Invertebrate Paleontology 353

Ann Holmes


University of Tennessee @ Chattanooga


Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate



A 3-hour lecture and 3-hour laboratory introduction to invertebrate paleontology. It is taught every other year. I use Prothero's Bringing Fossils to Life text and have no lab manual.

Course URL:
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an undergraduate upper-level course required for the traditional geology BS degree, with prerequisites of introductory geology, historical geology, The course has an associated laboratory, several local day trips and one weekend field trip to a fossil-collecting locality.

Course Goals:

Students should be able to
- articulate paleontological concepts using a well-developed vocabulary
- effectively access paleontological literature
- navigate through Systematics hierarchy
- recognize common fossils from whole specimens, from fragments and in cross-section
- name common fossil characteristics
- interpret fossil assemblages with regard to 
o type of preservation
o nature of accumulation
o paleoecology 
o biostratigraphy
o biogeography
- interpret basic trace fossil evidence
- formulate arguments in support of evolution and extinction

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

As currently structured, the course involves basic lectures tied to text chapters, labs that provide practice 1) using fossil recognition and assemblage concepts, 2) making and documenting collections from nearby fossiliferous Paleozoic strata (Cambro-Ordovician, Silurian, Mississippian and Pennsylvanian terrestrial plant) and 3) traveling to collect and document Cretaceous marine invertebrate fauna on a weekend trip either to the Coon Creek locality in western TN or Eocene fauna from South Carolina quarries. Student evaluation involves short-answer essay exams, a final exam, ~weekly lab exercises and fossil-identification quizzes as well as fossil collections.
A pdf-format rubric is attached below; used to grade fossil collections.

Skills Goals

General Skills Goals
- student writing (short-answer essay questions)
- peer-teaching
- oral communication
- accessing and critically reading literature

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

This paleontology course does not actively seek to develop or evaluate the general skills listed above, but improvement is achieved by the opportunity to implement and be evaluated on many of these skills.

Attitudinal Goals

Building students' confidence in paleontology

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

By working with fossils in labs and on field trips, and reading pertinent literature, students become more confident.


I do not assess student confidence.


Holmes' Paleontology 353 Syllabus 2007 (Microsoft Word 73kB Jun11 09)

Grading Rubric for Fossil Collections (Acrobat (PDF) 38kB Jun11 09)