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Academic year
Didactic period
Secondo Semestre

Training objectives

This course enables students to understand the employment of fossils in biostratigraphy and paleoceanographic reconstructions. The relationships among these subjects and the other stratigraphic fields in the Earth Sciences are other major topics.

The main educational goal is to provide the ability needed to apply the acquired theoretical concepts to practical exercises. Fossil groups utilized are mainly foraminfera. Paleoenvironmental reconstructions are based on paleoceanographic case hystories.

The main knowledge gained will be:

• Knowledge of methods for biostratigraphical analysis and paleoceanographic reconstructions.
• Knowledge of the different types of biozones through practical exercises.
• Knowledge of criteria for taxonomical attribution of the fossil groups utilized for exercises and their possible influence on a correct biostratigraphic and paleoecological application.
• Knowledge of Magnetobiochronology.
• Comprehension of the relationships between ciclostratigraphy astrobiochronology and biostratigraphy.
• Awareness of the relationship with stable isotopes stratigraphy biostratigraphy and paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic reconstructions.
• Comprehension of problems related to stratigraphic correlations.
• Comprehension that integrated analyses are needed in stratigraphy and paleoecological/paleoclimatic reconstructions.
• Knowledge of advantages and limits in stratigraphic and plaeoceological disciplines.
• Comprehension that paleoenvironmental information is essential for the biostratigraphic analysis.
The main abilities to apply knowledge acquired will be:
• To refer bioevents recorded in stratigraphic successions to standard zonal schemes.
• To comprehend the significance of the taxonomical concepts and of their changes for a correct biostratigraphical interpretation.
• To assign identified biozones to ages taking into account the GSSPs updating of the Geological Time Scale.
• To evaluate causes of possible differences among the standard zonal schemes.
• To interpret the magnetic polarity chrons on the basis of biostratigraphy.
• To establish age models for stratigraphic successions on the basis of magnetostratigraphy and/or on chrono-biohorizons.
• To refer marked lithological changes to paleocenographic and/or paleoclimatic global events through the biostratigraphic analysis.
• To interpret variations in fossil assemblages, with main references to foraminifera, in paleoecological view, in particular paleocenoraphic-paleoclimatic interpretation, in relation with trophic, oxygen and temperature state of the water column.
• To interpret biotic changes in relation to the variations of the main stable isotopes, such as d18O and d13C.
• To evaluate problems and possible solving in biostratigraphy and paleoenvironmental reconstructions through the expertise deriving from practical studies of significant stratigraphic intervals (Cretaceous, Cenozoic), and to acquire the ability for identifying problems and solutions through other stratigraphic intervals as well.


In order to be able to correctly execute the laboratory activities based on microfossil groups, the student must have attended the Course of Micropaleontology. It is also important that the student had acquired basic knowledge on Paleontology and Geology.

The student should be aware on safety regulations for attending classrooms, laboratories and field trips.

Course programme

The course includes 60 hours of teaching and is organized in lectures (20 h) and practical trainings (40 h).

Following an introduction on biostratigraphy and paleoecological methods (20 h), the course includes field trips and laboratory activities aimed to highlight the practical aspects and applications of the biostratigraphy and paleoecology and their relationships with the other stratigraphycal disciplines. These aspects will be better focalized firstly through practical examples (10 h) and then through the sampling on field of a stratigraphic section by the students (8 h) and successive microscope analysis of the samples collected, after the laboratory preparation (22). Students are therefore able to identify the fossils (generally planktic foraminifera) and directly apply the biostratigraphic analysis and the paleoeenvironmental recostruction. Stratigraphic intervals are selected across significant paleoclimatic and paleocenographic global events. Some examples come from the Cretaceous oceanic anoxic events (OAEs) and climatic variations during the Paleogene. Student will verify the local response of such events on the sampled stratigraphic sections through the paleoenvironmental reconstructions. The student is therefore able to perform a complete study of a stratigraphic section, from the geological and lithostratigafical framework.

Each student makes his own observations for biostratigraphy and palaeoenvironmental reconstructions on individually assigned microscope exercises.

Subjects treated are:

Biozones and biostratigraphic events
Quantitative biostratigraphy
Biostratigraphy and biochronology
Magnetobiochronology and astrobiochronology
Biostratigraphy and stratigraphy of stable isotopes
Correlation between biozonal schemes, the standartd stratigraphic scale and Global Stratotype Section and Points (GSSP)
Problems in biostratigraphic correlations
Methods in paleoecology
Overview on the subjects on which are based the laboratory activities on biostratigraphy and paleoecology.

Didactic methods

The course includes the following phases:

Lectures on the topics of the course program. During lessons students are expected to be involved in continuous interactions aimed to link the new knowledge with the acquired geological-paleontological concepts. Students are requested to do a presentation on a in-depth examination on subjects treated in the course.
Practical activities on pre-configurated ad hoc case-studies that students, individually or in group, have to complete.
Field trip (early part of the course) aimed to directly apply the first phases necessary for the biostratigraphic and paleoceanographic/paleoecological analysis: outcrop description, sampling strategies, stratigraphic column. If field excursion is not possible (e.g. weather problems or other), samples will come from other sources (e.g., drilling from oceanic sites available at the Physics and Earth Sciences Department).
Individual laboratory activity with constant teacher’s supervision: preparation of samples collected during the excursion; observation at the optical microscope aimed to the microsfossil classification, biozone and age recognition, identification of environmental setting and of its variations during the studied stratigraphic interval.
Continuous teacher’s guidance on problem solving during the laboratory activities and conclusions on the analyses performed.

After the laboratory activities, upon request to the authorized staff (teachers, doorkeeper, etc.), the access to samples- collections is allowed.

Learning assessment procedures

An ongoing examination in oral form is required. It consists in a presentation of an in-depth analysis of one of the topics treated in the course. Evaluation is qualitative. The individual presentation is mandatory and can be postponed at the final examination.

The final examination consists in the oral discussion of a powerpoint presentation or of a written report on the studied case-history and it includes questions on the themes treated in the course.

Reference texts

Files and notes provided by the teacher.

Books and scientific publications will be provided by the teacher according to the case-studies treated in the course.