GU and ForBio course: Life and Earth History

The evolution of life on Earth is inevitably linked with the geological and climatic history that has dramatically changed available habitats and resources over time. In this course we will explore how geological and paleoclimatic evidence and paleontological and neontological data can be combined to better understand the interplay between Earth history and the evolution and biogeography of organisms. We will provide key concepts about biostratigraphy and fossil preservation and their crucial role in dating events in deep time. We will touch upon several major events of climate changes and landmass dynamics in different part of the world and at different geological times, such as the formation of the Himalayan mountain range, the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM; ~ 55 Ma), and the formation of a land bridge connecting the North and South American continents. A special focus will be given to the effects of these events on local and global biodiversity and its spatial distribution. Further, we will demonstrate computational methods that can help us investigating the dynamics of origination, dispersal, and extinction of organisms using fossil occurrence data. This course will also include practicals providing training in computational (paleo)biology to infer macroevolutionary dynamics and instill or reinforce skills in python and R computing.

Course content
The course includes: 1) formal lectures on earth history and its links to biodiversity dynamics; 2) workshops on the use of computational methods to infer macroevolutionary processes from fossil data with hands-on practicals; 3) visiting the “The history of life and its teeming diversity” exhibition at the Natural History Museum of Gothenburg.

After completion of the course the PhD student will have gained insights on important geological and climatic events that have characterized Earth history and inevitably impacted biodiversity and evolution. They will also have a better understanding of the paleontological and geological evidence that these events left and how they can be used to understand the origin and history of life on Earth, at different geographic and temporal scales. Finally, participants will learn how to setup and carry out macroevolutionary analyses using the software PyRate ( to infer origination, extinction and preservation rates from fossil occurrence data.

Required reading
A list of scientific publications required for the course will be distributed among confirmed students two weeks before the start of the course.

Preparation of a short research proposal (powerpoint presentation and two page executive summary) to be presented and submitted 10 days after course completion.

Course teachers
Christine D. Bacon, Carina Hoorn, Carlos Jaramillo, Daniele Silvestro

The University of Gothenburg course plan can be found here.

Application deadline is August 12th, 2016. Apply here. Plan to book travel arrangements that weekend.

A 1.5 ECTS course certificate will be given to students that pass the course, either by GU or ForBio depending on registration.

Contact the course leaders Daniele Silvestro or Christine D. Bacon, or ForBio leader Hugo de Boer for more information.

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