• Offered by Research School of Earth Sciences
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Earth and Marine Science
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences, Evolution and Ecology
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • AsPr Jochen Brocks
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in First Semester 2019
    See Future Offerings

This course explores the origin of life on our planet, from the emergence of cells to the appearance of humans. You will gain an advanced understanding of our place in the universe as the descendants of an unbroken line of ancestors from the first microorganisms, the emergence of complex cells, the appearance of multicellular life and the evolution of animals over the past 600 million years, in the oceans and on land. You will also explore how we may find life on other planets in our solar system. The course will emphasize how the geology and chemistry of planet Earth was influenced by the evolution of new metabolisms and traits of life, and how biological evolution was steered by geological process. The focus will be an advanced understanding of major events such as the Great Oxygenation Event, the rise of algae, Snowball Earth events, the emergence of the Ediacara biota, the Cambrian explosion, major mass extinction events that saw the turnover of entire ecosystems, including the demise of dinosaurs, turnover of plankton in the oceans through time, and the emergence of new reef building structures. The course will provide an overview of the major groups of plant and animal fossils, including critical evaluation of numerous fossil specimens, and an understanding how fossils, microfossils and molecular fossils are used to reconstruct ancient environments and ecosystems.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the geological, chemical and biological processes that determined the co-evolution of life and environments on planet Earth;
  2. Interpret the evolutionary and ecological significance of the form and function of fossils of extinct organisms;
  3. Synthesize knowledge about evolutionary biological and geological processes to understand the changing diversity and increasing complexity of life through time;
  4. Perform independent research on a paleontological or geobiological subject.

Indicative Assessment

Assessment will be based on:
  • Mid-term exam (LO 1-2) 30%
  • Assessments of five practical exercises (LO 2-3) 20%
  • Oral presentation (LO 1-4) 20%
  • Final examination (LO 1-3) 30%

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The course includes 3 lecture hours per week and 2 hours for pracs that will require some preparation. There will be a written mid-semester test and a final exam. Each student has to give a well researched and well rehearsed oral presentation about a palaeontological subject and answer questions from the audience. The course demands a normal workload for a 6 unit course.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 6 units of 1000 level EMSC, BIOL or CHEM courses. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed EMSC2019, EMSC4019 or EMSC6019.

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading



Assumed Knowledge

This course is suitable for all students with a general science background.



Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $3840
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $5460
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4580 25 Feb 2019 04 Mar 2019 31 Mar 2019 31 May 2019 In Person View

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