This lab manual accompanies the lectures of EESC 121.  A significant proportion of the course grade is assessed on material covered in the laboratory portion of the course.

The laboratory portion of this course follows the overall structure of the lectures but it will also introduce you to new material and skills that are not directly covered in lectures.  You are expected to learn both the lecture and laboratory materials, and you are responsible for all materials in the laboratory manual unless directed otherwise.

There are nine laboratory sessions that divide into two major themes.

Theme 1: Understanding sedimentary rocks as records of Earth’s past

Labs 1 to 4 explore the sedimentary rock record and how it can be used to reconstruct what physical environments existed in the past.

Lab 1: Sedimentary Rocks and Structures

You will learn to describe sedimentary rocks, their textures and their sedimentary features.  Some of this is material was covered in EESC 111, with new material added about chemical sedimentary rocks. You will name clastic and chemical sedimentary rocks.

Lab 2: Sedimentary Environments and Facies

You will learn to recognize features of sedimentary rocks that are particular to the physical environment in which they were formed.  You will examine depositional environments in aerial photographs and satellite images and hence learn to reconstruct the layout of a historical depositional environment seen in plan view (from above).

Lab 3: Relative Geological Time and Interpreting Stratigraphic Logs

You will learn the guiding principles of how sedimentary rocks are placed in relative time sequence.  You will interpret cross sections of geology and place rocks and events in relative time sequence.  You will learn about sea level changes and use the changes in sediments at a single location to determine the changes in sedimentary environments and sea level at that location.

Lab 4: Stratigraphic Correlation

You will learn how to match sedimentary rocks from multiple locations.  You will construct cross sections of geology from the past and use them to reconstruct the geological history of an area.

Theme 2: Understanding fossils as records of the history of life on Earth

Labs 5 to 9 explore the progression of life on Earth as preserved in the fossil record.

Lab 5: Fossil Preservation and Description

You will learn about the different starting materials for fossils and how this influences how fossils are formed and the way they are preserved.  You will learn how to accurately describe fossils, and how to recognize certain key characteristics that are needed to identify fossils.

Lab 6: Fossils of the Pre-Cambrian and Cambrian

This lab will introduce taxonomy, or how living organisms are classified.  You will be introduced to a systematic way of identifying organisms and a fossil identification flow chart based on some of the features you learned to identify in Lab 5.  We will examine fauna of the Precambrian and Cambrian, including a look at the Burgess Shale fossils from the Cambrian Explosion.

Lab 7: Fossils of the Paleozoic and Paleoecology

You will learn about paleoecology, which describes how an organism lives and feeds in its environment.  You will examine organisms important in the Paleozoic.

Lab 8: Fossils of the Mesozoic

You will learn about preservation bias in the fossil record and how that may affect paleoecological interpretations.  This lab will focus on the remaining major groups of organisms to be covered in the course.  The ones in this lab are ones that may have arisen earlier in the Paleozoic, but are more prominent in the Mesozoic.

Lab 9: Integrating Stratigraphy and Fossils

The stratigraphic section begun in Lab 4 will be re-examined.  You will identify fossils in order to determine the age of the sediments present in the Lab 4 cross section.  The section will then be interpreted by making stratigraphic correlations based upon similar rock types, and correlations based upon rocks from similar time periods.  This requires you to utilize the skills you learned in Labs 1 to 4 along with what you will have learned about fossils in Labs 5 to 8.


You will find that the laboratory for the course requires dedicated study and practice of the skills you are learning.  The fossils in particular require focused study to remember them, and you are encouraged to find study partners.  A firm grasp of the types and relative ages of fossils will help you to understand the accompanying lectures, and vice versa.



Laboratory Manual for Earth History Copyright © by kpanchuk. All Rights Reserved.

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