- Class Number 3211
- Term Code 3130
- Class Info
- Unit Value 6 units
- Mode of Delivery In Person
- Prof Jochen Brocks
- Lennart van Maldegem
- Dr Shimona Kealy
- Dr Simon Haberle
- Class Dates
- Class Start Date 22/02/2021
- Class End Date 28/05/2021
- Census Date 31/03/2021
- Last Date to Enrol 01/03/2021
- Tharika Liyanage
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, the 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, 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 fossil specimens, and an understanding how fossils, microfossils and molecular fossils are used to reconstruct ancient environments and ecosystems.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
- Demonstrate an understanding of the geological, chemical and biological processes that determined the co-evolution of life and environments on planet Earth;
- Interpret the evolutionary and ecological significance of the form and function of fossils of extinct organisms;
- Synthesize knowledge about evolutionary biological and geological processes to understand the changing diversity and increasing complexity of life through time;
- Perform independent research on a paleontological or geobiological subject.
The lecture and practical components of this course will support students, within team environments, to analyse and evaluate both well- and previously uncharacterised fossiliferous geological materials. Students will be required to synthesise their own observations with those of the literature, and apply the concepts and principles of palaeontology, in order to create their own palaeoenvironmental reconstructions.
Classes will involve group work and have an expectation that student will complete research of topics between classes.
The Convenor and guest lecturers are world experts and active researchers in their respective fields. All staff have a strong interest in geobiology as a future research discipline uniting the worlds of geology, biology, geochemistry and evolution.
Additional Course Costs
Examination Material or equipment
Recommended student system requirements
ANU courses commonly use a number of online resources and activities including:
- video material, similar to YouTube, for lectures and other instruction
- two-way video conferencing for interactive learning
- email and other messaging tools for communication
- interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities
- print and photo/scan for handwritten work
- home-based assessment.
To fully participate in ANU learning, students need:
- A computer or laptop. Mobile devices may work well but in some situations a computer/laptop may be more appropriate.
- Speakers and a microphone (e.g. headset)
- Reliable, stable internet connection. Broadband recommended. If using a mobile network or wi-fi then check performance is adequate.
- Suitable location with minimal interruptions and adequate privacy for classes and assessments.
- Printing, and photo/scanning equipment
For more information please see https://www.anu.edu.au/students/systems/recommended-student-system-requirements
Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:
- verbal private constructive feedback after your presentation
- feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc
ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.
|Week/Session||Summary of Activities||Assessment|
|1||Introduction to the course and to the geological timescale. What are geobiology and paleontology? Introduction to Kahoot. The building blocks of life and theories about the origins of life on Earth.||The first practical is a group card game about the age and timing of different events in Earth history and evolution. Explanation of your mission to a planet or moon in our solar system (for week 5), and for your peer-to-peer lectures (weeks 6 or 12).|
|2||Darwin’s view of the history of life and the 19th century controversy about the age of our planet. The fierce hunt in the 1980s to find the oldest fossils on Earth. The origin of planet Earth, the first oceans and continents, the early atmosphere, prerequisites for early life, and the controversial oldest fossil and chemical signatures for life in the geological record.||Documentary about the hunt for life on other planets and moons in our solar system. “Jeopardy!”-quiz game (small groups competing against each other) about early life on Earth and elsewhere in the universe.|
|3||The early evolution and biology of billion-years-old stromatolites (fossil microbial mats), causes and consequences of the Great Oxygenation Event 2.4 billion years ago (which was the greatest chemical and ecological revolution in our planet’s history). Introduction to molecular fossils (with a basic introduction for non-chemists, but no special chemical knowledge needed), the origin and nature of organic matter (dead biomass) in the geological record, and the formation of hydrocarbon reservoirs (crude oil and gas). Life during the Boring Billion years (1.8 to 0.8 billion years ago), the emergence of predatory organisms and chemical warfare 800 million years ago.||Documentary and discussion about early life on Earth and the emergence of animals (with David Attenborough).|
