GEOL 204 Dinosaurs, Early Humans, Ancestors & Evolution:
The Fossil Record of Vanished Worlds of the Prehistoric Past
Spring Semester 2017
"Notes from the Fossil Record" Team Project
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 or early May.
There are several steps for this project. The first one is forming your teams:
STEP ONE - Team Formation & Contract:
Form a team of three to four (3-4) people. We are giving you the option of creating your own teams, but you have to do so before discussion on February 27 and properly (i.e., it is three to four people: not just two people, not five or more). 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.
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.
(Parenthetically, some students simultaneously complain that "they hate team projects" and "college classes don't prepare us for the working world." Well, guess what? Essentially ALL careers involve team projects! And in the vast majority of cases, you don't get to choose your team members or the project's subject. So consider this practice for your post-undergraduate life.)
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 February 27 meeting.
STEP TWO - Topic Sign Up:
By March 6, you are required to sign up on the Google Sheet Sign Up Page 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:
- Origins of particular clades
- Feeding strategies
- Locomotion studies
- Functional Morphology other than feeding and locomotion
- Growth and reproduction
- Trace fossil analysis
- Fossil ecosystems
- Macroevolutionary patterns
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, 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:
- 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.
- Be recent. For purpose of this project, we will define "recent" as "publication date of 2011 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. Dr. Holtz's journals page and the Scientific Paper Homework have more information about accessing these.
By start of discussion on March 13, 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:
- Citation of the article in proper GEOL 204 bibliographic style
- URL of the online version of the item
- 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 FIVE - 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.
Syllabus, Policies, Textbooks, etc.
Last modified: 9 January 2017