Paleonet: Teaching: making paleo relevant

Flessa, Karl W - (kflessa) kflessa at
Mon Feb 4 17:16:43 UTC 2013


I have found two approaches useful in demonstrating the relevance of paleontology to current environmental and climate change issues:
1.  I dedicate an entire lecture in my paleontology class to Conservation Paleobiology.  Good introductions to literature and examples can be found through and in the NRC report on the geological record of biosphere dynamics:
See also, among many others:
Jackson, JBC, et al. 2001. Historical overfishing.... Science 293: 629-637
Jackson, ST and Hobbs RJ 2009.  Ecological restoration in light of ecological history.  Science 325: 567-569
Dietl GP and Flessa KW, eds. 2009. Paleontological Society Papers 15: 285 pp.
Dietl and Flessa, 2011.  Conservation paleobiology: putting the dead to work.  Trends in Ecology and Evolution 26(1): 30-37
Rick TC and Lockwood R. 2013.   Integrating paleobiology, archaeology and history to inform biological conservation.  Conservation Biology 27: 45-54.

2.  I also devote a full lecture to climate change, including an extensive treatment of the use of proxy data used to construct the "hockey stick" curve demonstrating the increase in temperature.  See, among many others:
Mann, Michael E.; Bradley, Raymond S.; Hughes, Malcolm K. (23 April 1998),Global-scale temperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries, Nature 392 (6678): 779-787
Using the recent past (the "near-time record") to link between today and the past works very well in class.

Paleontologists should remember that the fossil record also includes the Pleistocene, Holocene and Anthropocene.


Karl W. Flessa
Director, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Professor, Department of Geosciences
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
(520) 621-7336  (tel)
(520) 621-2672 (fax)

From: paleonet-bounces at [mailto:paleonet-bounces at] On Behalf Of Thomas Hegna
Sent: Sunday, February 03, 2013 1:15 PM
To: paleonet at
Subject: Paleonet: Teaching: making paleo relevant

  To those of you who teach classes like Historical Geology, History of the Earth, and Paleontology: how do you make connections between events in the past (both in terms of mechanism and scale) and those we see today? I feel like thus far in my teaching I have kept these connections too general (sea-level rise, climate change, etc.) and not tied it down with meaningful specifics. How do others approach this?

Thomas A. Hegna

Department of Geology
Western Illinois University
Tillman Hall 113
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Paleonet mailing list