GEOL 159: Prehistoric Life

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1 GEOL 159: Prehistoric Life Content of the Course Welcome to GEOL 159! This course is an introduction to the history of life on our planet, beginning with the first oceans over 3.5 billion years ago. Because paleontology is an integrative science, basic information from a number of disciplines such as biology, geology, and chemistry will be used to understand the big picture. However, this course assumes no prior knowledge of biology, geology, or chemistry other than a high school level background. Evolution is currently the only viable scientific theory for the origin and history of life. As a part of science, evolutionary theory necessarily excludes metaphysical considerations such as ultimate origins (where the universe came from and why it exists) and whether a supernatural entity or force has also influenced the origin of life and its history. However, this course will go beyond the bounds of science to examine metaphysical alternatives to evolutionary theory. In doing so, we will explore the relationship between scientific and nonscientific perspectives. What You Will Learn This course will cover the following topics: the scientific perspective the nature of life and the conditions and resources necessary for the maintenance of life the way that metaphysical explanations have shaped our views of the origin of life how fossils are formed, and how fossils and other scientific data are used to determine ages and the geological time scale the full range of life forms from the earliest bacteria to modern humans, excluding the plant kingdom what evolutionary theory entails and how it integrates scientific and historical data from many sources to explain the broad patterns of biological change through 3.8 billion years of Earth's history the origin of invertebrates and characteristics of major invertebrate taxa the origin of vertebrates and characteristics of their major groups evolutionary transitions linking fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals with their ancestral stock groups the nature of life in the Triassic Period, when mammals and dinosaurs first evolved the biology, life habits, classification, and evolution of dinosaurs

2 the genealogy of our own species human beginning with shrew like primate ancestors over 65 million years ago. Texts See course description for an up to date list of materials. Library Resources Students enrolled in Carolina Courses Online can access online library resources from the UNC Library System by linking to Distance Education Library Services. This site includes information on using general online reference works as well as accessing e reserves. If you are using an off campus computer, you will need to enter your UNC Onyen and password to access the library resources. The UNC library staff is available to assist any students who have difficulties accessing online library resources. If you encounter difficulties, please visit this webpage for reporting a problem and the Proxy Server Team will respond. Course Structure and Requirements Although this course is offered over the Internet, it is structured much like a regular classroom course, with a semester timetable, assignment deadlines, and exams. The course begins with the first day of classes at UNC Chapel Hill, and ends with the last day of final exams. Grading is based on the following formula: Lessons and assignments: 40 percent Midterm: 15 percent Final: 15 percent Discussion forum participation: 20 percent Paper: 10 percent All assignments are due by 11:59 pm Eastern time on the date indicated in the Schedule (see lefthand sidebar of the Sakai site). Midterm and final exams: The midterms and final exam will be ed on the dates indicated in the course schedule and will have a specified time by which to complete and return them by . Exams not returned by the specified time will lose points in proportion to the number of minutes they are late. Note that these exams are ed via the class listserv in Sakai, so you must keep us informed of any changes in your address. Discussion forum: The discussion forums will be online discussions of assigned topics between you and your group members or the class at large. Aside from posting your response to the primary discussion question, you must post at least two messages in the forum on two different days during each lesson to earn full participation points. Your participation in the forum will be monitored by

3 your instructor, who will engage with you on the discussion forum when appropriate. Please use the forum to ask questions about the readings, share ideas and opinions, and work with fellow students throughout the semester. Paper: You will turn in 800 1,100 word (12 point font, double spaced) paper on a scientific journal article pertaining to some aspect of paleontology (fossils, evolution, preservation, and so on your choice, as long is it's relevant to the course). Do not go over or under the word count, which includes everything in your file (title, paper, references, and so on). You must read a journal article from a journal such as Nature, Science, Paleos, and so on. Ask me if you need help finding an article. The paper will be worth 10 percent of your grade. It will consist of three parts: 1. A summary of the article and an explanation of why it is important/relevant. (two paragraphs) 2. A critique of the article based on what you've learned in the class; that is, is the information correct? Is it thorough? How well did the author explain the material? What did the author do well? What needed work? (two to three paragraphs) 3. Four or five open ended questions that the article brought up in your mind about the research or what the next step is for research. You must also provide a complete reference for the article (title, author name, journal/paper name, volume, and so on). Expectations: All assignments must be written in your own words. If you acquire information from sources other than the text (other websites, journals, and so on), then those sources must be clearly and completely cited in your work. You should avoid close paraphrasing and frequent quoting from the text or other sources. Your assignments should show me that you have a firm grasp of the material; relying too much on the wording and structure of the text suggests otherwise. If cheating or plagiarism is suspected, you will receive one warning. Subsequent suspected incidents will be reported to the Honor Council. You are expected to read and understand the Honor Code (see Honor Code section below). Academic Policies By enrolling as a student in this course, you agree to abide by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill policies related to the acceptable use of online resources. Please consult the Acceptable Use Policy on topics such as copyright, net etiquette, and privacy protection. As part of this course, you may be asked to participate in online discussions or other online activities that may include personal information about you or other students in the course. Please be respectful of the rights and protection of other participants under the UNC Chapel Hill Information Security Policies when participating in online classes. When using online resources offered by organizations not affiliated with UNC Chapel Hill, such as Google or YouTube, please note that the terms and conditions of these companies and not the University s Terms and Conditions apply. These third parties may offer different degrees of privacy

