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ESS2303S – Earth System Evolution

Crucial environmental and biological changes occurred during the Precambrian-Cambrian transition. In this course we will review some key factors which may have influenced the emergence of animals using known fossil evidence, geochemical and sedimentological data and paleogeographic reconstructions. In addition, we will take a look at geologic events that resulted in progressive climate cooling over the past 55 Ma, ultimately leading into the ice age climate cycles.


Dr. Marc Laflamme
Tel.: 905-828-5228
E-mail: marc.laflamme@utoronto.ca

Jochen Halfar
Phone 905-828-5419
E-mail: jochen.halfar@utoronto.ca


Course requirements:

  1. Carbonate Core Group Project:

As a group you will investigate a Holocene marine sediment core from the Gulf of California, Mexico. After a guided overview of the biosedimentology of the core, you will be instructed in picking out 300 foraminifera (marine protists) from 4 samples/student and use the taxonomic composition of the foraminiferal assemblages to interpret paleoenvironmental changes at the study site throughout the Holocene. We will start with the Carbonate Core Project at the beginning of the class, so that you can independently work on the data collection and interpretation throughout the semester. Instructors will assist if questions arise, and will periodically review analyzed samples. Deliverable is a final group report that has the potential to form the basis for a publishable paper. Hence, the report will include a 300 word abstract, an introduction with an overview of the study site and foraminifera-based environmental interpretations, a methods sections, data presentation (results) and a detailed discussion of the findings. Extra sections include Figures and References. The paper length should be between 20-30 pages including extra sections and has to be submitted by April 20th.

  1. Oral presentations:

Each student gives 1 “conference-style” presentation based on the suggested key papers but also on additional papers to properly cover the topic. Presentations are 20 minutes in length and are followed by a class discussion lead by the student presenter. Key papers for each topic are to be read by all students. The student discussion leader will also ask questions to the class, and participation is graded so all students must read the papers and be prepared to discuss the topic!

  1. Papers:

Each student is responsible for one term paper. All term papers are due April 1st. Topics will be distributed randomly at the beginning of the first class from the list of topics below. Papers should be 5 pages minimum (10 maximum) double spaced. The number of pages does not include references/tables etc… Note: Topics for the oral and written assignments are the same.

  1. Participation:

Each student is expected to read the key papers, to prepare questions and to participate in the class discussion.

  1. Marking scheme: 15% presentation, 30% paper, 15% participation, 40% final group project.


Key papers to be read by all students

Laflamme topics:


Halfar Topics

1) Cenozoic Climate evolution:

Zachos, J., Pagani, M., Sloan, L., Thomas, E., and Billups, K., 2001, Trends, rhythms, and aberrations in global climate 65 Ma to present: Science, v. 292, p. 686-693.

2) Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum:

    Zachos, J.C., Röhl, U., Schellenberg, S.A., Sluijs, A., Hodell, D.A., Kelly, D.C., Thomas, E., Nicolo, M., Raffi, I., Lourens, L.J., McCarren, H., and Kroon, D., 2005, Rapid acidification of the ocean during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum: Science, v. 308, p. 1611-1615.

Zeebe, R. E., Zachos, J. C. & Dickens, G. R. Carbon dioxide forcing alone insufficient to explain Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum warming. Nature Geoscience 2, 576-580 (2009).

3) Greenhouse-Icehouse Transition:

Tripati, A., Backman, J., Elderfield, H. & Ferretti, P. Eocene bipolar glaciation associated with global carbon cycle changes. Nature 436, 341-346 (2005).

Katz, M. E., Miller, K. G., Wrigth, J. D., Wade, B. S., Browning, J. V., Cramer, B. S. & Rosenthal, Y. Stepwise transition from the Eocene greenhouse to the Oligocene icehouse. Nature Geoscience 1, 329-335 (2008).

4) Tibetan Plateau:

Raymo, M.E., and Ruddiman, W.F. 1992. Tectonic forcing of late Cenozoic climate. Nature 359: 117-122.

Dupont-Nivet, G., Krijgsman, W., Langereis, C.G., Abels, H.A., Dai, S., and Fang, X. 2007. Tibetan plateau aridification linked to global cooling at the Eocene-Oligocene transition. Nature 445: 635-638.

5) Arctic glaciation:

    Stoll, H.M., 2006, The Arctic tells its story: Nature, v. 441, p. 579-581.

    Moran, K., Backman, J., Brinkhuis, H., Clemens, S.C., Cronin, T., Dickens, G.R., Eynaud, F., Gattacceca, J., Jakobsson, M., Jordan, R.W., Kaminski, M., King, J., Koc, N., Krylov, A., Martinez, N., Matthiessen, J., McInroy, D., Moore, T.C., Onodera, J., O’Regan, M., Pälike, H., Rea, B., Rio, D., Sakamoto, T., Smith, D.C., Stein, R., St John, K., Suto, I., Suzuki, N., Takahashi, K., Watanabe, M., Yamamoto, M., Farrell, J., Frank, M., Kubik, P., Jokat, W., and Kristoffersen, Y., 2006, The Cenozoic palaeoenvironment of the Arctic Ocean: Nature, v. 441, p. 601-605.

6) Closing of Isthmus of Panama:

    Driscoll, N.W., and Haug, G.H., 1998, A short circuit in thermohaline circulation: A cause for northern hemisphere glaciation?: Science, v. 282, p. 436-438.

    Haug, G.H., Tiedemann, R., Zahn, R., and Ravelo, A.C., 2001, Role of Panama uplift on oceanic freshwater balance: Geology, v. 29, p. 207-210.