Extinctions: Crises in the History of Life


A wide-ranging introduction to extinction and its place in the history of life, for beginners.

Extinction - not just loss of life but the disappearance of entire species - is forever. Whatever happened to groups such as trilobites, ammonites and mammoths? Were they victims of a sudden catastrophe or a gradual demise? Did a meteorite really kill off the dinosaurs? In some mass extinctions, is survival mostly a matter of chance - more good luck than good genes? Other topics include early ideas on extinction, how to identify fossils of extinct groups, and the influence of humans in recent extinctions.

There will also be a chance to study many real fossils in the teaching room. No previous background in palaeontology, biology or geology is needed for the course and no reading is required in advance. You are very welcome to bring along any of your own fossil specimens which you would like to be identified or which you think are of special interest.

Maximum number of places available: 25 

Programme details

9.15am  Registration

9.30am  Early ideas on extinction and an introduction to fossils

10.45am  Coffee/tea

11.15am  Early life and crises in the Palaeozoic Era

12.30pm  Break/ Lunch

2.00pm  Practical session studying fossil specimens in the teaching room (~30 mins)

Death at the end of the Mesozoic Era: mass extinction by meteorite impact? (~45 mins)

3.15pm  Coffee/tea

3.45pm  Extinctions in the Cenozoic Era, the role of humans in extinctions, and the future?

5.15pm  Course disperses


Description Costs
Tuition only £90.00
Baguette Lunch £5.50
Hot Lunch £15.50


If you are in receipt of a state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Peter Sheldon


Dr Sheldon is an Honorary Associate in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences at the Open University, where he was a Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences until 2015. He chaired the Open University course on Geology and contributed to many other OU courses. He has given over 80 courses in geology, palaeontology and evolution for Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education since 1979 and over 40 day-schools for OUDCE at Rewley House since 1993.


Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email res-ctr@conted.ox.ac.uk for details of availability and discounted prices.