Life of the Past – Fall 2012
C O U R S E S Y L L A B U S Ver. 1.3 30 Aug 2012
Instructor – Dr. Brooks Britt Teaching Assistant – Megan Decker
Office: S-387 ESC Office: C-193 ESC
Office Hours: 8-9 M,10-11 WF Office Hours: 11-1 Thursday
Phone: 801.422.7316 Phone: 801.422.2082
E-mail: [email protected]
E-mail: [email protected]
Lecture Hours: 9-9:50 MWF th
Classroom: C-295 ESC Text: Historical Geology, 6 ed., Wicander &
Specimens for exercises in N-111 ESC Monroe ISBN-13:978-0-495-56007-4
Our planet and its myriad organisms have long and fascinating histories. This course is
an introduction to the history of Earth (geology) and its life (paleontology). It covers
essential concepts and methods that allow geologists and paleontologists to recognize and
interpret events that transpired in Earth’s deep past. The study of geology and fossils
allows scientists to unravel records of ancient environments which 1) provide information
on climate change through time and how organisms adapt to new environments and 2)
aide in the search for essential resources such as metals, building materials, and
fossil/nuclear fuels. This introductory course provides geological/paleontological
examples that show what science is, how it works, and how it impacts your everyday life.
1. Develop a heightened sense of awe and wonder for the world around you.
2. See the mountains, valleys, and streams in a new way.
3. Desire to learn more about this planet and its organisms throughout your life.
4. Acquire an enthusiasm for geology and paleontology.
6. Perceive why plate tectonics is the unifying theme of geology.
7. Learn the history of major groups of organisms and how they changed through time.
9. Understand the nature of science, and how to think more clearly and critically about
Readings and Textbook
You are responsible for reading/studying the textbook and occasional outside readings
that are accessed via Learning Suite. The textbook is Historical Geology, 6 ed. by
Wicander and Monroe, ISBN-13: 978-0-495-56007-4. Before reading a chapter, review
the Chapter Objectives, the Chapter Outline, and the Important Terms list. Next, study
each figure and its caption – geology is a visual science and this will greatly improve
your comprehension of the text. Then read the chapter, keeping in mind the key points
you gleaned earlier, and take notes. Finally, look again at the “Chapter in Review” then
go over the Summary and test your knowledge by taking the review questions. Class Attendance
Attendance in lecture is expected. Lectures are the core of the class and you are
responsible for information covered therein. Lecture sessions are for discussions of the
readings and they cover points that are not in the textbook.
A detailed schedule is available in Learning Suite. It provides reading assignments, exam
and quiz dates, locations, and due dates of all assignments.
There are 30 open-book quizzes. Each is tied to a reading assignment to encourage you
to read materials prior to class and to prepare you for exams. Quizzes are taken in
Learning Suite. They are available 24 hours before the due date and go off-line at
8:30am on the due date. Quiz due dates are denoted by a “Q” in the quiz column of the
class schedule. The number of questions on each quiz is usually 6 and questions are
worth 0.5 points each. You have 25 minutes to complete each quiz. Be sure to include
enough time to save your file to Learning Suite. Your lowest two quiz scores will be
dropped before end-of-term grades are calculated. Contact your TA with all quiz
There are three exams. The two midterm exams consist of 50 multiple choice questions,
and the final exam consists of 75 questions (50 covering the last one-third of the course
and 25 questions from the first two-thirds of the course). Each question is worth 2 points.
There are two reviews prior to each exam: one hosted by the professor in the lecture
session preceding the first day of the exam, and the other hosted by the TA at a time and
place to be announced. All exams are will be given in the testing center on the dates
specified in the schedule.
Term Paper (see separate Writing Instructions document for details)
There is one term paper, consisting of five, formally written pages, worth 85 points. The
purposes of these writing assignments are to (1) improve your written communication
skills, (2) help prepare you for the exams, and (3) allow you to learn about a
geologic/paleontologic topic of interest to you.
Home State Reports
There are four short exercises dealing with geological or paleontological topics relating to
your home town or home state. Each exercise is worth 12 points and usually consists of
several fill in the blank questions plus paragraphs that you will write in your own words.
These can be completed in about 30 minutes. These are designed to help you learn about
the geology and paleontology of your home state.
You will complete three “lab” exercises (minerals, rocks, fossils) that afford the
opportunity to become familiar with specimens first hand. The goal is to provide a
deeper understanding of the materials discussed in lecture and to prepare you for the field trips. These are “walk-in” labs. The specimens and instructions are available in N-111
ESC. The drawer for the specimens will be marked “Britt 103 Lab”. Your TA will be
available in the lab during her/his office hours should you need assistance. Each lab is
worth 15 points. Due dates are noted in the schedule. Lab instructions and forms are
available in Learning Suite.
There is a compulsory, three-hour-long field trip to Rock Canyon in September.
The trip is offered two days – choose the day that works best for you. See the
schedule for days the trip is offered. You need to purchase a field guide from the