Course: Paleontology of Oregon

HC 209H

Professor: Samantha Hopkins

Native Oregonians know that this state is fortunate enough to have an incredible fossil record, and one that has been historically very important. We will use the study of the history of life as recorded in Oregon’s fossil record to understand scientific thinking and the process of science. Our study will range from the formation of the actual land of Oregon via plate tectonics, to the importance of the fossil record of Oregon to our understanding of the interaction between organisms and their environments, to the role of humans in the extinction of mammoths and saber-toothed cats, to the evolutionary origins of marine vertebrates such as sharks, whales, ichthyosaurs, and dolphins. Students will learn the basics of geology, evolutionary biology, and paleontology through the lens of the fossil record in our own backyard.

The class will consist of three hours of lecture/discussion per week. Grading will be on the basis of two exams, a term project, out-of-class exercises, and class participation. Students will read both popular science/news articles and primary scientific literature, and learn to distinguish good science from pseudoscience. We will also take field trips to see fossils and rocks in their native context. This class has no prerequisites, and requires only curiosity, objectivity, and a willingness to discuss.