The primary project for the semester will a team presentation discussing recent discoveries and analyses of fossil information. These will be presented in Discussion during April.
There are several steps for this project. The first one is forming your teams:
STEP ONE - Team Formation & Contract:
Form a team of four (4) people. (If the number students in your section isn't evenly divided by 4, there may be a few sections with just three in them.) We are giving you the option of creating your own teams, but you have to do so before discussion on March 5. Those students who do not assemble a team before hand will be randomly assigned in one in class. Everyone in the team must do SOME comparable job (although you will likely divvy up the jobs: more about that below). There should be FIVE (5) teams per discussion section, so long as the discussion section has more than 16 students.
Choose your teams wisely: everyone is expected to contribute to the team, and for some parts of the project everyone gets the same grade that item. If someone slacks off or screws up, you all get penalized.
The way you establish what your group is by downloading your contract, meet with your group, fill out all the information, and provide a copy to your TA (as well as keeping one copy per student). Turn the copy in to your TA at the March 5 meeting.
STEP TWO - Topic Sign Up:
Also by March 5, you are required to sign up on the Google "Topic Sign Up Sheet" (linked to on ELMS) with your list of team members for the category you wish to examine. In each section only one team may do a given category, but there will certainly be duplication of categories between sections.
Here are the categories available:
Trace Fossils: this topic includes fossil footprints, burrows, feeding marks, nests, coprolites, and much more
Isotopes, Molecular Paleontology & Paleoecology: this is a particularly broad category. It includes the use of stable isotopes (normally carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, or sulfur) to study the biology, ecology, physiology, or environment of extinct forms. It also includes molecular paleontology: analyses of fossil DNA, preserved biomarkers, and such. And finally it includes the extensive field of paleoecology: reconstructing the interactions between fossil living things and their physical environment. (Paleoecological studies can utilize isotopes and molecular paleontology, but it can also use many other types of evidence.)
Biomechanics & Functional Morphology: this includes the analysis of locomotion, bite forces, and any other examination of the function of fossil organisms based on their physical form.
Evolutionary Transformations: under this topic you will look at transitions between modes of life and the rise of new groups of organisms. The paper might look at a series of related transformations in a particular lineage, or maybe the discovery of a new species that adds information about an important previously-unknown phase in such a history.
Reproduction & Ontogeny: this category will look at evidence concerning sexual or asexual reproduction, development, and growth over the life cycle of a species.
Within each category, each team member will examine and summarize one (1) particular analytical paper: in other words, the group as a whole will have a presentation on 3-4 papers, depending on team size. Keep in mind this is a course on paleontology: the paper you use MUST use fossil evidence as part of the analysis. (That doesn't mean it has to be fossils only; some research requires integrating modern data and fossil data). You are NOT discussing review papers; the paper you report on must have at least one new particular analysis which you will summarize.
STEP THREE - Annotated Bibliography:
After you have signed up for a category, you should be doing some research. Start with wikis and news articles and blog posts (I highly recommend the weekly "Fossil Friday Roundup" at the PLoS Paleo Community blog, which lists all open access paleontology papers that came out that week), but then it is time to get some serious research done. Your individual part of the presentation will be about a PARTICULAR specific paper.
The paper must:
Be from the peer-reviewed literature.
Be an analytical research paper, not a review paper or news article (or book!)
For practical purposes, keep it a relatively short paper: I don't want you to have to read 50 page papers when a 5-10 page one will often do.
Contain at least some new analysis; that is, there are observations subjected to some method of analysis to find some inference about the organisms or environment. Purely descriptive or review articles are not sufficient. A good clue for this: if there is a "materials and methods" section and a "results" section, it is likely a useful paper; if there isn't, it probably wouldn't count.
Be ABOUT FOSSILS!! As noted above, there may be some use of modern organism data as well; nevertheless, this course is about the fossil record, and your project has to reflect that.
Be recent. For purpose of this project, we will define "recent" as "publication date of 2012 or more recent." [If you have some overwhelming desire to review an older paper, please talk to Dr. Holtz about it.]
For practical purpose, be available for free through the University of Maryland's library resources.
The best database for searching the peer-reviewed literature is Google Scholar. Do NOT feel obliged to use the very first hit on the search!! Indeed, you probably want to check out a variety of papers and see which interests you the most. (For that matter, you want to be able to at least understand the basics of the analysis.).
By the way, if you are off campus and want to access a paper to a journal to which the University has a subscription, you can install the "Reload@UMCP" button on your web browser: check out this web page from the Library for more details.
Each person in the team has to have a different paper. Indeed, it might be a bit boring for the other members of your section if all your papers are on the same basic topic, so please coordinate among your team so each of you is doing a different paper about a different type of fossil organism.
By start of discussion on March 12, each student must post the bibliographic information of their chosen paper on the appropriate entry (under "Team Project Annotated Bibliography", under "Assignments") on ELMS. Each student in the team must post a separate unique item from the other team members, so you must coordinate.
