91447 - Micropalaeonthological Application to Stratigraphy and Palaeoclimatology

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Climate Action Oceans

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

This course provides the basis to understand 1) the distribution of organisms at a geologic time scale; 2) the evolutionary trends of selected taxa useful for dating sedimentary successions; 3) the integrated biostratigraphy and its applications; 4) the suitable group of fossils for biostratigraphic studies in relation with the Chronostratigraphy and paleoenvironment of a sedimentary succession. With the field work, the student will be able to measure and sample a sedimentary succession for biostratigraphic analysis. With laboratory work, the students will be able to provide biostratigraphic analysis (foraminifera and calcareous nannofossils) of Neogene and Quaternary units, with details on paleoclimate, and with a lower resolution, also within Cretaceous and Paleogene successions.

Course contents

Microfossils in stratigraphic analysis and biostratigraphic methods. Sampling and laboratory methods for biostratigraphic studies. Biostratigraphic resolution, integrated biostratigraphy, quantitative biostratigraphy and cyclostratigraphy. Neogene and Quaternary foraminiferal and nannofossil biostratigraphy. Overview on Cretaceous and Paleogene biostratigraphy. Biostratigraphy in geological mapping and relationships with other stratigraphic units. Latitudinal range of planktonic foraminifera species. Paleoclimatic reconstruction of a sedimentary succession and relationships with oxygen isotope stratigraphy. Micropaleontologic proxies for paleoclimate, sea-level change and paleoenvironment with details on Quaternary sedimentary successions.

Module 2: Theoretical contents: Nannoplankton and calcareous nannofossils: taxonomy and biostratigraphy. Calcareous nannoplankton and nannofossils as tools for palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. Deep marine sediments and calcareous nannofossils in the study of climatic variations.

Practical contents: Preparation of smear-slides for the analysis of calcareous nannoplankton and nannofossils. Preparation from ooze. Observations and recognition using the optical microscope. Sample preparation for scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis. Observations and recognition using SEM and microanalysis (SEM-EDX).


Pdf files and printed plates provided by the teacher

Teaching methods

Theory lessons, microscope laboratory and possibly field laboratory

Assessment methods


Module 1: The final test includes both laboratory and theory examinations.

The laboratory test consists in the micropaleontological analysis of two foraminiferal assemblages. The first one is dedicated to the planktonic foraminifera from a sample collected in a Neogene succession, in order to recognize biostratigraphic markers, biostratigraphic zone and evaluate paleoclimatic conditions. The second one is dedicated to the benthic foraminifera collected in a Quaternary succession, in order to define the depositional paleoenvironment.

The theory examination consists in an oral test in order to evaluate the learning of the main topics explained during the lessons.

Module 2: The exam will consist of a written test. Eligibility for module 2 is a pre-requsite for taking the final exam.

Teaching tools

Power Point presentations and microscopes

Office hours

See the website of Stefano Claudio Vaiani

See the website of Barbara Cavalazzi