Course Meeting Times

Lectures: Two sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


In this course, we will evaluate and discuss the formation and diagnostic structural properties of organic matter with particular emphasis on chemical fossils. The topics to be covered include:

  • Biological and Non-biological Formation of Organic Matter
  • The Classification and Chemical Structures of Biomarkers
  • Biomarker Relationships to Organism Physiology and Phylogeny
  • Preservation Potential and Mechanisms; Diagenesis, Kerogen Formation and Hydrocarbon Generation
  • Analytical Techniques used to Study Biomarkers and Kerogen
  • Paleoreconstruction using Biomarkers


Each week's effort will comprise a Friday overview lecture (1-1.5 hrs) and assigned readings. The Wednesday session will be a group seminar of the topic of the previous week. In these discussions, participants will present a synopsis and critique of one of the readings.


Two term papers will be required for 50% of the credit (pass/fail unless otherwise agreed). The remaining 50% will be awarded on the basis of contribution to the weekly seminar.