4 protection and access rights to online content. You should be well aware of this when posting content to sites not managed by UNC Chapel Hill. When links to sites outside of the unc.edu domain are inserted in class discussions, please be mindful that clicking on sites not affiliated with UNC Chapel Hill may pose a risk for your computer due to the possible presence of malware on such sites. Honor Code Remember that as a student of UNC Chapel Hill, you are bound by the University's Honor Code, which states that It shall be the responsibility of every student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to obey and support the enforcement of the Honor Code, which prohibits lying, cheating, or stealing when these actions involve academic processes or University students or academic personnel acting in an official capacity. All graded academic work must include a pledge comprised of the following: No unauthorized assistance has been received or given in the completion of this work. An especially serious Honor Code violation is plagiarism. To become more familiar with the issues surrounding plagiarism, and how to best avoid this academic issue, take the UNC Libraries Plagiarism Tutorial. If you have questions, please consult your instructor. If cheating or plagerism is suspected, you will receive one warning. Subsequent suspected incidents will be reported to the Honor Council. You should avoid close paraphrasing and frequent quoting from the text or other sources. Your assignments should show me that you have a firm grasp of the material; relying too much on the wording and structure of the text suggests otherwise. Course Mechanics We recommend that you use the feature of Sakai for this course. There is an link in the left navigation bar. Select Compose a Message, select your recipient(s), click the CC box to send a copy of the message to recipients addresses (otherwise the message will be internal to the Sakai site), put CCO GEOL 159 in the Subject line, and compose your message. Then click Send. By using Sakai s , a copy of any messages you send will be automatically saved in the Sakai site. All communication from me will go to your UNC Onyen address. You can use your preferred program to access your UNC account, called HeelMail, by following the instructions on the About HeelMail page on UNC s Information and Technology Services website. Under Useful Links you will find a Help document called How to access HeelMail using your preferred program. Library Services and Resources (including e reserves) Students enrolled in Carolina Courses Online have access to the UNC Library System. Visit Distance Education Library Services to access a wide array of online services and resources including e reserves, online databases, online journals, online books, and live help with research and library

5 access. Most online resources require you to log in with your Onyen and password. If you have any trouble finding the resource that you need or logging in to a resource, you can contact the library through the contact information at Distance Education Library Services. You can chat live about your problem, or send an to request assistance. Other Questions Contact your instructor with questions regarding the content of the course and your progress. Please include CCO GEOL 159 in the subject line of your . Contact the instructional designer at the Friday Center about problems with this website, including bad links or navigation problems (not being able to find your way around). Contact the UNC Help desk (not your instructor) for any problem you have with technology your Internet connection, downloads, Sakai, and so on. Help is available twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. If you have any logistical questions as you work through the course (enrollment, Onyen, credits, withdrawal, and so on), contact the Student Services staff at the Friday Center for Continuing Education (phone or ). Lesson Schedule Lessons Topics Lesson 1 Introduction; Origins and Chemical Evolution Lesson 2 Creationism and Evolution Lesson 3 Fossils and Geologic Time Lesson 4 Prokaryotes and Simple Eukaryotes Lesson 5 The Theory of Evolution Midterm Exam Lesson 6 Invertebrate Life in the Fossil Record Lesson 7 Early Craniates Work on Current Events Paper Current Events Paper due Lesson 8 The Vertebrate Skeleton; Evolutionary Transitions Lesson 9 Triassic Park: Life Before Dinosaurs Ruled Lesson 10 Dinosaur Paleobiology: Phylogenetic Classification of the Dinosauria Lesson 11 Human Evolution Final Exam

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