Introduction to geobiology

Undergraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content


In this course, students explore how the evolution of the biosphere has led to fundamental changes in the earth¿s surface environments, geochemical cycles, and climate. The biosphere is a key component of the dynamic system we call the Earth system, which has evolved, through billions of years of biological evolution, into the planet we depend on today. The course aims to provide an understanding of basic geobiological processes and documented large-scale changes, as well as the role of humans and their impact on the Earth system.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


The student will

  • explain key concepts, definitions and phenomena (e.g. microbial metabolisms, biosphere, geological time scale, evolution)
  • explain how the geosphere and biosphere can affect each other (e.g. biogeochemical cycles)
  • outline the main features of the history of life on Earth, with paleobiological examples
  • discuss how geobiological processes underpin sustainable development goals and potential solutions to these challenges


The student will

  • independently develop computational practices (Python) and use help functions and digital resources to solve problems
  • perform quantitative analyses (e.g. estimate extinction rates from global fossil databases) and summarize data and results graphically
  • program simple numerical models and discuss dynamic behavior (e.g. feedbacks)
  • interpret (read and explain) graphs and figures showing Earth system data (e.g. time series)
  • read and summarize relevant scientific primary literature, and cite sources correctly

General competence

The student will

  • propose solutions to ill-structured problems in collaboration with others
  • use a precise professional language to communicate scientific topics in writing and presentations
  • acknowledge and discuss human dependence and impact on Earth systems
  • demonstrate the ability to function individually and behave ethically in cooperation with others
  • perform laboratory work in compliance with GEO / UiB health and safety regulations
  • make productive use of feedback and reflect on own learning

Level of Study


Semester of Instruction

Required Previous Knowledge
 Basic knowledge in geology, geophysics, structural geology, quaternary geology, sedimentology and field training.
Access to the Course
Access to the course requires admission to a programme of study at The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
Teaching and learning methods

The course includes lectures teaching activities in a team based seminar room and in a laboratory.

The course is taught in 2- and 4-hour blocks during the week for 11 weeks.

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

Participation on all teaching acitivites.

Hand in of exercises.

Forms of Assessment

Portfolio assessment (assignments, field report with peer review, group presentations, quizzes).

It is not possible to appeal the grade of this portfolio assessment. This is because a large part of the assessment in this course takes place orally in the classroom and would not be possible to reevaluate

Grading Scale
The grading scale used is A to F. Grade A is the highest passing grade in the grading scale, grade F is a fail
Assessment Semester
Reading List
The reading list will be available within July 1st for the autumn semester and December 1st for the spring semester
Course Evaluation
The course will be evaluated by the students in accordance with the quality assurance system at UiB and the department
Programme Committee
The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.