I just completed the FutureLearn.com course, “Extinctions: Past and Present.”
I received a Certificate of Achievement with a score of 100% on my two tests. 🙂 In the numerous quizzes, I missed only one question, and I got it right on the second try. Only test scores, not quizzes, count towards the certificate, and you must score 70% or higher to receive one.
I really learned a lot about evolution, the geological ages, fossils, and the five mass extinction events of the past.
The most recent mass extinction event was about 65 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs went extinct. That cleared the way for a great expansion, or radiation, of mammals. Mammals had coexisted with dinosaurs after the Triassic period and up through the Cretaceous, but they were small and not at all dominant. Once dinosaurs were gone, mammals took hold in a big way.
We also spent a week on the issue of whether or not we are in a sixth mass extinction event. I think the numbers show that we are. I just hope that our own species will not go extinct during this event. But considering how callous we are towards other living things, perhaps that would be justified. Still, I hope not…
Our lead professor for the course was Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan of the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She is a leading scholar in the field of paleobiology and is a very engaging speaker. She has designed a great course.
There were many other experts from the University of Cape Town, as well as other institutions, who spoke on their specialties, throughout the five weeks of the class.
Each step of the way there were also links to outside resources. One I particularly enjoyed was a video about the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park, and how that created much greater diversity in the park through a process called a trophic cascade. See the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q.
A really excellent course!
Now I’m reading the book, “Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century,” by noted historian Charles King, to get ready for my Intro to Cultural Anthropology class that starts online at Ohio State on June 23rd.
Ohio State just announced that it will be having classes back on campus for fall semester, although with some changes. I know that my nephew Ben, who will be a senior there, must be very relieved about getting back to campus!