PALAEO 3000 - Field Palaeontology

North Terrace Campus - Winter - 2019

This theoretical and practical course provides a basis for an in-depth understanding of the techniques and steps involved in the search, survey, excavation, preparation, curation and management of invertebrate and vertebrate fossils and sites. South Australia is fortunate in having a fossil record covering four of the most significant periods the evolution of life in our continent: the Ediacaran sites of the Flinders Ranges, the Cambrian sites of Kangaroo Island, the Cretaceous opalised marine faunas of Coober Pedy and the Quaternary vertebrate remains (including megafauna) of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Naracoorte Caves Fossils. Students will have to cover part of the expenses and will spend 5 nights in the first week and 5 nights in the second week away from Adelaide. This is a two-week course taught in intensive mode in the winter break, and takes place in Kingscote (Kangaroo Island) and Naracoorte Caves National Park. It will consist of a combination of fieldwork, lectures, practicals (lab work) and essay-writing, both in small groups and individually. There will be brief presentations on animal classification and systematics, fossil record of principal animal groups, taphonomy, palaeoenvironments, fossil & heritage legislation and palaeo-tourism. This course integrates concepts of evolution, zoology, systematics, sedimentology, stratigraphy, and builds upon prior student learning, thus developing an in-depth understanding of the drivers of extinction and evolution.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code PALAEO 3000
    Course Field Palaeontology
    Coordinating Unit School of Biological Sciences
    Term Winter
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 58 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange
    Prerequisites ENV BIOL 2501 or GEOLOGY 2500
    Assessment Field & lab book; quizzes, oral presentation
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Associate Professor Diego C Garcia-Bellido

    This course is taught by Assoc Prof Diego García-Bellido, Dr Liz Reed and Assoc Prof Lee Arnold.
    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

    This is an intensive field-course, taking place over 2 weeks: 7-12 July 2019 in Kangaroo Island and 14-19 July in Naracoorte (13 of July free in Adelaide). It also includes a Pre-camp Workshop (9am - 12 noon, Thu. 20 June: please NOTICE this is BEFORE the END OF SEMESTER 1, and is not shown in the Course Timetable and Planner) and a session of Oral Presentations (9-12 am, Sat. 20 July) in UofA's North Terrace Campus. The standard timetable includes fieldwork in the morning, followed by a 1 hr lecture and a 2 hr prac in the afternoon.
  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
    1. Recognise sedimentary deposits capable of preserving fossils;
    2. Prepare a basic fieldtrip for a palaeontological excavation;
    3. Understand and apply the principal elements of fossil excavation;
    4. Learn how to extract, annotate (context recording), prepare, preserve and catalogue fossils;
    5. Understand the multidisciplinary nature of modern palaeontology and the importance of collaborative research;
    6. Communicate aspects of palaeontological discovery and heritage to their peers and the community in accessible language.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    1, 4, 5, 6
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    1, 3, 4, 5
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    2, 3, 5, 6
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    1, 2, 5, 6
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
    2, 3, 4, 6
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    This course applies the theory and practice of Palaeontology through the direct exposure to South Australia’s best fossil sites, and this field-based observation is later used for class activities. The course will start with a eLecture series (4 x 1-hour lecture equivalents) and eTutorials (4 x 3-hour topic reading sessions done online) and an e-Quiz done via Canvas, 1 x 3-hour pre-camp workshop on campus on practical matters related to fieldwork, and develop in the field the following: practical and theoretical aspects in 6 x 4-hour fieldwork sessions, 6 x 1-hour lectures, and 6 x 2-hour practicals. “Fieldwork” on the Sundays and Fridays is actually travel-time to and from the fossil places as well as setup and pickup in our accommodation site, and on Mondays it is an intensive field-day. The fieldwork sessions will provide first-hand experience on the steps before, during and after fossil site excavations so that students will be capable of organising their own field activity in the future. The lectures will build the student’s knowledge in palaeontology, sedimentology, stratigraphy and evolutionary biology. Students will also undertake 6 x 0.5 hours of small-group research-based project work on a topic related to the theory or practice of palaeontology, based on their field-work, lectures, and practicals. This project will be presented to the class on campus the following week.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    A student enrolled in a 3 unit intensive course, such as this, should expect to spend, on average ~60 hours per week on the studies required. This includes both the formal contact time required to the course (e.g., fieldwork, lectures, and practicals), as well as non-contact time (e.g., reading and revision). The duration of this course is 2 weeks and 2 partial days (one before and one after the fieldtrip).
    Learning Activities Summary
    Precamp e-Lecture, e-Tutorials, e-Quiz and workshop MUST be completed prior to the fieldtrip.

