powerpoint presentations and analyze whether they have included all the information outlined in the project handout.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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