Geological time and environments (August 22)

Welcome to the first Paleoecology course at Wooster! These weekly blog posts will be your guide to the concepts and materials of our course. Come here often!

Our very first topic is geological time. Paleoecology is a historical science, so it needs a chronological system. Generations of geologists have crafted the iconic Geologic Time Scale, which will be critical to all that we do in this course. Here isĀ our version of the Geological Time Scale. Like geologists and other Earth scientists before you, please memorize all the eon, era, period and epoch names given on our chart. (Here is the latest professional version of the time chart. You don’t need to know all those other names!)

The Wikipedia definition of our subject is concise: “Paleoecology is the study of interactions between organisms and/or interactions between organisms and their environments across geologic timescales. As a discipline, paleoecology interacts with, depends on and informs a variety of fields including paleontology, ecology, climatology and biology.” We have a wondrously diverse science in paleoecology, with connections to many topics directly relevant to contemporary concerns about environmental degradation, extinction, and climate change.

We need a few general links to paleontological resources to get us started in paleoecological research. Here is the University of California Museum of Paleontology (Berkeley) page on “learning from the fossil record“, with numerous educational and professional articles and links. The Paleontological Research Institution has an excellent site with introductory material (including “mystery fossils” to identify). It is oriented towards professionals and graduate students, but you can certainly have a go at it. And I can’t let you go without links to my favorite organizations: The Paleontological Society and The Palaeontological Association. You certainly want to look at the projects of Wooster paleontologists over the past few years. You may also want to visit The Paleontology Portal which is “a central entryway to paleontology on the Web”. It is an excellent link to thousands of paleontological resources. (Check out their fossil gallery, which is organized by period.)

The Time Scavengers blog is an excellent site for geology students, especially those interested in paleontology. University of Tennessee graduate students Jen Bauer and Adriane Lam have put together a fantastic collection of articles, teaching aids, and links just for students like you. They even have an interview with an evolutionary paleoecologist.

Our theme song! (Although it could use some invertebrate fossils …)

Jurassic fossils in southern Israel (Matmor Formation, Makhtesh Gadol, near Dimona). These are mussels still attached to a snail shell. Click for larger view.

Geology in the News —

Coming soon!