Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
The Geological Record of Life on Earth
Academic Year
Semester 2
EA11600 or EA11710 Or EA11510. Students must have an A Level in Geology if EA11600, EA11710 or EA11510 have not been chosen.
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 15 x 1 Hour Lectures
Practical 7 x 2 Hour Practicals


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Written assessed practical workbook  Practical Workbook covering Practical exercises (7 in total).  40%
Semester Exam 1.5 Hours   Online examination  1.5 hour computer-based (online) unseen examination, designed through QuestionMark Perception (QMP). Questions will be varied, and will include short answer questions based around text, graphical, diagrammatic or numerical information  60%
Supplementary Assessment Resit failed component  40%
Supplementary Exam 1.5 Hours   Resit failed component  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Outline the evolution of life on planet Earth on a geological time scale

2. Assess major palaeoclimatological, tectonic and extraterrestrial events that influenced the evolution of life

3. Identify and describe fossil specimens of flora and fauna from various periods of Earth’s history


Lectures will cover the following themes:
1) Earth’s early atmosphere and the origin of life
2) Early Palaeozoic radiation
3) Late Palaeozoic diversification
4) Mesozoic marine life and dinosaurs
5) Mass extinctions: the big five
6) Cenozoic cooling and hominid evolution
7) The Anthropocene
These lecture themes will be accompanied by practical classes examining relevant fossil specimens and their morphological evolution over geological time.

Brief description

This module will explore the evolution of life on planet Earth and its relationship to palaeoclimate change and major geological events. Module content will cover the Proterozoic evolution of the early atmosphere and the development of single-celled and multi-celled organisms, the rapid diversification of fauna and flora throughout the Palaeozoic, the reign and demise of the dinosaurs during the Mesozoic, and early hominid evolution. The module will discuss these developments in relation to global atmospheric changes, changing continental configurations, icehouse-greenhouse transitions and mass extinction events, and outline how these changes are recorded in the rock and fossil record.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Interpretation of numerical and graphical data integral to discussion of geological time and palaeoclimate changes will be covered in both the lecture and practical material.
Communication Students will be encouraged to communicate through question and answer sessions in the lectures, and encouraged to work within small groups during practical exercises, including sharing and discussing fossil specimens.
Improving own Learning and Performance Formative feedback on practical workbooks will be given throughout the module, accompanied by specific in-course assessed exams, where students can use the feedback received and benchmark their performance. Formative exam-style questions will be introduced during the lectures so that students can assess their own learning progress against the exam expectations.
Information Technology Additional reading is integral to the module and alongside provision of reading lists, students will be expected to use information technology to search for relevant online or hard copy material.
Personal Development and Career planning Upon successful completion of this module, students will have a solid background in Earth evolution, geochronology, palaeontology, and palaeoclimate change. These themes are integral to any earth science/geology career path, while understanding of palaeoclimate change is fundamental to understanding current climate change debates and associated job requirements in this growing field.
Problem solving The ability to recognize and interpret different fossil specimens will provide key problem solving skills within the fields of palaeontology, stratigraphy and sedimentology. Throughout both the lectures and practicals, students will need to interpret the significance of fossils in the context of the evolution of life, major geological events and palaeoclimate change.
Research skills The students will be introduced to new topics which will require additional research. Specific ‘further information’ questions will be set within each practical class to encourage use of research and information literacy skills.
Subject Specific Skills The module will develop palaeontology, stratigraphy, geochronology and palaeoclimatology skills, and encourage students to understand how these fields interlink.
Team work Small group work will be an integral part of the practical classes.


This module is at CQFW Level 4