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Course Description

This course provides a basic introduction to the history and evolution of life on Earth. Combining information from the fossil record with findings from ecology, astronomy, physics, biology, genetics and chemistry, this course examines the major factors and processes that have governed biological evolution through geologic time.

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Sept 6 - 11
Sept 13 - 15
Sep 18
Sep 20 - 25
Sep 27 - 29
Oct 2 - 4

Oct 6 (Friday)

Oct 9
Oct 11
Oct 13 - 16
Oct 18
Oct 20
Oct 23
Oct 30, Nov 1

Nov 3 (Friday)

Nov 6
Nov 8 - 10
Nov 13 - 15
Nov 17
Nov 20

Nov 22 - 24

Nov 27
Nov 29, Dec 1
Dec 4

Dec 6 (Wednesday)

Dec 8

1118 Rood Hall, 2:00 - 2:50am MWF
1192 Rood Hall

SUBJECT (with links to lecture PDFs)

Introduction, the scientific approach to thinking
Geologic time, origin of the Earth (Chapter 1)
Rock types, fossils and preservation (Chapter 2)
Evolutionary processes: DNA, genes, mutations and natural selection
Evolutionary processes: building complexity
The emergence of life on Earth, microbial diversity, extreme bacteria (Chapter 2)


Evidence of early life: banded iron formations, stromatolites (Chapter 2)
Eucaryote origins: endosymbiosis, sex, building animal body plans
(Chapter 3)
Animal origins: metazoans, Ediacaran fauna, the Burgess fauna (Chapter 4, 5)
Invertebrate evolution after the Cambrian: ocean faunas, reefs (Chapter 6)
Evolution of fishes, colonization of dry land by animals (Chapter 7)
Early land plant evolution (Chapter 8)
Reptile evolution, the late Paleozoic land faunas (Chapter 9, 10)


The Permo-Triassic extinction event (Chapter 11)
Ornithischian dinosaurs
and Saurischian dinosaurs (Chapter 12)
Dinosaur endothermy, evolution of birds and flight (Chapter 13)
Mesozoic seas, Modern land plant evolution (Chapter 14)
The K-T extinction event (Chapter 16)


Mammal origins and evolution (Chapter 15, 17)
Primates and anthropoids (Chapter 19, 20, 21)
The future of evolution on Earth


Review for final exam

FINAL EXAM - TBA, according to university exam schedule.


• There will be three in-class lecture exams. Each will cover approximately one third of the course material.
• The in-class lecture exams are not technically cumulative from one to the others, but will rely on building knowledge that is learned in one part of the course and used in other parts. Don’t forget everything after each lecture exam: you will need that information in later exams.
• Each lecture exam will be graded as a percentile score, regardless of how many “points” worth of questions are on each exam.
• Each lecture exam will have equal value. All three exams will be averaged, with the final exam score, to determine your score for the lecture part of this course.


• The final exam will be comprehensive.
• The final exam will be equal in value to an in-class lecture exam. Your lecture score will be determined by averaging together all three in-class lecture exams and the final exam score.
• If the final exam is not taken, your lecture score will be determined based on an average of your three in-class exams.


• Attendance at all laboratory meetings is required.
• Each lab will involve writing a lab report.
• Laboratory assignments must be turned in at the beginning of the next laboratory meeting period. Lab reports that are turned in late will be penalized by 10% for each day they are late, beginning at the start of the due-date laboratory meeting.
• Lab reports should be neatly prepared and printed out. No handwritten lab reports will be accepted for any reason. Lab reports should be spellchecked: spelling errors will be penalized by 1% per misspelling on each lab.
• A lab mid-term exam will be given, and will be graded with a percentile score.
• A lab final exam will be given, and will be graded with a percentile score.
• Your overall lab score will be determined as follows:

Average of lab report scores - 50%
Mid-term lab exam - 20%
Final lab exam - 20%
Pop quizzes - 10%

• Your overall lab score will be combined with your lecture score to determine your grade.
• Your lab score will count as one quarter of your overall score for GEOL 200.