Your post must include:
The category your group is doing (so that I can immediately tell if the paper is relevant or not)
A brief restatement/summary in your own words of what the article says, including:
The fossil taxon or taxa studied
The age of those fossils
The place those fossils came from
A brief description of the type of analysis/es used to study the fossils
The results of those studies.
STEP FOUR - Creating Your Presentation:
Creating Your Presentation: The primary delivery of your project will be a presentation on PowerPoint or Prezi shown in class. You will be informed in advance which day your team is going to present. Plan for a presentation about 12-15 minutes long (perhaps somewhat longer, but not shorter.) We suggest the following basic structure for your presentation:
You'll want to do your research in order to write your script and find images to populate your presentation well prior to presenting.
We suggest the following basic structure for your presentation:
An introductory title image with the title of the presentation, the phrase "GEOL 204 The Fossil Record "Notes from the Fossil Record" Project", "Section 010x" (with the appropriate 'x'), a complete list of members of your team, and the date of the presentation.
For the first paper (you chose the order):
An introduction, with the bibliographic information for the paper visible (although you don't have to read it out).
Background: describe the taxon/taxa (life habits, environment, age, etc.) or environment (location, age, important taxa) or whatever in question
The question being tested
The analysis conducted to test the question, including:
The data which were analyzed
The methods used to test the question
Results of the analysis: what does it imply
Concluding thoughts on the analysis
Do the above for each paper in turn
Some final summary
But feel free to show your creativity. It might be helpful to examine the following online resources for suggestions on effective PowerPoint Presentations:
We encourage the use of images, charts, graphics, and animations, keeping in mind at all times University regulations about plagiarism, proper citations, etc. Each and every such item must be properly referenced: at minimum, we expect to see a small caption from the source on the page. (We will provide examples of how to do this in discussion section). (However, you do not need to cite figures from the main paper itself; you've already given the citation details for that.) We most DEFINITELY expect to see illustrations when you are explaining taxa or fossil sites, and to see the graphics used in the analyses! No text-only PowerPoints!
Consider that your PowerPoint is the equivalent of a major term paper, and is held up to the same academic standards. Thus, we expect:
All items presented to be factual, supported by primary references, and properly attributed
The dialog and text is your own; where you must give a statement in someone else's words, you must distinctly and clearly indicate that is what is going on
Correct spelling and proper grammar
Presentation style appropriate for a university course
Dialog is clear and understandable
Images, video clips, music clips, etc., are done so strictly following the "Fair Use" doctrine. In general, it is safest to limit images you use to those from scientific technical publications, government agencies, and Wikimedia. And, of course, to give proper citation for these!
Some observations and comments:
You are expected to understand the paper you are presenting. If it is apparent that you do not understand it, you will be down-graded.
Learn to use and say the right words! It is your responsibility to learn the material.
A common one: the word is "adaptations" (four syllables), not "adaptions" (three syllables).
If you don't know how to pronounce the word, email Dr. Holtz and he will send you a video response on how he would pronounce it.
You need to incorporate the facts and material from class into your presentation as well.
Many students create slides where the pictures or graphs take up less area than the text. This is bass-ackwards!! PowerPoint is primarily a visual medium; emphasize the visual elements!
Related to that, the majority (if not all) the slides should have pictures on them
Do not distort images (that is, shrink or stretch the width a different amount than the length).
It is important to divide up your responsibilities clearly in the project (for examples, maybe giving each person some subtopic to research and/or present; or some people writing responsibilities, others graphics/illustrations, still other general editors; whatever works for you.)
As you can see, this will take a fair amount of work.
ABSO-FRIGGIN-LUTELY do NOT put this off until the last minute (i.e., the night or weekend before it is due), because there is no reasonable way you will do a decent job on it in that case, and you will sink together collectively.
We definitely recommend practicing your presentation among your group several times before the time you present it in section. Learn which slides are the most important, and on which you do not need to linger.
STEP SIX - Presentation in Discussion Section:
Each team will present on a different discussion section meeting in April. (Thus, there will only be one presentation per meeting: you will still have quizzes, lecture reviews, etc. in the discussion meetings as well.)
The order of which team presents when will be established in March. You will coordinate with the TA on this order. To make sure this is done with as little difficulty as possible, PLEASE be aware of any potential conflicts (e.g., missing a section due to doctor's appointments or trips or whatever) in advance, so the schedule can be worked out accurately in advance!
Obviously, not every team can go on the last day! (Furthermore, there is the benefit of being able to relax by getting your presentation over with earlier rather than later.)
Should a scheduling conflict arise after the schedule has been drawn up and announced, contact your TA and the rest of your team IMMEDIATELY!! Ideally there will be time for your team to switch with another that takes your place. Do not wait until the last minute to let people know about the conflict: that is irresponsible and creates unnecessary challenges to your teammates, your TA, and the rest of your discussion section.
(That said, obviously in extreme unforeseen circumstances we will have to find some other solution. But rest assured: every single student is required to present in discussion section.)
STEP SEVEN - Peer Evaluation:
Not only do you have to research and present; you also have to observe and comment! Each student has to do a peer evaluation (using this form) of all the other teams' presentations.