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Unit information: Marine Micropalaeontology in 2020/21

Unit name Marine Micropalaeontology
Unit code EASC30067
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1A (weeks 1 - 6)
Unit director Dr. Melbourne
Open unit status Not open

Completion of mandatory units in Year 1 and Year 2 of the relevant degree programme (Palaeontology and Evolution, Geology or Environmental Geoscience).



School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


The aim of this unit is to introduce students to uncertainties in reconstructing past climates and limitations of the methods.

The unit will cover the biology and ecology of the main fossilised microfossil in the Cenozoic. It will introduce major biological approaches used to quantify and understand the Earth System. These include the use of microfossils in reconstructing paleo-temperatures, water depth, productivity and oxygen levels in the ocean.

These methods will be applied to major transitions in Earth history (e.g. Pliocene warmth, Paleocene-Eocene Boundary) and main drivers of climate change (temperature, oxygen, acidification).

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion students will be able to:

  • Identify the major microfossil groups and outline the basic biology of marine microfossils
  • Demonstrate understanding of the ecological distribution of living groups and how it can be extended to exploit the palaeoecological significance of their fossil counterparts
  • Critically evaluate reconstructions of ocean conditions and climates, including uncertainties and limitations
  • Understand the contribution of past climate change events to our current climate change debate
  • Perform first steps of palaeoecologically and stratigraphic reconstruction

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials and, if subsequently possible, synchronous face-to-face lectures
  • synchronous office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative activities and exercises
  • guided, structured reading
  • practical work in the laboratory

Students who either begin or continue their studies in an online mode may be required to complete laboratory work, or alternative activities, in person, either during the academic year 2020/21 or subsequently, in order to meet the intended learning outcomes for the unit, prepare them for subsequent units or to satisfy accreditation requirements.

Assessment Details

Coursework (100%)

The coursework will be a literature review report in the style of a review paper (2000 word maximum), on a topic that will be given to students at the beginning of the unit. Topics will be broad and incorporate the content of the course.

Reading and References

There is no individual book which provides the necessary comprehensive overview. Individual chapters of the recommended reading will provide a good background.


  • Hillaire-Marcel, C., De Vernal, A. (Eds.), Proxies in Late Cenozoic Paleoceanography. Elsevier, Amsterdam,
  • G. Fischer, G. Wefer, (Eds), Use of Proxies in Paleoceanography, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, 1999, 735 pp.
  • H.A. Armstrong, M.D. Brasier, Microfossils, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2005.
  • Sen Gupta, B.K. (Ed.), Modern Foraminifera. Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, Netherlands, Amsterdam

Further reading will be provided in each lecture to complement the content.