Module Provider: School of Biological Sciences
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Pre-requisites: BI2ERD4 Reptiles and Dinosaurs or BI2EV45 Vertebrate Zoology
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2022/3

Module Convenor: Dr Brian Pickles

Type of module:

Summary module description:

Undertake palaeontology research remotely, as an alternative to BI3PRFC Palaeoecology Research Field Course (currently unavailable due to the Covid-19 crisis). This module involves training in palaeontological statistical and practical methods, plus independent practical work in micropalaeontology. You will be provided with samples and resources for microfossil identification and data collection. This module will provide practical and academic skills training for students considering a research career.


This module will provide an introduction to the study of palaeontology and palaeoecology, including the latest analytical methods and practical work undertaken independently and remotely. 

Assessable learning outcomes:

Explain and apply quantitative and statistical research methods in palaeontology and palaeoecology. Undertake practical work in micropalaeontology and palaeoecology.

Structure and write a practical report including scientific descriptions of fossils discovered, descriptions of data and datasets collected, and biodiversity assessments, and discuss these critically in the light of stratigraphic context and current research.

Develop their written and visual (diagrams and figures) communication skills, and skills in the use of a microscope.

Additional outcomes:

Independent learning, confidence in applying knowledge to new fields and new problems

Outline content:

The staffing of modules is correct at the time of writing / publication);

Lectures will focus on the Cretaceous period in North America and cover topics including: principles of palaeontology and palaeoecology, Cretaceous ecosystems and biodiversity, geological context (stratigraphy, palaeobiogeography), field skills (mapping, excavation, fossil preparation and extraction), and fossil identification and curation (creating a key, note taking). There will also be an introduction to the use of phylogenetic methods in palaeobiology

Global context:

Samples for microfossil ID are from Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Research conducted remotely by Reading students will contribute to ongoing research into the biodiversity of Cretaceous ecosystems. Students will interact remotely with researchers and graduate students from Australia (New England University) and researchers from Canada (Royal Tyrrell Museum).

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is designed for remote learning and therefore materials will be provided in the form of webinars, pre-recorded lectures and videos, online tutorials, and self-study. Students will be provided with samples of substrate containing microfossils and a magnifying lens that can be attached to a smartphone camera.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Practicals classes and workshops 5
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (independent) 10
    Wider reading (directed) 10
    Other 30
    Preparation of practical report 20
    Revision and preparation 15
Total hours by term 0 100 0
Total hours for module 100

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Report 50
Class test administered by School 50

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Open book data analysis test on palaeoecology and palaeontology methods: week 6 of Spring term (50% of module mark).

Students will submit a micropalaeontology report including the research context of fieldwork and personal observations on fossils discovered, taxonomic descriptions and illustrations of specimens, analysis of biodiversity of organisms discovered, discussion of contribution to larger long-term datasets; students may also analyse existing datasets (50% of module mark).

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:

The Support Centres will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

Assessment requirements for a pass:

A mark of 40% overall.

Reassessment arrangements:

Resubmission of coursework

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

1) Required text books:  None

2) Specialist equipment or materials:  None

3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:  None

4) Printing and binding:  None

5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:  None

6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:  None

Last updated: 22 September 2022


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