Free Online Course | University of Illinois | Emergence of Life


  • Course: Emergence of Life
  • MOOC Platform: Coursera
  • Promoter: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Dates: 8 weeks, starts February 5th, 2018
  • Work Load: 4-6 hours/week
  • Instructor: Bruce W. Fouke, Ph.D., Director of the Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center, Department of Geology, Department of Microbiology, and Institute for Genomic Biology
     (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: None
  • Costs: Attending the course is free. Verified certificate is optional and costs 40,0€
  • Register: here
Link: Click here to access the full text of the course’s presentation

About the Course:

How did life emerge on Earth? How have life and Earth co-evolved through geological time? Is life elsewhere in the universe? Take a look through the 4-billion-year history of life on Earth through the lens of the modern Tree of Life!

This course will evaluate the entire history of life on Earth within the context of our cutting-edge understanding of the Tree of Life. This includes the pioneering work of Professor Carl Woese on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus which revolutionized our understanding with a new “Tree of Life.”

Other themes include:

-Reconnaissance of ancient primordial life before the first cell evolved

-The entire ~4-billion-year development of single

– and multi-celled life through the lens of the Tree of Life

-The influence of Earth system processes (meteor impacts, volcanoes, ice sheets) on shaping and structuring the Tree of Life.

This synthesis emphasizes the universality of the emergence of life as a prelude for the search for extraterrestrial life.



Week 1: Geological Time and the Nature of Science

Week 2: The Tree of Life and Early Earth Environments

Week 3: Fossilization and Precambrian Life-Earth Interaction

Week 4: Paleozoic Life After the Advent of Skeletons

Week 5: Paleozoic Plants, Reptiles, and the Transition to Land

Week 6: Mesozoic Reign of the Dinosaurs and the Development of Flight

Week 7: Cenozoic Mammals and Global Environmental Change

Week 8: Astrobiology and the Search for Life in the Cosmos


Lurdes Fonseca

Assistant Professor and Researcher at University of Lisbon
Sociologist (PhD), Paleontologist (Researcher in Micropaleontology), Majors in Sociology and Biology, Minor in Geology. Main interests in Paleontology: Microfossils, Molecular fossils, Paleobiology and Paleoecology. (read more about me)
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