BIOL-11010 The History of Life on Earth: Fall 2012

Tuesday / Thursday: 1:10-2:25 p.m., CNS 112

Instructor:  Richard Kissel
Office:   158
Center for Natural Sciences
Office Hours:
Class information will be on Sakai.


Because I spend most of my days at the Museum of the Earth, email is the best method for communication.  Please never hesitate to email if you have any questions, thoughts, or concerns.  I would love for this class to be rewarding for all; open communication is the first step to making that happen.

Where to leave written communication:

161 Center for Natural Sciences, Biology Department mailbox


Textbook: There is no textbook.  Readings will be assigned throughout the semester.

Course description

The history of life on Earth is an amazing story!  Throughout life's nearly four-billion-year past, countless forms have evolved and fallen to extinction.  From the tiniest of trilobites to the most spectacular of dinosaurs, the creatures of prehistory tell stories of not only an ancient planet, but also the story of our ancestry.  All life is related.  And all life has a history.  The History of Life on Earth is a course designed to help you understand how we know about our planet's primeval past, the ever-growing tree of life, and humanity's ancestry and place within nature.

Attendance expectations

Class attendance is expected and will be monitored through unannounced, in-class activities. .

Learning outcomes

After taking this class, students should be able to:


Integrity & Academic Honesty: Principles of academic honesty are outlined in the student handbook:  “Academic honesty is a cornerstone of the mission of the College”.  Our classroom is full (you will sit very close to your colleagues), so I depend on your honesty during quizzes and tests. I also depend on your honesty in doing your out-of-class work.

Course Evaluation:  Student input is highly valued and is important to maintain high-quality instruction.  Completing the end-semester evaluation is required.

Accommodation: In compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, reasonable accommodation will be provided to students with documented disabilities on a case by case basis.  Students must register with the Office of Academic Support Services (607-274-1005, TDD 607-274-7319, and schedule an appointment with their instructors as soon as possible to discuss their needs.

Course schedule

Please note: this schedule will be tweaked as necessary over the course of the semester.


     Introduction: Your Ancient Past

Th Aug 30

T Sept 4

     The Nature of Science

Th Sept 6

T Sept 11

     Geologic Time & Life’s First 3.5 Billion Years

Th Sept 13

T Sept 18

     The Paleozoic Era: Trilobites & Treetops

Th Sept 20

T Sept 25

Evolution & Extinction: The Peanut Butter & Chocolate of Life’s History

Th Sept 27

T Oct 2

     The Mesozoic Era: Dinosaurs (Part 01)

Th Oct 4

T Oct 9

     Review, Midterm

Th Oct 11

T Oct 16

     NO CLASS (Outside Assignment / Fall Break)

Th Oct 18

T Oct 23

     The Mesozoic Era: Dinosaurs (Part 02)

Th Oct 25

T Oct 30

     The Mesozoic Era: Dinosaurs (Part 03)

Th Nov 1

T Nov 6

     The Mesozoic Era: Dinosaurs (Part 04)

Th Nov 8

T Nov 13

     Mammals Inherit the Earth (Part 01)

Th Nov 15

T Nov 20

    NO CLASS (Thanksgiving!)

Th Nov 22

T Nov 29

     Mammals Inherit the Earth (Part 02)

Th Dec 1

T Nov 27

     Climate Change & its Impact

Th Nov 29

T Dec 4

     Our Place in Nature (Part 01)

Th Dec 6

REQUIRED course evaluation

T Dec 11

     Our Place in Nature (Part 02)

Th Dec 13

T Dec 18

     Scheduled Final Exam (10:30AM – 1PM)

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Last updated: 8/2012