GEOL 4103 / 5985, Spring 2010

TR 5:30-6:45 PM                    Calloway 205

Instructor: Dr. Brad Deline                           E-mail: bdeline@westga.edu

Office: Calloway G1                                     Office hours: T-Th 8:00-9:30, 2:00-4:00 W 10:00-12:00, 2:00-4:00 & by appointment



Course description

This course is a multidisciplinary investigation into the morphology, classification and identification of the dinosaurs; the environmental, climatic, and geographic conditions on earth during the time of the dinosaurs; and the biological principles involved in understanding the origin, evolution, and extinction of the dinosaurs.


Learning objectives

1)      Explain what a dinosaur is, and identify the major lineages of dinosaurs through study of their anatomy and diversity.

2)      Understand how scientists use dinosaur fossils to infer ecological, physiological, and behavioral characteristics.

3)      Explain basic evolutionary mechanisms that have been important in the diversification of dinosaurs.

4)      Evaluate the creative and destructive consequences of mass extinctions.

5)      Critique current controversies in dinosaur paleontology, including body temperature, relationship with birds, and reproduction.

6)      Describe the Mesozoic worlds in which dinosaurs lived, including climate, continental arrangement, and other biological inhabitants.

7)      Describe several ways in which dinosaur fossils have been interpreted throughout human history.

8)      Practice the skills of reading scientific prose.


Attendance and expectations:


Class meetings are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30-6:45 in Calloway 205. It has been my experience that the best predictor of a student’s final grade is their attendance, so come to class.  Assignments will be given regularly and unannounced, therefore coming to class will be essential.   Regular attendance and participation will give you full credit (worth 5% of your overall grade); regular absences and indifference will not.  Appropriate participation includes attentiveness, participation in class discussions, respectful behavior, and courteousness to your peers. 



1)      Fastovsky, D.E. and D.B. Weishampel.  2009. Dinosaurs; a concise natural history. Cambridge University Press, NYC.




Office hours


I have several hours scheduled each week for office hours. However, you are more than welcome to email me with questions or to set up additional times to meet. Also, feel free to call me when I am on campus at (678-839-4061) or stop by my office (it will be open when I am there).  One side note, I am going to try and keep Fridays open for research, so keep than in mind when dropping by my office.  I will try to be prompt in my responses to emails, but emailing me the night before/ morning of an exam or assignment is due will not be to your benefit.   


Grading policies

Your grades will be assigned on a percentage scale, as follows:

³90% = A; 80-89% = B; 70-79% = C; 60-69% = D; <60% = F


Exam #1                                                                      20%

Exam #2                                                                      20%

Exam #3                                                                      20%

Cumulative Take Home Final Exam                        15%

Understanding Science Writing                                10%

In-class and take-home activities                              10%

Attendance and participation                                     5%



Exams will consist of a mix of multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, and a single essay question.  They are not explicitly cumulative, although later material will build from earlier material.  Exams will require much thinking and writing on your part.

The final exam is cumulative. The final exam will be more comprehensive and essay based. The final will be a take-home exam and will be posted the final week of class and will be due during exam week. 


Understanding Science Writing

Science is communicated in the primary literature, primarily journals.  Most lay people find these articles challenging to read because they are technical presentations of original findings and ideas.  To help you learn to understand science writing, you will read two recent articles that present some notable but controversial idea concerning dinosaurs.  I will provide these articles during the semester.  Your assignment, worth 10% of your grade, will be to (1) read the articles and (2) write a journalistic news summary explaining the discovery and its wider implications to a lay audience.  Besides helping you comprehend science writing, this assignment will help you understand the role of data in scientific knowledge and how scientific arguments are structured, and help you convey complex information in a succinct manner.  We will then discuss the articles during class.


In-class and take-home activities

Throughout the term, you will be asked to do short assignments in class or at home.  These assignments may take any of several forms, including short writing assignments, answering questions, class discussion/debate, participation in activities, etc.  Some assignments will be turned in over WebCT; others will be due in class.  You must be present in class in order to receive credit for in-class assignments.  You must be in class to earn credit for the in-class activities; make-ups are not possible. 


I maintain the right to add pop quizzes or other in-class activities if I feel it would help remind you of your responsibility to attend and participate in class.


Lateness and missed exams

Lateness is to be avoided.  Exams will not be made up; they will receive 0%.  I will deduct 10% per day (not class!) for all late papers (except weekends).  For take-home assignments, I will deduct 1 point per class.  You may not make-up in-class activities.  If you expect a scheduling conflict, please see me in advance so we can make alternative arrangements.


Extra credit fieldtrip

We will have an optional Saturday field trip to Fernbank Museum in Atlanta.  There will be a written assignment to fill out while you are there.  You can earn up to 5% extra credit by doing this assignment.  If you are unable to attend the field trip led by me, you can still go by yourself, give a self-guided tour, and do the written assignment.


A note to graduate students

This course is intended to fit the dual needs of an advanced undergraduate science elective and a graduate course, primarily for those interested in science education.  Those wishing to receive graduate credit for this course will need to do additional work, appropriate to their own disciplinary interests.  Please see me for details of what this entails.


Lecture Schedule – This schedule is tentative and may change throughout the semester, if so I will let you know and post changes on courseden.





Jan. 7

Class Introduction and what is a dinosaur

Chapter 1

Jan. 12

Geology Crash Course 1

Chapter 2

Jan. 14

Geology Crash Course 2

Chapter 2

Jan. 19

Evolution- Mechanisms, Speciation, and extinction

Chapter 3

Jan. 21


Chapter 3

Jan. 26

Fossils: taphonomy, body fossils, & trace fossils


Jan. 28

Dinosaur Origins

Chapter 4

Feb. 2

Dinosaur Overview

Chapter 4

Feb. 4

Theropoda I: early theropods, allosaurs, & tyrannosaurs

Chapter 9

Feb. 9

Theropoda II: ornithomimids, dromaeosaurs, & ovirators

Chapter 9

Feb. 11



Feb. 16

Taking flight: Archaeopteryx and avian origins

Chapter 10

Feb. 18

Early Birds

Chapter 11

Feb. 23

Sauropodomorpha: prosauropods & sauropods

Chapter 8

Feb. 25

Dinosaur biomechanics: Coping with large body size


Mar. 2

Thyreophora: stegosaurs & ankylosaurs & dino defense

Chapter 5

Mar. 4

Dinosaur Diets


Mar. 9

Ornithopoda: basal groups, iguanodonts, & hadrosaurs

Chapter 7

Mar. 11

Dinosaur physiology & body temperature

Chapter 12

Mar. 16

Flowering of the Mesozoic

Chapter 13

Mar. 18



Mar. 23

Spring Break  No class


Mar. 25

Spring Break  No class


Mar. 30

Marginocephalia: pachycephalosaurs & ceratopsians

Chapter 6

Apr. 1

Dino sex: mating displays, nesting, & rearing juveniles


Apr. 6

Dinosaur Community Dynamics


Apr. 8

Science Writing and Discussion

CourseDen PDFs

Apr. 13

Dinosaur relatives: Pterosaurs


Apr. 15

Dinosaur relatives: swimming reptiles of the Mesozoic


Apr. 20

Dinosaur relatives: mammals & human origins


Apr. 22

The End-Cretaceous mass extinction: facts & theories

Chapter 15

Apr. 27



* All readings are from Fastovsky and Weishampel (2005).  There may also be additional readings throughout the semester.