This course focuses on the geological and evolutionary processes that have shaped our planet and life on it over the last 550 million years, the long, fossil-rich period known as the Phanerozoic. Using Indiana as the focus, you will learn about the evolutionary history of major groups of animals and plants, the origins of life on land, the growth of the North American continent, changes to the Earth's atmosphere and oceans, and the interactions among life, climate, sediments, and geological structures.


Information about the crinoid Elegantocrinus hemisphericus, the Elegant Sea-lily

Elegantocrinus hemisphaericus

Most Recent Lecture

Back to the Present, and the Future

Friday, April 26th, 13:25 - 02:15 PM, GY 447

The pattern of glacial-interglacial cycles; Oxygen isotope proxies for climate; Regional differences in paleoenvironmental change; Late Quaternary extinction and the role of humans; Current changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperature; Comparison with past; Certainties and uncertainties from a geological and paleontological perspective.

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Indiana Fossils

Michelinia cylindrica

The tabulate coral Michelinia cylindrica from the Devonian aged Jeffersonville Limestone.

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Technical terms

dessication cracks

Polygon-shaped cracks that form in mud as it dries in a terrestrial environment. Dessication cracks are most often preserved in the rock record when they fill with loose sand and are buried.

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Hoosier paleontologists

Charles Frederick Deiss

Charles Deiss was a paleontologist and geologist who was born in Kentucky and studied at Miami University of Ohio (BA, 1925). In 1946 he moved to Bloomington, Indiana to become chair of the Department of Geological Sciences and the Indiana State Geologist. Deiss was instrumental in establishing the IU Field Station near Whitehall Montana and he collected many fossils from the Paleozoic sections in that region. He is especially known for his work on Cambrian faunas and stratigraphy from western North America.

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Syllabus 2013


Hoosier Paleontologists

Technical Terms


Dr. P. David Polly

Department of Geological Sciences
Indiana University
1001 E. 10th Street
Bloomington, IN 47405