GEOL30010 Applied Palaeontology

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module introduces you to sets of palaeobiological data that are widely used in Applied Earth Sciences to help reconstruct sedimentary environments: fossils as bioclasts; ichnofabrics and trace fossils.

The section on trace fossils and ichnofabrics explores how the structures produced by organisms as they process sediment (bioturbation) are related to key variables such as depositional context, the organism’s ecology and physiology, plus environmental conditions (including degree of oxygenation and sediment consistency). Use of trace fossils and ichnofabrics as a tool in basin analysis reflects their being routinely sampled in core (probably more so than macrofossils), and thus especially relevant to contexts where outcrop data is not available (e.g. offshore sedimentary basins).

The section on fossils as bioclasts considers how elucidating the taphonomy of fossils (=the processes involved in their preservation) informs on the sedimentary environments the host lithologies accumulated in. We focus on the biomineralized tissues of macrofossils, and, in particular, on the processes involved in the formation of concentrations of skeletal debris (shellbeds and bonebeds) and how their internal structure relates to depositional processes. This section also provides an introduction to the palaeobiology of the principal groups of invertebrate organisms encountered as macrofossils, with a focus on recognition of these in hand specimen and in thin section.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this module students will be have an understanding of:

the basis on which trace fossils are named, and the principal ethologies (behaviour patterns) they represent
how trace fossils are diagnostic of environmental parameters such as salinity, oxygenation, sediment consistency and water depth
how the recurrent association of ichnotaxa (ichnofacies) are characteristic of specific depositional settings, and the use of this in basin analysis
the practical applications of trace fossils in basin analysis, including the appearance of key ichnogenera in field contexts, as well as in randomly oriented sections typical of core
the processes involved in the creation of ichnofabrics, including identifying components generated by overprinting of successive tiers within a community and the emplacement of successive communities
the principal taphonomic processes that impact of skeletal tissues post-mortem and how they inform on environment of deposition]
the processes by which shellbeds and bonebeds form
the identification of the principal groups of invertebrate fossil in hand specimen and thin section
the geological history of the principal groups of invertebrate fossil

Indicative Module Content:

This module includes:
• Lectures
• Peer and group work (presentation and debate)
• Critical writing
• Active/task-based learning
• Completion of an individual project
• Student presentations

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Lectures

24

Practical

44

Specified Learning Activities

35

Autonomous Student Learning

17

Total

120

Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module includes:
• Lectures
• Peer and group work (presentation and debate)
• Critical writing
• Active/task-based learning
• Completion of an individual project
• Student presentations 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.


Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
 
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Continuous Assessment: Three pieces (5, 5, 25% each) of independent practical work and in-house class tests Throughout the Trimester n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No

35

No
Examination: Written examination covering entire course 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Standard conversion grade scale 40% No

35

No
Examination: Practical examination testing the taught skills acquired in the course of the module 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Standard conversion grade scale 40% No

30

No

Carry forward of passed components
No
 
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Students will receive feedback on coursework and assignments throughout the trimester

Name Role
Ms Rachel Healy Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Patrick Orr Lecturer / Co-Lecturer