Course Information • • Course Overview • • Technology • • Content • • Links

GLY 529 Topics in Geology, Spring, 2011
Mass Extinctions
Before and after the end-Permain mass extinction
Image credit: Ron Testa and Scott Lidgard

Course Information


Christopher A. McRoberts
337 Bowers Hall
voice: (607) 753-2925

Required Text and Readings

Hallam, A. 2005. Catastrophes and Lesser Calamities: The Causes of Mass Extinctions. Oxford University Press, 240 p.

Additional readings (pdf documents or links to webpages) will be made available throughout the semester (see content area below)

Syllabus and Expectations

Course syllabus [80 kb pdf file]

Weekly assignments and expectations [60 kb pdf file]

Course Overview

Mass extinctions have played a central role in the long-term evolutionary patterns of life. While the extinctions vary tremendously in size and scope, each represents a resetting of sorts where ecological niches are newly created or newly occupied. This course will examine both the methods of study of mass extinctions and specific extinction events from a paleontological standpoint (e.g., what died? what are the possible causes?).

A Hybrid Lecture and Online Course

This is a hybrid course with portions of the course conduced online and other portions taking place as traditional lecture course in the classroom. For the online portions, interaction between students and the instructor is via the Internet in an asynchronous manner meaning that the class members do not all need to be logged in at the same time). Although many elements of the course will be conducted online, it is not a self-paced course. Students need to interact with each other in a timely fashion.

Technology Requirements

An internet connection (preferably broadband).  Students will need to be on-line on a daily basis and have the ability to download and upload course content and assignments. Some of the digital content files may be big (+10 MB) or streaming video, thus if you have a slow internet connection, perhaps this course isn’t for you.

Web browser. Make sure your web browser is up to date. For Windows I recommend Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (v. 7 or higher) or Firefox (v. 2.0 or higher) for a Mac, Safari (any version) or Firefox v. 2 (or higher) would be fine.

An active email account. Much of the correspondence will be delivered through email. It is important to have a reliable email account that you can access on a daily basis and have the ability to receive and send attachments.

Video playback software. You will need to have the ability to download and view video podcasts (vodcasts). These will likely be large files and will be in a format that can be viewed in Apple’s QuickTime or iTunes. Both software products are available for free download from Apple’s website Note: the vodcasts will also be in a format that can be played on iPods that support video (iPod 5G with video and the newer iPod Classic, iPod Nano 3G, iPod Touch, and the iPhone).

Additional software. Many of the files I will send you (or you will download) will be in pdf (portable document format) and you will need to have the ability to open them. Adobe provides the free Acrobat Reader reader to view pdf documents which can be downloaded from I would prefer also to receive documents in the pdf format as well.  You will need a word processor. Microsoft Word (for Window’s or Mac) will do as would several other open source programs that can be obtained for free. Please note: I will NOT accept files made with other programs such as WordPerfect (.wp).

Course Content

This area of the website is for registered users and requires a password.

Discussion forum and assignments



A listing of extinction related websites maintained by Klaus-Peter Kelber (Uni. Wurzburg)

A graphical front end for the Sepkoski genus database from Shanan Peters (UW-Madison)

The Paleobiology Database THE database of of fossil taxa, geologic ages, and distributions.


Return to SUNY Cortland's Paleo Lab main page
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This page was created: August 18, 2008, modified October 8, 2010