PALE 200 - Introduction to Palaeontology in British Columbia

This course will provide a basic introduction to the palaeontological heritage of British Columbia. After a brief introduction to geological time and regional geology, special emphasis will be placed on locations within British Columbia that have unique paleontological significance and are of scientific and educational interest.  Lastly, the legalities and ethics around collecting and selling of our fossil heritage are covered.  Students can expect field trips.


Credits: 3


Hours: 45 (Lecture: 45)


GEOG 112 and one of: Biology 11, Life Sciences 11, BIOL 102, or BIOL 127, or permission of the Chair


Non-Course Prerequisites:




Course Content:
• Geologic Time Scale: Boundary classification, how to read, index and facies fossils, aging rocks
   o Using relative and absolute (radiometric) time scales to date rocks
• Types of fossilization (body, shells, tracks, traces)
   o Fossil types found in the Peace Region
   o Geology of the Peace Region, Geologic Rock Column
   o Recognizing pseudofossils, public perceptions
• Palaeontology in British Columbia:
   o The Burgess Shale: first discoveries, world heritage site status, research, science tourism
   o Peace River Canyon, importance of trackways
   o McAbee fossil site near Cache Creek, BC, site use, designation controversy and conclusion, implications of the designation
   o Another Burgess Shale site: Kootenay National Park and Burgess Shale Equivalent Fossils
   o West Coast palaeontology (Courtenay-Comox marine reptile, other coastal important sites) and geology (accreted terranes)
   o The Pink Mountain monster (a giant ichthyosaur), other marine reptiles, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology and Dr. Elisabeth Nicholls
   o Pterosaurs discoveries in BC (skeletons, footprints), their relationship to dinosaurs
   o Dinosaur discoveries near Tumbler Ridge, BC, formation of the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre
   o Dinosaur Work in the Peace Region: PRPRC Projects, BC’s first dinosaur excavation, Cretaceous bird footprints, fossil fish, marine reptiles, dinosaur tracks (Kakwa Provincial Park)
• Practical considerations for fossil collection: working in remote locations, surveying for new fossil localities, excavating BC’s most complete dinosaur, communicating finds and activities to the public
• Ichnology (study of tracks and traces), importance of tyrannosaur track site in BC, behaviors we can learn from fossilized footprints (e.g., theropod courtship displays)
• Fossil heritage ethics and the commercial fossil trade, key legal cases
   o History of fossil protection in BC and other provinces
• Palaeontology-related careers and jobs, and paths to a career in paleontology
   o Considerations for planning a tourism-related activity that involves fossils


Learning Outcomes: This course will give learners a working familiarity with the palaeontology heritage resources present in the province of British Columbia. Learners will also become familiar with the potential that palaeontology heritage has for science communication, experiential learning and “fossil-first” tourism, and working with the natural resource industry. Special focus will be given to the vertebrate palaeontology heritage of the Peace Region of British Columbia, and how this palaeontology heritage fits in to the global story of dinosaurs and other vertebrates around the world.
At the end of this course, learners will be able to describe the following concepts:
•The basics of reading and interpreting the geologic time scale (Geologic Time Scale, Geological Society of America Standard)
•How to communicate about geologic time, using examples from palaeontology heritage in the Peace Region
•The basics of the geology of the Peace Region, and how the exposed geology fits in with geologic time
•The history of palaeontology heritage discoveries in the Peace Region of British Columbia
•Key areas of palaeontology heritage in British Columbia, with special focus on vertebrates in the province
•Key vertebrate palaeontology localities in the Peace Region of British Columbia, and how these localities contribute to global knowledge of the history of life on Earth
•History of fossil protection in British Columbia, and the current status of the Fossil Management Framework
•Dinosaurs in Society and the Media: how fossils are presented to the world; misconceptions
•Ethics and Fossils: legalities of fossil sales and purchases, ethics of buying and selling natural heritage, countries from which fossils are frequently collected illegally and sold commercially, famous cases of commercial fossil sales, ethical alternatives to buying and selling fossils, collecting activities on private versus public lands


Grading System: Letter Grades


Passing Grade:  A minimum grade of D (50%) must be achieved in the invigilated portions of the course, and in the course overall, in order to pass the course.


Textbooks are subject to change. Please contact the bookstore at your local campus for current book lists.