Fall 1999


R. Hays Cummins | Western Program | Miami University

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Course Requirements and Expectations


Professor: Dr. Hays Cummins
  • Lecture: 12:30-1:45, T/R
  • Office: Boyd Hall Rm 222
    • Hours: Wed 3-5
  • E-Mail: HaysC@miamioh.edu

A few fossil hounds on a recent collecting trip!

In this course we will examine a variety of topics including evolution, extinction and tropical ecology. From the outset, you will notice that much of the responsibility for the success of the course is on your shoulders. This includes student-led discussions and a semester long research project. Exams will be take-home and discussion based.


How did life first evolve?

In addition to a course reader, three texts form the basis of student-led discussions: 1) The Song of the DoDo by David Quammen; (2) A Neotropical Companion by John Kricher and (3) Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck by D. Raup. These are provocative writings which should ignite our imaginations and fuel our discussions.

Students collecting fossils at a local Favorite Outcrop

Evolution & Earth Systems Research Projects


Avoid Cheesy Science!

A major portion of the course will be devoted to group research projects. You will be responsible for generating specific hypotheses and bringing the project to completion. Half the research projects will be on biogeography while the other half will be on paleocommunities. We will celebrate your projects in a Evolution and Earth Systems Symposium at the end of the semester.

To better build a community of researchers, there will be an extensive web based feedback system that will involve the entire class. Everyone will have a stake in the success of everyone else's projects primarily by providing feedback and criticisms to one another. Details are illustrated below.

Evolution & Earth Systems Research Feedback & Database

Evolution & Earth Systems Project Entry Forms.......

Evolution & Earth Systems Project Submissions...

Evolution & Earth Systems Progress Reports


View Progress Reports & new progress postings.....

The Great Fossil Hunt, November13, 1999 (Quicktime Movies)

Final Report Format

Each "Final Report" should be a minimum of 5 pages long, plus references, research timeline, and data sheets. Your lab packet submission should be complete the first time you submit it, but be prepared for feedback from your peers, tutors and faculty which will result in further revision. Your final report should, of course, be much more complete than your "Lab Teaching Packet."

Title (with all authors)

1. Introduction

  1. Purpose/Problem. What is (are) your hypothesis(es)?
  2. How did you decide on this project? How did you decide upon your specific questions?
  3. What do you plan to accomplish?
  4. Relevance, if any. Why is this research interesting?

2. Relevance of your research question

  1. Literature Review--What have others done?
  2. How does your research relate to a larger question(s)? What contribution will your project hopefully be able to make to the broader base of human knowledge?

3. Materials and Methods

  1. What is your experimental design? Is it statistically sound? What are the reasons behind the different parts of your experimental design? Why are or aren't you doing certain things?
  2. Is your experimental design statistically sound? How do you know? Did you ask for advice?
    1. How will you ensure unbiased results?
    2. How will you ensure that the data collected by the class can be trusted? Will you show adequately demonstrate your data collection methods and the importance of consistency?
  3. Describe important materials and how they will be used.
  4. Describe other methods. How will you involve the class in your study? Be specific! Will the class be asked to process data? How?
  5. Have you included a Data Sheet?
  6. Include a specific timeline (your own and the class!) of research execution.

4. Results (To be included in your final report)

  1. Observations. Do you have preliminary results from work done to date? Include these initial results in this report.
  2. Think about how best to convey your findings. What types of statistics will be of use to you? Why?
    1. How will you best display your results? Graphs, tables? Think long and hard about this!
  3. Include statistical tests, tables (numerical data) and figures (graphs, drawings, etc.) when appropriate.

5. Discussion & Conclusions (For your final report!)

  1. Based on your background research, your own project, and analysis of the data, explain why you got the results you did.
  2. Think beyond the project. How does your work fit in with what others have done? What additional questions do you have?
  3. What suggestions do you have for further investigation?

6. Literature Cited

  1. Be sure to include an impressive suite of literature citations that directly relate to your study. This literature must include citations from the peer reviewed journals. World Wide Web citations are of secondary importance!

Here's a little boost in your search for a suitable research topic!!

Books, Articles, Journals, Library Resources

The world's largest bookstore!

The Library of Congress

The Current Issue of Scientific American

Science Magazine

Other Library Resources

Download the Cross-platform ADOBE Acrobat Reader

Miami Link

Ohio Link Electronic Journals--Amazing Online Resource

Search the Ohio Link Journal Index

Earth & Planetary Sciences
Environmental Sciences
Physics & Astronomy
Life Sciences

Other Cool Library Stuff!

FIRST SEARCH   Biology Science Citation Index Applied Science & Technology    Environment and Ecology
AGRICCOLA   Geology    GEOBASE Life Sciences   General Periodicals  

Search Engines-Search Worldwide


Searching with WebCrawler(TM)


Lightning One August Evening in Oxford, Ohio

Search the Ecology WWW Database!
Got Mac OS X 10.2 or Higher?   Download Hays' Sherlock Channel

Try it, you'll like it!

Where do I start? This database is an extension of my core interests--look at it as an appendage to these web pages. From severe weather, to hurricanes, satellite imagery, computer modeling, climate change (el nino, greenhouse warming), evolution, origins, astronomy, paleontology, earth science resources, tropical ecosystems, biodiversity, marine ecology, herpetology, research feedback--it's all there (over 290,000 web pages!).

Enter some key words to search by:

Find pages with of these words and return results.

Document Summaries Search Phonetically Begins With Searching 

Search This Entire Web Site--Research Projects, etc.

Search the Database to Examine Previous Year's Project, Progress Reports and Postings

Enter some key words to search by:

Find pages with of these words and return results.

