NIGK15017U Methods in Palaeontology

Volume 2015/2016

MSc Programme in Geology-Geoscience


This course aims at providing students with theoretical and practical aspects of paleontology and follows the steps of a classical research study from basic fieldwork to the writing of a report or manuscript. During the course, students are taught how to collect samples, prepare samples for microfossils using different techniques, identify and describe important marker species, and apply biostratigraphic and paleoenvironmental methods and interpretations.


Description of competences: at the end of the course, the students should be able to:

(1) know the different preparation techniques for fossil collection and observation, (2) identify and describe key biostratigraphic and paleoenvironmental markers in different fossil groups of a given period, (3) apply biostratigraphic techniques and draw paleoenvironmental interpretations, (4) recognize the importance and use of fossils in both research and industrial geology, (5) write a report in the industrial or in the research domain, (6) present their report to an audience with a geological but not necessarily palaeontological background.

Learning Outcome

Upon completion of the course, the students should be able to:



• identify and describe selected, important fossil species of a given period (systematic palaeontology and taxonomy).



• collect samples and use specific preparation techniques for (micro-) fossil observation

• read international literature on Palaeontology

• apply biostratigraphic techniques

• relate changes in species abundances and presence/absence of key species to paleoenvironments



• produce their own data and interpret them

• write a short, 5-8 pages long report for the industry or a short manuscript for a journal article.

• present the report orally to an audience with only limited expertise in the specific area.

BSc in Geology-Geoscience or equivalent
The bulk of the course is mainly under the forms of practicals.
The course starts with a two day field-trip with the purpose of sampling. Students learn techniques to describe sediments and take their own samples.
The first 3 weeks, students are divided in groups and learn the different techniques to prepare samples for observation of the selected (micro-)fossil groups. Students apply directly these techniques to their own samples collected in the field.
The next three weeks, the students investigate their prepared samples by use of microscopes. They are provided with range charts of the period corresponding to the collected material as well as with literature and plates with pictures of the most important species they will encounter in their samples. Students try to identify these species and to apply a biostratigraphic and paleoenvironmental scheme to their samples. During this period, students also prepare the material that they will use in their report. For example they take their own pictures of the species they identify and they organize them in plates.
The last week, students prepare their report using the guidelines provided by the teachers.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Excursions
  • 24
  • Preparation
  • 99
  • Project work
  • 48
  • Theory exercises
  • 35
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Oral examination, 20 min
The written assignment is prepared during the course and must be handed in prior to the exam week. The oral exam uses the written assignment as its point of departure. It includes the titles listed in the officially approved reading list. The written assignment and the oral examination weigh 50 % each.
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment

In accordance with the intended outcomes, the students must show that they can apply taxonomic, biostratigraphic and paleoenvironmental interpretations and present their own data into a comprehensive manuscript. Students must show that they can also explain their results to an audience with no expertise in the specific area.