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Course year 1
Teaching units Unit Applied Biostratigraphy
Geology and Paleontology (lesson)
  • TAF: Compulsory subjects, characteristic of the class SSD: GEO/01 CFU: 3
Geology and Paleontology (exercise)
  • TAF: Compulsory subjects, characteristic of the class SSD: GEO/01 CFU: 3
Teachers: Cesare Andrea PAPAZZONI
Exam type oral
Evaluation final vote
Teaching language inglese
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Cesare Andrea PAPAZZONI


The course of Applied Biostratigraphy gives to the students the the theoretical basis for determining the age of the rocks by means of index fossils and fossil assemblages useful for biostratigraphy. The taxonomic groups useful to achieve these objectives have been chosen mainly among the foraminifera, as the latter are widely used in biostratigraphy, especially in the field of hydrocarbon extraction industry.
More specific objectives are:
a) the knowledge of the stratigraphic distributions of the main taxa useful for dating rocks;
b) the development, by means of practical activities, of a working method useful to tackle the biostratigraphy and immediately apply the acquired knowledge;
c) the acquisition of basic knowledge on the main underground investigation techniques by means of biostratigraphy.

Admission requirements

The course requires the basic knowledge of general Paleontology (exams of the Bachelor's Degree in Geological Sciences or in Natural Sciences).
In particular, the student must know:
     • systematic paleontology, referred to the main groups found in the fossil record
     • general principles of stratigraphy
     • general principles of paleoecology
     • fundamentals of cell biology
Furthermore, it is desirable that students are familiar with the use of the stereoscopic microscope and with the observation of thin sections.
As the course is taught entirely in English, knowledge of the aforementioned language is required with initial level B1.

Course contents

0.25 CFU: History of biostratigraphy
0.25 CFU: Subsurface exploration and biostratigraphy
0.25 CFU: Biostratigraphy with Planktonic Foraminifera
0.25 CFU: Biostratigraphy and Geochronology
0.25 CFU: Stage boundaries: GSSPs
0.25 CFU: Evolution, correlations and biostratigraphy
0.25 CFU: Oppelzones, biozonation phylosophy, the Shallow Benthic (SB) Zones
0.25 CFU: Fundamentals of foraminiferal classification
0.25 CFU: The pelagic Cretaceous: Calpionellids and Planktonic Foraminifera (including Cenozoic)
0.25 CFU: The neritic Cretaceous: Orbitolinids, Alveolinids, Orbitoids
0.50 CFU: The neritic Cenozoic: Alveolinids, Nummulitids, Orthophragmines, Lepidocyclinids, Miogypsinids

EXERCISES (3 CFU, 36 hours):
0.25 CFU: Treatment of samples for micropaleontological analyses.
2.00 CFU: Microscope observation of washed samples and thin sections.
0.75 CFU: Writing of the final report.

Teaching methods

The course is taught in English language. The lectures provide the fundamental knowledge needed for the successive practical activity. Discussions with the students regarding the treated topics are always welcome and often solicited by the teacher. No attendance obligation. The practical exercises, in the classroom or in the laboratory, are made with material given by the teacher observed under the microscope. The practical activity of taxa recognition and age determination of the given sample/samples is performed in the classroom with a microscope.

Assessment methods

The assessment will be composed by a written test and an oral test (interview), with the final score resulting from an average of the two individual assessments. The written test, individual, will consist in writing a brief report (in English), no more than three typewritten pages (about 10,000 characters) + possible figures and tables. It is aimed to describe and interpret the sample (or samples) assigned to the student for microscopic observation. The report must include the age determination (biostratigraphy) and the paleoenvironmental reconstruction (paleoecology) as deducted by the microfossil assemblages. The English language correctness will be evaluated as well. To the content correctness will be reserved 90% of the score (27/30), while the remaining 10% (3/30) will be attributed to the language correctness. The oral test consists of an interview (in English) to discuss the written report, followed by four questions on topics treated during the course. The discussion will be awarded 20% of the score, the questions 80% (20% for each question, i.e., 6/30). Each of the 5 parts of the oral exam will be evaluated at 83.33% on the content and 16.66% on the linguistic part (5 points and 1 point, respectively). To obtain the praise there will be an additional question. For non-attending students who have been unable to carry out the written test deriving from the laboratory activity, a practical test of recognition and interpretation of fossils under the microscope will be prepared. This test will be evaluated, such as the one for the attending students, 90% for content and 10% for language. The oral test will take place in the same way as for the attending students.

Learning outcomes

1) Knowledge and understanding
The student successfully completing the course shall know:
- the main microfossil groups, being aware of their potential application;
- the most common tools used in laboratory;
- the main biostratigraphic methods and their possible limitations;
- the main biostratigraphic markers.

2) Applying knowledge and understanding
The student successfully completing the course shall be able to:
- properly use the main laboratory techniques to process samples;
- correctly identify the main biostratigraphic markers and use them to assign an age to the rocks;
- plot the collected data as graphics and text to effectively communicate his/her results;
- use the main computer tools for data processing, image editing, etc.

3) Making judgements
The student successfully completing the course shall be able to:
- decide the proper sample processing in laboratory;
- estimate the biostratigraphic resolution which could be obtained.

4) Communication skills
The student successfully completing the course shall be able to:
- write a report, organized clearly, including all the relevant data and observations, neatly dividing facts and interpretations;
- use computer tools to obtain appealing presentations of his/her results, in English language.

5) Learning skills
The student successfully completing the course shall be able to:
- read and understand the scientific literature, in English language, in order to deepen his/her knowledge of biostratigraphy.


Lecture notes and other supplementary materials will be given by the teacher.

Fundamental texts:

Armstrong H. & Brasier M., 2005, Microfossils. Blackwell Publ. (2nd ed.), 296 pp.
Bjørlykke K., 2015, Petroleum Geosciences – From Sedimentary Environments to Rock Physics. Springer (2nd ed.), 666 pp.
Hohenegger J., 2011, Large Foraminifera – greenhouse constructions and gardeners in the oceanic microcosm. The Kagoshima University Bulletin, 5, 1-86.
International Stratigraphic guide (online version),
Jones R.W., 2014, Foraminifera and their applications. Cambridge University Press, 408 pp.
Koutsoukos E.A.M., 2005, Applied Stratigraphy. Topics in Geobiology, v. 23, Springer, 486 pp.
Loeblich A.R. Jr. & Tappan H., 1987, Foraminiferal Genera and Their Classification. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 2 vols., 970 pp.
McGowran B., 2005, Biostratigraphy – Microfossils and Geological Time. Cambridge University Press, 477 pp.
Molina E., 2004, Micropaleontología. Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza (2nd ed.), 704 pp.
Saraswati P.K. & Srinivasan M.S., 2016, Micropaleontology – Principles and Applications. Springer, 223 pp.