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ESC3232 - The dynamic biosphere: Changing fauna and flora through geological time

6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Science

Leader: Professor Pat Vickers-Rich, Dr Jeffrey Stillwell


Clayton Second semester 2007 (Day)


Investigates evolutionary patterns of Gondwana fauna, for 3.8 billion years. Topics: origin of life, metazoan origins in late Precambrian, Cambrian 'explosion' of shelled organisms, rapid evolution and mass extinctions (acritarchs, dinosaurs), biologic effect extraterrestrial impacts, vulcanism, changing climate and geography (impact of developing aridity on biota, 'Snowball Earth' metazoan origins), origin of major animal groups (molluscs, marsupials). Emphasis on strengths/weaknesses of interpretive methods and how complex science can be presented to a wide audience. Optional Field Trip.


On completion of this unit students should know: some detail of the course of life on Earth from 3.8 billion years to present; the effect that tectonic plate movement and the waxing and waning of continents and ocean basins have had on the biosphere, climate and environments through time; the background to the formation of the modern biosphere of Australasia; that modern environments and climate in Australia are very atypical, and how this has impact on the future predictions of climatic and environmental change; how the fossil record can be used in the dating of rock sequences; how the biosphere interacts significantly with the physical environment; the history of research in palaeontology on the Australian continent; how to present a research paper at a scientific meeting, how to write a paper for a scientific journal, how to interpret scientific research to a public audience and deal with the media.


Essay (2000 words): 20%
Examination (2 hour): 30%
Laboratory work: 40%

Contact hours

Two 1-hour lectures and one 3-hour practical per week.


24 points of level one units