|4||The enigmatic Snowball Earth glaciations, why it happened, how Earth got out of it and how life survived the million year long deep freeze. The four major revolutions at the base of the food chain and the ‘Rise of Algae’ in Cryogenian oceans (800 to 635 million years ago) and how that may be linked to the emergence of the earliest animals.||“Jeopardy!”-quiz game Part II about early life on Earth, the emergence of animals and despicable characters in Earth Sciences.|
|5||When life got Big. The enigmatic Ediacara Biota and the origin of the first large creatures. The Cambrian Explosion of animal life. Principles of animal evolution and reading the Tree of Life.||Your group mission to a planet or moon in our solar system to find evidence for life (for week 5).|
|6||Peer to peer teaching. This week you are the lecturer. Topics range from elements of life, NASA missions to find life elsewhere, the Death Mask hypothesis, weird wonders of the Palaeozoic, to principles of palaeontology and evolution, and creationism versus science.||Peer to peer teaching continued. Feedback from the lecturer will be private, constructive and friendly.|
|7||The Palaeozoic Era from the Ordovician to the Permian, the history and morphology of extinct taxa including trilobites and other arthropods, graptolites, conodonts and the concept of index fossils. The Age of Fishes and arrival of life on land.||Written Exam 1.|
|8||Return of Exam 1 and discussion of the answers. The Permo-Triassic mass extinction (the biggest of them all), ancient coral reefs. The early Mesozoic Era after the extinction.||Trilobites. Work on fossils, understanding their morphology and ecology.|
|9||Dinosaurs!!! The Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction by asteroid impact and the day after! The Cenozoic Era and the emergence of humans.||Work on fossils of corals, diatoms and brachiopods.|
|10||The early evolution of mammals, marsupials and the extinction of the megafauna, recognizing and understanding mammal skeletons and skulls.||The skull and skeleton workshop. Hands on work on mammalian and other skulls and bones. Can you distinguish a sheep from a kangaroo skull? Here you will learn it and never forget it.|
|11||The evolution of plants through time and the greening of the Australian continent.||Visit to the botanical gardens to discover living fossils.|
|12||Peer to peer teaching Part II. This week you are the lecturers again. Topics range from dinosaur ecology, Jurassic Park, ancient DNA, Neanderthals, the colour of dinosaur feathers, Tullymonstrum, Megalodon the giant shark, Quetzalcoatlus the largest flying animal of all times, women in palaeontology, and the Bone Wars.||Peer to peer teaching continued. Feedback from the lecturer will be private, constructive and friendly.|
|Assessment task||Value||Due Date||Return of assessment||Learning Outcomes|
|First Written Examination||30 %||29/03/2021||23/04/2021||1,2,3|
|Peer-to-peer teaching||25 %||*||*||4|
|Second Written Examination||30 %||03/06/2021||01/07/2021||1,2,3|
|Mammal skull and bones practical||5 %||13/05/2021||20/05/2021||4|
* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details
ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:
- Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure
- Special Assessment Consideration Policy and General Information
- Student Surveys and Evaluations
- Deferred Examinations
- Student Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure
The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Integrity . In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.
Moderation of Assessment
Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.
Participation in the practicals and peer to peer lectures is compulsory (permission for absence will be granted e.g. if there is a clash with other courses).
For students participating remotely: all lectures will be available on Wattle as short (5 to 15 minute) video recordings, including questions for self assessment.
For practicals, a variety of alternative options will be available:
- Documentaries will be made available on-line
- The ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Dalli Click’ quiz games will be made available as PowerPoint slides and students can either do them on their own or in groups via zoom, depending on how many remote participants will be join.
- For the mammal skull and bones prac, explanatory materials and 3D models of skulls will be available online. The online prac will include an assessable Wattle multiple choice test.
