Vertebrate Paleontology and Taphonomy

EES 4696/5601 – Vertebrate Paleontology and Taphonomy

This cross-listed course serves as a senior-level writing intensive elective for undergraduates and a graduate elective.  The course examines vertebrate fossils and their importance for interpreting and reconstructing terrestrial ecosystems; it meets for extended three-hour sessions once a week, and is largely project based.  Students first learn the basics of vertebrate skeletal anatomy, move on to interpret transport and depositional histories of skeletal elements and assemblages, and finally combine this information with geologic data to reconstruct paleoenvironmental settings and paleocommunity associations.  Many assignments are based on data collection from specimens in the gallery and from the collections of the Academy of Natural Sciences. As part of the writing-intensive course experience, students work to distinguish between results and interpretation in scientific literature and their own writing; develop skill in clear and concise reporting of data collection, analysis and interpretation; compare their own collected data and interpretations with material from the published literature and critically evaluate similarities and differences between the two.