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Registration for the Winter 2020 semester begins soon.  Watch your email for more details.
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Paleontology: Life Through Time

Course Code: EAES 2320
Faculty: Science & Technology
Credits: 4.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture, Lab
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course investigates the nature and interpretation of the fossil record. Students will learn how fossils are used to indicate evolutionary changes, paleoecology and ancient environments. Investigation of vertebrate, invertebrate and plant fossils is emphasize in lab to show how they are identified, named, classified and reconstructed. Field trips may be required.

Course Content

Topics covered in lecture:

Basics of paleontology

  • Fossilization and preservation types
  • Taxonomy, classification and systematics
  • Incompleteness of the fossil record and taphonomy

The fossil record of life (integrated with lab)

  • Origin of life as seen in the fossil record
  • Precambrian organisms
  • Origin of complex and multicellular eukaryotes
  • Marine invertebrates of the Paleozoic
  • Origin of terrestrial life, including land plants and tetrapods
  • Marine invertebrates of the Mesozoic & Cenozoic
  • Mesozoic terrestrial life
  • Cenozoic terrestrial life
  • Microfossils

Interpreting the fossil record

  • Biostratigraphy
  • Relating morphology to lifestyles and niches
  • Seeing evolution in the fossil record
  • Cladistics and the reconstruction of evolutionary relationships
  • Reconstructing paleoenvironments from fossils, including trace fossils and microfossils
  • Paleobiogeography
  • Fossils as rock formers

Labs may include the following topics:

  • Cladistics
  • Fossil preparation and extraction
  • Cyanobacteria and stromatolites
  • Trilobites
  • Echinoderms
  • Cnidarians
  • Brachiopods
  • Molluscans
  • Fish
  • Tetrapods
  • Plants

Methods of Instruction

The course will have 2 hours of lecture and 4 hours of lab every week.

Means of Assessment

Lab exercises 10-15%
Lab project 10-15%
Lab final 10-15%
Lab Components 40%
Lecture homework assignments 0-10%
Lecture midterm 20-25%
Final exam 25-30%
Lecture Components 60%

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. Evaluation will be based on the table above.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course the student should be able to:

  1. Utilize morphology, anatomy, composition and age to distinguish between and identify a wide variety of fossils.
  2. Infer the depositional history and other taphonomic factors from fossils and their preservation.
  3. Describe major changes in life though geologic time and the evidence used to support interpretation(s) of the fossil record. 
  4. Apply biostratigraphic principles to infer environmental changes as well as age relationships.
  5. Explain how the mechanisms of evolution can be seen through the fossil record.
  6. Use the distribution of fossils to make inferences about paleobiogeography and ancient plate configurations.
  7. Identify and describe the uses of trace fossils and microfossils.

course prerequisites

One of EAES 1120, GEOL 1120, GEOG 1120, EAES 1121, GEOL 1121, EAES 1130, GEOL 1130, BIOL 1110 or permission of instructor.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.