500 Million Years of Land Plants

Brown University, Spring 2020

Hamilton College, Spring 2021

Course Description: This course will take you on a journey through time to view the history of land plants through the lens of three main themes: evolutionary relationships among extant and extinct plant groups, structural innovations in land plant bodies (with a particular focus on complex reproductive strategies), and interactions among plant communities, geology, and climate. We will learn about the fossil record of terrestrial plants, what the ecosystems they built looked like through time, and how the earths of the past differed from the green planet we live on today. 

Course Goals

By the end of the course you will: 

1) Become familiar with plant anatomy and morphology

2) Use this familiarity to identify and describe major groups of fossil plants

3) Describe and understand major events in terrestrial plant evolution

4) Integrate that understanding with major trends in plant structural and ecological diversity 

5) Synthesize what you have learned about terrestrial plant evolution on Earth and apply that knowledge to predict what any novel ecosystem might be like (whether it exists millions of years before you or millions of years after) based on the plants that are found there