History of Marine Life

History of Marine Life
Dates: 4/5-5/24
Tuesdays 2pm Ages 13 and up
Tuition: $80 Drop ins $15 per class

Course Description:
“it is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent… It is the one the is the most adaptable to change”
~Charles Darwin

This course is designed to give students a walkthrough of the history of marine life. Starting from single celled bacteria to the large whale sharks you see today, all life had to start somewhere. In this class, we are going go through the basics of evolution and explain how we could possibly have the amazing diversity in the oceans that we have today, as well as the major events in Earth’s history that led us to the planet we now live on. This class is intended to focus on marine organisms but will include some explanations of terrestrial organisms as well.


About the instructor:
Michael Vondras is a local educator recently graduated with a degree in Marine Biology.  His coursework at the University of Rhode Island included Marine Environmental Physiology, Evolution and Diversity of Fishes and Ecology and Deep-Sea Biology.  However, he is most passionate about Bioluminescence!

There will be a short assignment after each class that will be due at the beginning of class the next day. These assignments may range from review of a scientific paper to analysis of an organism. These assignments are designed to be interesting and enjoyable. Assignments will not be “graded”, but will be returned with feedback. Assignments will not be back breaking and will normally not require more than a page. Either typed or handwritten submissions will be accepted.

There will be short one slide quizzes at the beginning of class that will include 1-3 questions from the previous week. These will not be submitted but will be answered as a class. This is only an 8 week course therefore will not have any tests.

Classroom Policy:
During class there will be discussions. However, they must stay on topic. I do not anticipate any issues. Most importantly, treat everyone in the class with respect and we will not have any problems.


Week 1: Basic Concepts of Evolution
Evolution is no longer considered just a theory. While some topics are still under scrutiny, the basic fundamental idea of survival of the fittest when it comes to life on Earth is well understood and accepted. In this class we will go through the basic concepts of Darwinian Natural Selection to show how the environment shapes the way animals live.

Week 2: More Basic Concepts and Evidence for Evolution
This week is to continue the basic concepts of evolution and also to dive into the evidence for evolution. We have fossils, DNA, and living fossil evidence to support that species to species evolution is a law of science not just a theory.

Week 3: A Baby Planet Earth
A young Earth was a very volatile place. Extremely high temperatures, constant barrages of space rubble and an atmosphere consisting of high levels of carbon dioxide and toxic levels of sulfur and nitrogen. This week we are going to walk through the conditions of early Earth and what kind of Ocean was present during this period.

Week 4: Beginning of Ocean Life
All life on Earth had to start somewhere. Currently the prevailing thought is that life on Earth started as “pond slime”. While that doesn’t sound ideal, this is actually believed to be true. Without our Cyanobacterial friends (the pond slime), we would have no Oxygen to breath and Earth would be completely uninhabitable for animals.

Week 5: Cambrian Explosion
The Cambrian Explosion was a period of time 500 Million years ago when live of Earth “exploded in diversity. Fossils from this time period are very common. This was a crucial time for the evolution of almost every major animal phyla on earth.

Week 6: The Devonian Period
Imagine the fish you see in your fish tank or at the Aquarium. Now picture that fish with massive teeth and armor plating on its body. The Devonian Period was a time of massive predators with plated bone armor on their bodies. This will take us back 220 million years before the arrival of the Jurassic Dinosaurs.

Week 7: Age of the Dinosaurs
The Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods were the dawn, life, and death of the Dinosaurs. But not all dinosaurs lived on land. Some of the largest of the dinosaurs lived in the ocean. We are going to walk through some of the Marine Life, conditions of the Ocean and the fossils of some of the greatest predators to ever walk the Earth.

Week 8: Earth’s Major Extinction Events
Over the course of Earth’s life, the oceans have undergone major extinction events. Every living thing on the planet today is a descendant of a species that was able to survive each and every major extinction event over the past 4.2 Billion years. Events like massive asteroids, volcanic eruptions, and ice ages, shaped the current planet and all life on it we see today.