Letter grades for the course will be determined on the following basis:


A = 100 – 94%
BA = 93.9 – 88%
B = 87.9 – 82%
CB = 81.9 – 76%
C = 75.9 – 70%
DC = 69.9 – 64%
D = 63.9 – 58%
E = BELOW 58%


No extra credit will be given for any reason, outside of incidental extra credit questions on exams. Your chance to earn a high grade in this course derives from your performance on the scheduled exams and lab assignments. This is not negotiable.


No, other than your own notes. Your challenge in this course is to learn the material and understand it, not to memorize pre-digested answers to coached questions.


Attendance is required for ALL meetings. You will be responsible for all material covered during an absence. If you find it necessary to miss an exam, see me as soon as possible before the exam to inform me of your impending absence. If this is not possible due to an emergency, contact me as soon as possible after the fact. Make-up exams will ONLY be given for legitimate excused absences (i.e. illness, death in immediate family, jury duty). Make-up exams will be much more difficult than regular exams, due to the narrower field of questions from which to compose the make-up. A surprising escalation in the frequency of family emergencies tends to occur during finals week. For this reason you have the option of not taking the final exam at all, and keeping a score based on your previous exams. Be advised that for this reason make-up final exams WILL NOT BE GIVEN FOR ANY REASON, including weddings, vacations, deaths, global epidemics, thermonuclear war, or the apocalyptic manifestation of supernatural entities.


By appointment only. If you would like to talk to me outside of class, please send me an email and we can set up an appointment. Or, see me directly before or after class to set up a meeting time. I will meet with anyone who needs to talk to me. But, DO NOT look for me outside of class times or scheduled appointments… I WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE.


• Your payment of tuition gives you the privilege of pursuing a college education, but it does not give you a guarantee of the grade you desire. Your grade is up to you, and will be based on how hard you work, how efficiently you study, and how well you learn the material. But please understand: hours of time spent studying do not necessarily add up to a good grade. You must actually learn and understand the material to succeed on exams and obtain a strong grade.

• Your "need" to have a particular grade in this course, due to major or graduation requirements, has no impact at all on what grade you will actually earn. Grades will not be 'bumped-up' to satisfy major or graduation requirements. Ask around; you will find that I am serious about this. I have no problem giving "DC" grades or lower, if deserved based on exam scores, to people in the semester when they plan to graduate. I have done it before. Or rather, they did it to themselves.

• If you are having trouble in class, PLEASE COME AND TALK WITH ME. I am actually very approachable, and will be happy to talk to you about anything in the course that is giving you trouble. BUT, if you wait to talk to me until the end of the semester, there is very little I can do to help you.

• You are expected to arrive on time for class, not be late, and to stay in class until it is over. If these expectations are a heavy burden that you just can't carry, please drop the class now and save us all a waste of time.

• If you come in late, do not walk in front of me while I am trying to lecture. There is a whole room available for you, so just walk through along one side or the other.

• If students start to habitually arrive late, I will start to give pop quizzes at the very beginning of class. Pop quizzes will be very quick and very easy, but for those who are late will also be very costly. Pop quizzes will either add (if correct) or subtract (if incorrect or absent) points from your overall final percentile score for the entire course. Quizzes at the end of class meetings are also an option, if people start to leave early. If you really have to leave early for a valid reason then just talk to me at the beginning of class. I usually will not have a problem with it.

TURN OFF all cell phones and audible pagers during class. If your phone rings during class, I will point at you and talk about you in front of everybody.

CLOSE ALL LAPTOP COMPUTERS during class. Yes, I use a laptop all the time, and I think they are just great. However, people tend to sit in lecture and play games or surf the web instead of paying attention. It's those people's fault that you can't use your computer in my class. If you strongly prefer to use a computer to take notes in class, please come talk to me on an individual basis. If you don't come talk to me beforehand, don't expect to use your computer in class.

• You are responsible for making yourself aware of and understanding the policies and procedures in the Undergraduate (pp. 274-276) [Graduate (pp. 25-27)] Catalog that pertain to Academic Honesty. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity and computer misuse. If there is reason to believe you have been involved in academic dishonesty, you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. You will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s). If you believe you are not responsible, you will have the opportunity for a hearing. You should consult with me if you are uncertain about an issue of academic honesty prior to the submission of an assignment or test.