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Geobiology is a field of scientific research that explores the interactions between the physical Earth and the biosphere. It is a relatively young field, and its borders are fluid.

Faculty in Geobiology

Erik Sperling

Associate Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment and Associate Professor, by courtesy, of Oceans
Jonathan Payne

Dorrell William Kirby Professor, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment and Professor, by courtesy, of Biology,
Kevin Boyce

Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and, by courtesy, of Earth System Science
Page Chamberlain

Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and of Earth System Science
Andrew Leslie

Assistant Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences

Classes in Geobiology:

Fundamentals of Geobiology (GS 205): Lecture and discussion covering key topics in the history of life on Earth, as well as basic principles that apply to life in the universe. Co-evolution of Earth and life; critical intervals of environmental and biological change; geomicrobiology; paleobiology; global biogeochemical cycles; scaling of geobiological processes in space and time.

Terms: Aut | Units: 3
Instructors: Boyce, C. (PI) ; Francis, C. (PI)

Sedimentary Geochemistry and Analysis (EPS 135/235) (Formerly GEOLSCI 135 and 235): Introduction to research methods in sedimentary geochemistry.  Proper laboratory techniques and strategies for generating reliable data applicable to any future labwork will be emphasized. This research-based course will examine how the geochemistry of sedimentary rocks informs us about local and global environmental conditions during deposition. Students will collect geochemical data from a measured stratigraphic section in the western United States. These samples will be collected during a four-day field trip at the end of spring break (attendance encouraged but not required). In lab, students will learn low-temperature geochemical techniques focusing on the cycling of biogeochemical elements (O, C, S, and Fe) in marine sediments throughout Earth history. The focus will be on geochemistry of fine-grained siliciclastic rocks (shale) but the geochemistry of carbonates will also be explored. This is a lab-based course complemented with lectures. Students who wish to take the course for less than 4 units must receive approval from the instructor. This course must be taken for a minimum of 3 units and a letter grade to be eligible for Ways credit. Change of Department Name: Earth and Planetary Science (Formerly Geologic Sciences).
| UG Reqs: WAY-SMA

Topics in Geobiology (EPS 208) (Formerly GEOLSCI 208): Reading course addressing current topics in geobiology. Topics will vary from year to year, but will generally cover areas of current debate in the primary literature, such as the origin of life, the origin and consequences of oxygenic photosynthesis, environmental controls on and consequences of metabolic innovations in microbes, the early evolution of animals and plants, and the causes and consequences of major extinction events. Participants will be expected to read and present on current papers in the primary literature. Change of Department Name: Earth and Planetary Science (Formerly Geologic Sciences).

Last offered: Winter 2023 | Repeatable 5 times (up to 5 units total)

Macroevolution (EPS 136, BIO 136, BIO 236, EPS 236)
(Formerly GEOLSCI 136 and 236) The course will focus on the macroevolution of animals. We will be exploring how paleobiology and developmental biology/genomics have contributed to our understanding of the origins of animals, and how patterns of evolution and extinction have shaped the diversity of animal forms we observe today. Change of Department Name: Earth and Planetary Science (Formerly Geologic Sciences).
| UG Reqs: WAY-SMA

The Sixth Extinction (and the Other Five) (EPS 137, BIO 169, BIO 237, EARTHSYS 127A, EARTHSYS 227A, EPS 237)
(Formerly GEOLSCI 137 and 237) Are we living through Earth's sixth major mass extinction event? The course will address the causes and consequences of extinction. It will review current understanding of background and mass extinction in the fossil record, including aclose examination of three major mass extinction events. It will assess the intensity, selectivity, and trends in the current biodiversity crisis and assess the options and prospects for approaches to mitigating and, ultimately, recovering from this sixth extinction. Change of Department Name: Earth and Planetary Science (Formerly Geologic Sciences).
| UG Reqs: WAY-SMA | Repeatable 3 times (up to 9 units total)

Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems (BIO 148, EARTHSYS 128, EPS 128, EPS 228): Formerly GEOLSCI 128 and 228) The what, when, where, and how do we know it regarding life on land through time. Fossil plants, fungi, invertebrates, and vertebrates (yes, dinosaurs) are all covered, including how all of those components interact with each other and with changing climates, continental drift, atmospheric composition, and environmental perturbations like glaciation and mass extinction. The course involves both lecture and lab components. Graduate students registering at the 200-level are expected to write a term paper, but can opt out of some labs where appropriate. Change of Department Name: Earth and Planetary Science (Formerly Geologic Sciences).

Quantitative Methods in Paleobiology (EPS 161 / 261)
(Formerly GEOLSCI 161 and 261) The advent of large, publicly accessible sources of data relevant to paleobiology has opened new avenues for quantifying large-scale patterns in the history of life and for identifying their underlying causes. How and why has biodiversity changed over time? What factors control evolutionary trends within clades? How have environmental changes affected the evolution of life? In this course, we will introduce several of the most widely accessed sources of data for paleobiological analysis, such as the Paleobiology Database and Macrostrat, develop techniques for downloading and cleaning these data, and then explore several of the most commonly used statistical techniques in paleobiology, including phylogenetic analysis, phylogenetic regression and model fitting, logistic regression, ordination, and subsampling to analyze these data. Change of Department Name: Earth and Planetary Science (Formerly Geologic Sciences).
Repeatable 3 times (up to 9 units total)Terms: Win | Units: 4

Instructors: Boyce, C. (PI) ; Huntsman, S. (TA)