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Unit information: Micropalaeontology in 2015/16

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Unit name Micropalaeontology
Unit code EASCM0040
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1B (weeks 7 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Schmidt
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will cover the major biological approaches used to quantify and understand the Earth System. These include the biology of the major groups of fossilised plankton and the use of microfossils in reconstructing paleo-temperatures, water depth, productivity and oxygen levels in the ocean. These methods will be applied to major transitions in Earth history (e.g. initiation of Northern Hemisphere glaciation, Pliocene warmth, Paleocene-Eocene Boundary) aiming to introduce the students to uncertainties in reconstructing past climates and limitations of the methods.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion you will be able to:

  • Identify each of the major microfossil groups, both morphologically and biologically, and outline the basic biology of marine microfossils
  • Demonstrate how the ecological distribution of living groups can be extended to exploit the palaeoecological significance of their fossil counterparts
  • Demonstrate how microfossils can be used stratigraphy
  • Critically evaluate reconstructions of ocean conditions and climates, including uncertainties and limitations.
  • Perform first steps of paleoclimate reconstruction.

Teaching Information

Lectures and practicals

Assessment Information

An unseen 2 hour theory examination based on material covered in both lectures and practicals (80%).

Presentation at the end of the unit on a current topic, based on suggested reading and the course content (20%).

Assessment will be completed in accordance with the University Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes, available online at and School marking criteria for oral presentations.

Reading and References

  • M. Williams, A.M. Haywood, J.F. Gregory, D.N. Schmidt, (Eds), Deep time perspectives on climate change - marrying the signal from computer models and biological proxies, Geological Society of London, London, 2007, 587 pp.
  • G. Fischer, G. Wefer, (Eds), Use of Proxies in Paleoceanography, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, 1999, 735 pp.
  • H.A. Armstrong, M.D. Brasier, Microfossils, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2005.