This section is being developed to enable teachers to use the site as an aid to geology (specifically, palaeontology) teaching, primarily at A-level and early undergraduate level. The suggested exercises and approaches have not been made through contact with examination boards, but we are using the published curricula to tie the suggestions as closely as possible to necessary parts of the A-level teaching syllabus. The exercises suggested cover areas such as biostratigraphy, evolution, taxonomy and palaeoecology, and where possible we have emphasised the links between these areas.

For undergraduate-level teaching, many of the same exercises are directly applicable and relevant (after all, 70% of geology undergraduates have not done A-level Geology). How far to take the exercises is a decision for the lecturers/teachers themselves to decide, based on the ability and level of the class; in many cases, the only limit is the degree of sophistication of the answers. Some of the more advanced-level questions are left open-ended for exactly this purpose – that those students that wish to develop ideas further can follow the exercises to logical conclusions beyond those that are strictly required by the syllabus.

We have organised the exercises according to the primary focus of the questions, and referred to specific curriculum links below. These are then divided into relatively brief, 1-hour class exercises, and longer, university 'practical' or A-level coursework-style investigations. Although ‘model answers’ are inappropriate for this type of exercise, we can provide on request discussion-type ‘solutions’ for the use of teachers that are unfamiliar with some of the material. Please feel free to copy and paste images, and to print whatever is necessary for the exercises (this applies only to non-commercial use) – but please, please let us know that you are using the site for teaching, and also of any problems or suggestions for improvement. The forum has a board set aside for teaching discussions.

There is a series of links to the research page sections at the bottom of this page.

Exercise 1: Biostratigraphy

[WJEC GL1: III, 2c]

1A: A-level in-class exercise (1 hour)

Look at the range charts (www.asoldasthehills/range_charts).

1. List the requirements for a good index fossil.

2. Look at the range charts. For each group, say whether they are good, bad or uncertain for each of the requirements.

3. Using your results from 2, decide which group would be the best to use for biostratigraphy of the Builth Inlier.

4. Which group(s) could not be used? Why?

1B: coursework assignment or undergraduate practical (2-3 hour)

Although some groups of fossils (for example, ammonoids, graptolites and conodonts) are much more widely used in biostratigraphy than others, theoretically, any groups can be used in this way. In some rocks, none of the ideal groups occur, and other groups are used. Trilobites and brachiopods, for example, have been extensively used for Early Palaeozoic rocks. The best way to understand the process of biostratigraphy is to attempt to use a non-ideal group to define biozones, and consider the problems involved in it.

In this exercise, you will be asked to use the range charts and some additional pages to create your own alternative biostratigraphy, and think about the difficulties involved.

1) Graptolites form the basis of the biostratigraphy for the Builth Inlier, which shows rocks of Middle Ordovician age. Microfossils have not yet been studied in detail, but we have a good record for several other groups of fossils. Examine the range charts in the section www.asoldasthehills/range_charts and choose the alternative group that you think is best suited to biostratigraphy. Why have you chosen this group?

2) Describe (from your own knowledge, the range charts and the faunal list) for your chosen group: (a) their distribution through different environments; (b) how easily they are preserved.

3) For your chosen group, attempt to divide the range chart into three or four biozones. Think about how easily the biozones could be recognised, and (referring to the faunal list for illustrations of most species) for each biozone assign an index fossil. Remember to define your biozone boundaries: e.g. the first appearance or last appearance of a species.

4) You now have an alternative biostratigraphy for the Builth Inlier. Excellent! Now you get to find out how well you’ve done… Answer the following questions. (a) How many of your index fossils are described species (is there an author’s name after the latin name in the faunal list)? (b) Describe the facies distribution of your chosen index species as far as possible (you may find the community reconstructions helpful). Are they likely to be strongly affected by which environments are preserved? (c) Does the time range that your index fossils are known from coincide with environmental changes?

5) How widely do you think your biozones could be recognised outside the Builth Inlier (are they based on unknown species, for example)?

6) Why do we use graptolites instead?

Exercise 2: Classification and Morphology

[WJEC GL4: E3 1a]

2A: A-level in-class exercise (1 hour)

Working in groups of 3 or 4, look at the faunal list page on trilobites (www.asoldasthehills.org/trilobites). [Teacher: you may wish to print multiple copies of the unlabelled drawings, and cut them out (we can provide them in easy-print format if you wish – please email us).]

1) Using the illustrations in the list, divide the drawings into roughly six to eight groups of related species – you decide exactly how many groups you think are there. These will be roughly at ‘order’ level.

2) Try to divide each group further, into families and genera.

3) Which types of features have you been using to distinguish (a) orders, (b) families and (c) genera?

4) Compare your classifications with those of other groups. Do you think palaeontologists always agree?

5) Some features of organisms tell you more about their functional morphology, and some tell you more about evolution; which will provide the ‘better’ classification? Which category do you think the features you listed in part 3 fall into?

History of Research

Current state of Research & suggestions
Reference List
Faunal List
Range Charts
Community Palaeoecology
Taxonomic Database (download MS Word file)
The Llanfawr Mudstone Lagerstätte