    Fieldwork will include interpreting and making geological maps, sedimentary rock recognition, description of sediments, measuring thickness, dip and strike of beds, logging of stratigraphic columns and sediment sections, fossil site OH&S aspects, rock splitting, fossil identification and extraction, fossil labelling and packaging.

    Lectures will cover subjects such as the geological time scale, major evolutionary radiations and extinctions, fossil types (body fossils, trace fossils, biomarkers...), principal animal groups preserved in the fossil record, taphonomic processes, absolute and relative dating methods, fossil heritage and palaeontological legislation.

    Practicals will cover aspects like invertebrate fossil preparation, vertebrate fossil sorting and consolidation, sieving, microfossil extraction, camera lucida technique, latexing, systematic palaeontological description and synonymy.
    Specific Course Requirements
    This course is a field course, with all activities taking place off campus (Kangaroo Island and Naracoorte). Students will have to cover part of the expenses, to be paid BEFORE the 19 June (workshop). This will not be refunded if a student decides to unenroll after that date. Students will spend 4 nights in the first week and 4 nights in the second week away from Adelaide. This course requires students to work in small groups (5 and 2–3 students) as part of the fieldwork and practicals and to undertake a research project to be presented orally.

    Course prerequisites: Either ENVBIOL 2501–Evolutionary Biology II or GEOLOGY 2500–Sedimentary Geology II.
    Small Group Discovery Experience
    This course includes parts where the students will be divided into small groups of about 5 students to work in the field where they will collect data together, with oversight from the mentors. Smaller groups 2–3 will carry out and present the research-based project work. During this type of team work, mentors will only be present upon request to solve queries, but is intended as a student problem-solving, collaborative effort.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary

    Assessment task Type of assessment Percentage of total assessment for grading purposes Outcomes being assessed/achieved Approximate timing of assessment
    Field and Lab Notebook Formative & Summative 40% 2,3,4 Inspected daily, assessed at the end of weeks 1 and 2
    e-Quiz Summative 10% 3,5 Pre-camp
    Quiz 1 Summative 10% 1,4,5 Friday week 1
    Quiz 2 Summative 10% 1,3,4 Friday week 2
    Oral presentation Summative 30% 5,6 Post-camp
    Assessment Detail
    Field and Lab Notebook (40%) – The notebook should describe the student’s daily activities and the analyses and interpretation of their results (>2 pages per day). Progress on these will be informally checked daily and feedback provided. It will be marked during the first weekend and at the end of the course. Final feedback will be available 2–3 weeks after submission.

    Quizzes (3, each 10%) – The first will consist of a pre-camp e-Quiz via Canvas, with Quiz 1 and 2 to be completed during the field work periods. The question style will be varied, multiple choice, short answer, and data interpretation. Content will be based on the material covered that week in lecture, field, and practical material. Length of 60 min (each), with Quiz 1 and 2 to be written on hard copy.

    Oral presentation (30%) – Each group of 5 students will prepare during the course and deliver during the week following the camp an oral presentation on a topic of their choice from a list offered. This task will simulate a conference presentation: 20 minutes with 5 minutes for questions from their peers and staff.

    No information currently available.

    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

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    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

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