Vertebrate Paleontology

Samantha Hopkins

University of Oregon
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs


Survey of Vertebrate Paleontology for geology undergrads and graduate students

Course URL:
Subject: Geoscience:Paleontology
Resource Type: Course Information
Grade Level: Graduate/Professional, College Upper (15-16)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Paleontology
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an upper-division elective course in vertebrate paleontology with a prerequisite of historical geology. The course has a required 2-hour laboratory (which ought to be 3 hours next time I teach it) and a required one-day field trip.

Course Goals:

Students should be able to recognize most common vertebrate fossils to element and higher taxon.
Students should be able to read and explain the major ideas of primary literature in vertebrate paleontology.
Students should be able to undertake paleontological research projects with supervision.
Students should be able to describe the history of vertebrate evolution on the large scale.
Students should be able to explain several major controversies in vertebrate paleontology, and to discuss the evidence for each side of the argument.
Students should understand how hypotheses are tested in vertebrate paleontological studies.
Students should be able to construct and use phylogenetic trees in analyzing the evolution of vertebrates.

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

Students learn phylogenetics, vertebrate evolutionary history, and general methods of phylogenetic analysis in lectures, while they learn skeletal identification and familiarity with major groups of vertebrates in labs and on the field trip. The term project helps them learn to conduct paleontological research, and teaches more of the details of phylogenetic analysis.

Skills Goals

improving student writing
working in groups
conduct of original research
phylogenetic analysis

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

The term paper teaches most of these skills, although the lab work contributes additionally to these aims.

Attitudinal Goals

Developing students interest in original research and appreciation for their own ability to answer scientific questions.

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

The term project is essential to this goal. The assessment of these goals is mostly from the assessment of the term paper, as well as the students' performance in conducting the research for the term project.


Exams (2)
Term paper
Laboratory quizzes
field notebook grade


Syllabus for vertebrate paleontology (Microsoft Word 34kB Jun16 09)

New TTE Logo Small

Paleontology resources from across Teach the Earth »

Key Resources:

Join the Community:

or Search