- The Mission to find life in the solar system is a group activity where remote students can communicate with fellow students via Zoom and contribute video recordings and visuals
- Instead of the field trip to the Botanical Gardens, we have recorded a short video for remote participants
- For fossil pracs: we will provide the explanatory material on Wattle plus photographic images of the fossils, and guide remote participants via Zoom sessions.
Peer to peer teaching: remote participants will pre-record a 12 minute video of their lectures using Zoom, and this will be played to the class.
There will be two written examinations. The first will cover the first 6 weeks of the course and will be held in the first week after the break. The second written examination will cover weeks 7 to 12 and will be in the examination period.
Please note, that where a date range is used in the Assessment Summary in relation to exams, the due date and return date for mid-semester exams indicate the approximate timeframe in which the exam will be held; the due and return date for end of semester exams indicate the approximate timeframe in which the exam will be held and the date official end of Semester results are released on ISIS. Students should consult the course wattle site and the ANU final examination timetable to confirm the date, time and venue of the exam.
Assessment Task 1
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3
First Written Examination
The first written exam will cover the first 6 weeks of the course and will be held in the first week after the break. The test will be held in class during prac class hours. It will include 10 to 15 questions where keywords, short written answers and drawings will be required. The assessment time is 120 minutes.
Please check the course Wattle site and the ANU Examination Timetable to confirm the date, time and location of the mid-semester exam.
Assessment Task 2
Learning Outcomes: 4
Each student will teach a short segment of the course in weeks 6 or 12. The length of these presentations depends on enrolment numbers, but is usually 12 minutes plus 3 minutes question time where we discuss questions from the class. The convenor will explain in week 1 exactly how to prepare for the presentation, also explaining what is expected, what will be important and how it will be assessed, including resources where students can find more tips and instructions.
Assessment Task 3
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3
Second Written Examination
The first written exam will cover weeks 7 to 12 and will be held in the examination period. The test will be held in class during prac class hours. The assessment time is 120 minutes and it will have a simialr format to Exam 1.
The date range in the Assessment Summary indicates the start of the end of semester exam period and the date official end of semester results are released on ISIS. Please check the ANU final Examination Timetable http://www.anu.edu.au/students/program-administration/assessments-exams/examination-timetable to confirm the date, time and location exam.
Assessment Task 4
Learning Outcomes: 4
Mammal skull and bones practical
During the Mammal prac, each student will receive material that explains the skulls and skeletons and how to examine them. Students hand in written answers to questions about the specimen at the end of the prac. For students absent due to covid 19, the examination will consist of a questions on Wattle.
Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.
The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.
The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.
Students will bring their PowerPoint presentation on an USB drive to class and provide a copy to the convenor at least one day before the presentation.
Noting the implications of Policy: Student assessment (coursework) Item 7
Refering to peer-to-peer lectures, where a specific date and time will be scheduled for each student:
No submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date will be permitted. If an assessment task is not submitted by the due date, a mark of 0 will be awarded.
Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.
Each student will receive private constructive feedback from the convenor immediately after their presentation.
Extensions and Penalties
Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.
Resubmission of Assignments
Distribution of grades policy
Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.
Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.
Support for students
The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).
- ANU Health, safety & wellbeing for medical services, counselling, mental health and spiritual support
- ANU Diversity and inclusion for students with a disability or ongoing or chronic illness
- ANU Dean of Students for confidential, impartial advice and help to resolve problems between students and the academic or administrative areas of the University
- ANU Academic Skills and Learning Centre supports you make your own decisions about how you learn and manage your workload.
- ANU Counselling Centre promotes, supports and enhances mental health and wellbeing within the University student community.
- ANUSA supports and represents undergraduate and ANU College students
- PARSA supports and represents postgraduate and research students
Jochen Brocks is a palaeobiogeochemist in the Research School of Earth Sciences,. To find clues about early evolution and biological processes in extremely ancient oceans he studies molecular fossils of biological lipids extracted from billion-year old sedimentary rocks.
Prof Jochen Brocks
Lennart van Maldegem
Dr Shimona Kealy
Dr Simon Haberle