Schedule of Lectures, Readings, Assignments and Exams

Module 1- The Song of the Dodo

Why are Islands Important? Who was George Wallace?

Date Topics & Other Assignments Readings/Discussion
Week 1


  • Lecture: Introduction to the Course
  • Discussion: Readings
  • Dodo, Ch 1
  • The Creative Mind, R
  • The Origins of Modern Science, R
Week 2


  • Lecture: The Nature of statistics
  • Discussion: Readings/Frisbee Lab
  • Dodo, Ch 2
  • Measurement and Statistical Methods, R
Week 3


  • No Lecture: (Mon/Tues. switch week)
  • Discussion:Readings
  • Dodo, Ch. 3 & 4
  • The Big Bang, R
  • An Overview of the Universe
  • Red Giants, White dwarfs, &
    Black holes, R
  • Post Research Ideas/Provide Feedback
Week 4


  • Dodo, Ch. 5& 6
  • Hertzsprung-Russel Diagram, R
  • **Frisbee Lab Due
  • Provide Feedback
Week 5


Week 6


Seth and Lauren show off their fine tabulate coral

Module 2- Extinctions: Bad Genes or Bad Luck?

FTP Articles from the Island Biogeography Database

Download Island Biogeography Articles from the Library

Date Topics & Other Assignments Readings/Discussion
Week 7


Week 8


Week 9


Week 10


  • Mass Extinctions
  • Raup Rap:take home points
  • Take Home Exam/paper

There have been five mass extinction events over the last 600 million years. Is it Bad Genes or Bad Luck?

Module 3- Neotropical Ecosystems

Date Topics & Other Assignments Readings/Discussion
Week 11


  • Lecture:Chordate Evolution
  • Discussion: Readings
Week 12


  • Lecture: Ch 2--Rainforest Structure
  • Discussion: Readings
Week 13


  • Lecture: Ch 4--Evolutionary Patterns
Week 14


  • Lecture: Ch 8, 10--Rivers & Savannahs
  • Thanksgiving Break on 11/25
  • Holiday
Week 15


  • Lecture: Ch 14--Deforestation and Conservation
  • Kricher, Ch 12, 13--Neotropical birds
  • Kricher, Ch 14-Deforestation and Conservation
  • Research Symposium
Week 16


  • Lecture: Ch 11--Coastal Ecosystems
    • Seagrass beds, coral reefs, and mangroves
Week 17


  • Final Exam in the form of a Research Paper on Neotropical Ecosystems
Good luck next semester!


Today's continental realities were very different long ago!

Geologic Time Scale

EON        | ERA      | PERIOD              | EPOCH      | DATES  | AGE of       | Interesting Biological Events:
Phanerozoic| Cenozoic | Quaternary          | Holocene   | 0-2    | Mammals      | Humans
            |           |                      |Pleistocene|         |               |
            |           |Tertiary| Neogene  | Pliocene   | 2-5    |               |
            |           |          |           |Miocene    | 5-24   |               |
            |           |          |Paleogene| Oligocene  | 24-37  |               |
            |           |          |           |Eocene     | 37-58  |               |
            |           |          |           |Paleocene  | 58-66  |               | Extinction of dinosaurs
            |Mesozoic  |Cretaceous                        | 66-144 | Reptiles     | Flowering plants
            |           |Jurassic                          | 144-208|               | 1st birds/mammals
            |           |Triassic                          | 208-245|               | First Dinosaurs
            |Paleozoic |Permian                           | 245-286| Amphibians   | End of trilobites
            |           |Carboniferous| Pennsylvanian     | 286-320|               | First reptiles
            |           |               |Mississippian     | 320-360|               | Large primitive trees
            |           |Devonian                          | 360-408| Fishes       | First amphibians
            |           |Silurian                          | 408-438|               | First land plant fossils
            |           |Ordovician                        | 438-505| Invertebrates| First Fish
            |           |Cambrian                          | 505-570|               | 1st shells, trilobites dominant
Proterozoic | Also known as Precambrian                     | 570-2,500              | 1st Multicelled organisms
Archean    |                                                | 2,500-3,800            | 1st one-celled organisms
Hadean     |                                                | 3,800-4,600            | Approx age of oldest rocks 3,800
Note: Dates are in millions of years

Taken from: MODERN PHYSICAL GEOLOGY, Graham R. Thompson Ph.D., Jonathan Turk Ph.D., Saunders College Publishing and the University of Alaska, Department of Geology.

Check out this beautiful Ordovician Cephalopod

Required Texts:

1) Course Reader, Oxford Copy Shop

2) Extinction: Bad genes or Bad Luck by D. Raup, Miami Co-op Bookstore

3) The Song of the DoDo by David Quammen

4) Neotropical Ecosystems by John Kricher

Evaluation: Participation is expected at all levels within the course. Attendance is mandatory during each student discussion period and scheduled lab: each unexcused absence will result in a 3% reduction (30 pts/absence) of your final grade. Grades will be based upon the point distribution shown below:

Academic Honesty

Please read part V, Sections 501-507 of The Miami Student Handbook on Academic Dishonesty since the policy articulated pertains to all work done in this course.

Assignments & Points
Instructor-Generated Labs (2 reports@50 pts each) 100 pts
Class Participation (200 pts)
Quizzes (100 pts)
Exam 2 (150 pts)
Exam I (150 pts)
Final research project (300 pts)
Total Pts. 1000 pts

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Any mail, comments or suggestions? You can Add to my Guestbook ,View the Guestbook or e-mail me privately at HaysC@miamioh.edu .

Thanks for stopping by!