Thursday, May 13, 2010

Meganeura? Megaproblem.

In lieu of the norm (heinous exam answers) for this time of year, I would like to share with you my final research assignment that I did for my Historical Geology class.

Historical Geology: Megafauna

The term “megafauna” translates to “giant animals”, of which (even excluding dinosaurs) there has been an incredible variety in the geological past. For this assignment you are to create a profile on one of the extinct megafauna listed below. You will have to sign up for your megafauna of choice, as there is a limit of 7 spots available for each animal.

  • mastodon
  • woolly mammoth
  • Megatherium (cousin to the giant sloth)
  • Titanis walleri (giant bird)
  • Dragonfly of the Carboniferous
  • Jaekelopterus (giant lobster-like eurypterid)
  • Dunkleosteus (giant armored fish)
  • Liopleurodon (sea reptile of “Charlie the Unicorn” fame)
  • C. megalodon (the big guy from Sharktooth Hill)
  • Diprotodon (largest marsupial that ever lived)
  • giant ground sloth
  • woolly rhinoceros
  • Indricotherium transouralicum (largest mammal to ever walk on land)

Please feel free to get very creative for this assignment, a rough guide to writing profiles is available here. For another approach, check out TMZ for a tabloid approach on profiles.

The BC library has research materials on megafauna; additionally Natural History museums should have lots of information to guide you (i.e. Buena Vista Museum, La Brea, etc.)

Your profile should be 500-1000 words, typed (12 point font, 1.5 spacing), and will be graded using the following criteria:

  1. Content (depth of research, references are cited)
  2. Creativity (writing/presentation draws the reader in)
  3. Clarity (writing is clear, logical, flows, and is free of errors)

This assignment is due by April 29th. You may turn it in earlier, but late assignments will not be accepted.

Additional advice from my partner in Elvis exploration; English professor extraordinaire and former journalist: “Since this is a fun assignment, you should ask your students to interview extinct megafauna as if the students are reporters from some tabloid journalism outfit, such as TMZ, E, or The National Enquirer. Their mission: Find out the REAL reason this particular animal went extinct. As with any profile, they should do a background check on their subject first to learn about the animal's life and death. Usually a profile has these elements:

1) A creative beginning or feature lead (first paragraph). This can be an anecdote told by the animal, the reporter capturing a moment of description during the interview, or what I call the human hook: a cryptic beginning that makes the reader hunger for more.

2) A physical description of the subject interviewed. Ideally a profile might involve hanging out with an individual at work and at home with the kids.

3) Background on the subject explaining what's happened up to now.

4) Great quotes. (These might reveal The Untold Story of the creature's demise.)

In the case of tabloid journalism, it also could include rumors, scandal, and a scene of chasing a Giant Sloth down the street with a camera crew from "Extra" or "Entertainment Tonight" simply because the sloth refuses to be interviewed. (This no doubt would prove the animal was guilty of causing its own demise.)”

Though it wasn't a "typical" profile, but rather a conspiracy-theorist's guide, this particular project really needs to be shared with the world. Enjoy! (I know, I never share the work of A students, but I got his permission first too, which is also a first)


Kilometres said...

More people need to see this and revel in its awesomeness.

Also, Gnat I wish you were my teacher in university. The assignments having to do with paleontology that I was given invoked nothing of the creativity (and learning) that this surely did! Brava!

gnat said...

Thanks KM! There were about a dozen profiles of superior calibre; in fact, one student actually generated a facebook profile! Meet "Troy Pliocene" (the mastodon) here:!/profile.php?id=100001035795112&ref=ts