This course is offered through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Colorado State University. You must be a member of Osher to enroll in this course.
Today, statements like "999 of every 1,000 species which have lived on Earth are extinct" are commonplace in paleo-biologic literature. During the Phanerozoic Eon (550 million years ago to Present), 35 biotic mass extinctions have altered life on Earth. In this class, we will explore the "Big 5" mass extinctions (End Ordovician, Late Devonian, Permo/Triassic, Late Triassic and Cretaceous/Tertiary) along with a few others, focusing on the questions of when, who, where, and how countless species have been exterminated. Did these events occur in cycles (every 26 million years or every 62 million years or some other long-term cycle)? Were extinctions caused by amplified earthly processes or were astronomical ones involved, like asteroid/comet swarms, cosmic ray showers, nemesis stars, dark matter, or Planet X? Our explorations will simultaneously generate understanding and mystery.
Readings: Raup, D.M., 1991, Extinction - Bad Genes or Bad Luck? W.W. Norton, paperback, ISBN: 978-0-393-30927-0
Noncredit courses do not produce academic credit nor appear on a Colorado State University academic transcript.
William Cornell earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in Geology at the University of Rhode Island and Ph.D. from UCLA. He taught geology at the University of Texas at El Paso, with stints as department chair, assistant dean of the College of Science, as “pre-med” advisor, and taught in the Osher Program at UTEP for 15 years. He received a number of teaching and service awards from UTEP. In 2007, he received the Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He is a master naturalist in the Fort Collins Natural Areas Department.