GEOL347-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023

Forensic Palaeontology

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 July 2023
End Date: Sunday, 12 November 2023
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 30 July 2023
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 1 October 2023


The palaeontology and palaeobiogeographic development of Aotearoa New Zealand is examined through the investigation of selected marine and terrestrial fossil invertebrate and vertebrate groups. The course is recommended for geology majors and those in biological or environmental sciences with an interest in New Zealand's palaeontological history and unique taonga.

This course introduces selected fossil groups relevant to the reconstruction of Aotearoa New Zealand ancient environments and oceanography. The focus is on Aotearoa New Zealand examples and records, and their role in understanding our geological history, as well as understanding of global evolutionary events. The course will include coverage of key marine and terrestrial microfossil groups that are commonly used in environmental reconstructions. Students will also learn methods and analytical tools, as well as macroevolutionary patterns/changes in vertebrate groups, to understand past diversity and the processes responsible for faunal changes through time in New Zealand
The course is intended for geology majors and those in biological or environmental sciences wishing to learn more about New Zealand’s palaeontological history and unique taonga.

Learning Outcomes

  • Goal of the Course

    To introduce students enrolled in Geology, Biology and Environmental Sciences to the fundamentals of modern palaeontology and applications in interpreting New Zealand geological and biological history. Students will learn how to identify and apply selected fossils groups in the detailed interpretations of past environments and reconstruction of past biotas. Students in GEOL347 will also develop a wider appreciation of these topics in the context of the published literature.

    Learning outcomes
  • Discuss aspects of NZ palaeobiogeographic development
  • Be able to identify selected fossil groups (marine and terrestrial micro, marine macro, vertebrates)
  • Describe and demonstrate the interpretation of past environments using plants and invertebrates, and critically evaluate the strength of those interpretations.
  • Comprehend a range of dating methods applied in palaeontology
  • Evaluate form and function in vertebrate palaeontology
  • Interpret simple phylogenetic reconstructions and their application in vertebrate palaeontology
  • Evaluate past diversity and faunal changes in New Zealand vertebrate palaeontology
  • Evaluate palaeontological data and New Zealand records in the context of the wider published literature
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.

      Employable, innovative and enterprising

      Students will develop key skills and attributes sought by employers that can be used in a range of applications.

      Biculturally competent and confident

      Students will be aware of and understand the nature of biculturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand, and its relevance to their area of study and/or their degree.

      Globally aware

      Students will comprehend the influence of global conditions on their discipline and will be competent in engaging with global and multi-cultural contexts.


GEOL101 or BIOL112 or BIOL113.
GEOL243 is recommended preparation but is not required.


Recommended Preparation

Timetable Note

Two 1-hour lectures per week, one 2.5-hour laboratory or tutorial each week

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Catherine Reid


Matiu Prebble , Jamie Shulmeister , Vanesa De Pietri and Paul Scofield


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Forensic Palaeontology practical exam 25% Forensic Palaeontology practical exam
Vertebrate phylogeny 10% Vertebrate phylogeny
Vetebrate faunal reconstruction 15% Vetebrate faunal reconstruction
Final exam 50% Final exam

This course is co-coded with GEOL247, and each course will have different assignment, test or exam questions for each assessment. In GEOL347 laboratory assessment will also require students to evaluate their conclusions in the context of the broader literature, and GEOL347 exam questions will be constructed to require students to adequately address both lecture content and provided readings.

Textbooks / Resources

Required textbook(s): There is no textbook for this course, weekly reading will be advised.
GEOL347 students will be expected to incorporate reading material in to exam answers.


Weekly schedule of lecture and lab topics

Week     Lecture Topics                                                           Laboratory Topics
  1        Major evolutionary events in Earth history                   Reading review time
            Intro to principles of evolution, extinction
            and describing species (marine molluscs)
  2         NZ paleogeographic development                       Describing and identifying fossils
             (Palaeozoic/Mesozoic)                                     Molluscs and microfossils
             NZ paleobiogeographic development
             (Cenozoic and Quaternary)

  3         Marine micropalaeontology (forams and their          Forensic forams
             Marine micropaleontology (diatoms and their

  4         Palaeoecology and palaeocommunities                    Forensic forams
             Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction

  5         Terrestrial palaeontology (pollen and plants)            Terrestrial records

  6          Terrestrial palaeontology (pollen and plants)            Practical Exam - CSI

  7          NZ Quaternary records                                         Terrestrial core records
              NZ refugia

  8          Dating methods                                                  Core reconstructions (combining
                                                                                     marine and terrestrial etc.)

  9          Vertebrate palaeontology                                      Verts 1: identification of
                                                                                      vertebrate fossils; form and

 10          Vertebrate palaeontology                                      Verts 1: phylogeny
                                                                                      reconstruction and the fossil

 11          Vertebrate palaeontology                                     Verts 2: Analysing fossil samples 1

 12          Vertebrate palaeontology                                     Verts 2: Analysing fossil samples 2

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $951.00

International fee $4,750.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see School of Earth and Environment .

All GEOL347 Occurrences

  • GEOL347-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023