Teaching

History of Life (Geology 100) is a broad overview of the evolution and diversification of life on Earth. It is an introduction to science in general and to evolutionary biology and historical geology in particular, but science majors as well as non-scientists will find the material interesting and challenging. This course, in fact, counts toward the major in geology. It is all great fun, especially since the material not only changes every semester, it changes every week. And wait until you see what strange and marvelous events have happened in the History of Life!

Invertebrate Paleontology (Geology 250) is the study of ancient invertebrate life. It is an exciting field at the overlap of geology and biology. It is animated by the process of organic evolution. My primary goal in this course is that students learn the basic theories and methods of paleontology, and enough of the applications so that each can later pick up a fossil anywhere and know its identity, preservation style, evolutionary history, age, and depositional environment. This is a “W” course at Wooster, which means that we have a variety of writing exercises concentrating on scientific communication.

Sedimentology & Stratigraphy (Geology 260) is a survey of the description, formation, and distribution of sedimentary rocks, which are almost three-fourths of the rocks exposed on the Earth’s surface. Most of the details we know about Earth history come from sedimentary rocks and the fossils within them. Many of our primary economic resources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, are contained within sedimentary rocks. My goal in this course is for students to understand how these rocks are formed and learn what types of stratigraphic, paleoenvironmental, and tectonic information can be recovered from them. By the end of the course, they should also be able to identify and interpret any sedimentary rock. Like Invertebrate Paleontology above, this is also a “W” course for writing.

Desert Geology (Geology 350) is one of our “Special Topics” courses. This course is designed to introduce the geological processes which form and operate in the deserts of the world. The centerpiece is a Spring Break field trip to the Mojave Desert. The first half of the course will be preparation for the trip, and the second half will be analysis, discussion and review of what we saw and found. This is a half-credit course so we meet for roughly half the time of a regular course (except for the six-day field trip!) and generally do half the work. It is taught by all the faculty in the department.

First-Year Seminar is a course series taught every year to incoming students at The College of Wooster. My section is titled “Nonsense! (And Why It’s So Popular)“, which is taught every three to four years. A deep streak of irrationality runs through humanity.  Best-selling authors describe complicated plots behind such diverse phenomena as UFOs, earthquakes, the 9/11 attacks, and vaccinations.  History is often “revised” to fit particular political positions, psychics communicate with the dead, creationists battle the science of evolution, astrologers see our destinies in the stars, and modern prophets warn us of the Last Days.  Billions of dollars have been spent on worthless or even harmful medical treatments.  Every year someone “discovers” Atlantis while someone else “proves” that there were ancient civilizations on Mars.  Why is such nonsense so popular?  What are the dangers to society when irrationality is so common?  Do we have logical tools to sort bad ideas from good?  In this seminar we examine conspiracy theories, crank science, quack medicine, and revisionist history.  We use original literature, websites, and films to explore the lure of these ideas and their social origins.