Special Topics in Evolution 2010
“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”
Theodosius Dobzhansky 1973
Dr. Daria Koscinski, Department of Biology, email: Daria.Koscinski@uwo.ca, Office: BGS3045
Antirequisite(s): The former Biology 441a.
Prerequisite(s): Biology 2484A; Biology 2486A; and either completion of at least 1.5 Biology courses from the 3000-level or above, or registration in Year 4 of the Honors Specialization in Animal Behaviour; or special permission from the Department of Biology.
A critical examination of topics in evolutionary biology such as levels of selection, speciation, patterns of diversification, origin and radiation of selected groups, biogeography, and taxonomy and phylogeny.
Classes and labs:
Lectures in BGS1056, M & F 9:30-10:30
Labs in SSC3022, W 9:00-11:30 (except second lab which is in Chem380)
Course materials will be available through WebCT. Please make sure you have Bio4441 in your list of courses on WebCT.
Since this is a “selected topics” course, the readings come from many sources and I do not expect you to buy all the books. All are available for 2 hours on reserve at the Taylor library.
Assigned readings are posted on the course website.
Laboratory Sessions (15% of final grade)
The first lab session will be September 15th. The second lab (September 22nd) will be held in Chem380. Most of the labs consist of the presentation and discussion of relevant journal articles in evolutionary biology. The goal of this exercise is to illustrate and expand on lecture ideas and to give students practice in the critical evaluation of publications. In engaging thus in a scrutiny of scientific papers and their content, we shall gain some understanding of how people actually approach scientific inquiry, an appreciation for the difficulty of conducting water-tight studies, some capacity in maintaining a skeptical posture in the face of persuasively-written material, and a more hands-on involvement with the ideas and their empirical underpinnings. All the articles are available through the library. If you are having problems accessing the papers please get in touch with me ASAP.
See website for the schedule of the labs.
Credit for the laboratory mark comes from 4 sources:
1) Report on Lab 2 (3%)
Lab 2 provides a demonstration on evolutionary convergence and how it interlocks with many aspects of central importance in evolutionary biology. Using the notes you take in the lab, together with the lab's introductory materials & any other resources you like, you are to provide a 750-1000 word (11/2 to 2 page) account of the meaning and significance of the issues raised in this lab, illustrating it with examples. This report is to be submitted in lab on Oct. 20th.
2) Trees assignment in Lab 4 (3%)
Students will work in groups to prepare and hand in a brief assignment on phylogenetic tree construction. The assignment must be handed in at the end of lab and all members will receive the same mark. Details to follow.
3) Presenting and leading a discussion of one article (5%)
Students will present papers and lead a discussion. Presentations will be either alone or in partners depending on course enrollment. The presenters should prepare a brief overview of the main points of the paper and define/explain key terms. Read the papers with a critical eye and be prepared to initiate discussion, raise questions and keep the discussion moving. Each student will present once. Presentation dates will be assigned during lab 1.
4) Attendance and participation in group discussions (4%)
Useful contribution to class discussion of the papers will be assessed.
All material covered in lab is testable on both the mid-term and the final exam!
Term Papers (45% of final grade)
It is intended that, in researching and writing your term papers, you should gain an increased awareness of the coherence and power of an evolutionary world-view. Consequently, it is one of your primary tasks to try to make it clear to the reader (me) that you have achieved something of such an awareness.
Students must choose topics. This means you will have to spend some time digging around for something you find interesting. Try starting with basic evolutionary biology textbooks (Evolutionary Analysis or Evolution). You might also like to try some of the more general evolutionary biology journals such as Trends in Evolution and Ecology or the Compass section of Science. Both of these journals are available online through the library website.
I will give you further details as to the steps below, but please be aware of the timeline for the development of your paper:
Please okay topics with me by October 8th.
Do some reading, concentrating on primary sources (journal articles) and have an outline to me by November 1st. I will have these back to you by November 5th with comments and suggestions.
The final paper is due on December 6th in class (i.e. 9:30am). There will be a 10% per day late penalty that starts at 9:31am! That’s 4% of your final grade per day. I will not accept papers after December 10th. No paper = no credit.
Please put your name on the title page but nowhere else on the paper, put the title of your paper on the title page and your first page. This will ensure anonymous marking of your paper. The paper should be 8-10 pages long but no longer (this is exclusive of figures and tables etc.). More detailed instructions will follow.
Plagiarism is the submission of the work of someone else without giving credit to the author, and presenting the work as your own. When the ideas or words of others are used, as they necessarily will be, proper citation and reference to their source must be given. Plagiarism is unacceptable and is considered a major offence by both the university and myself. There will be little, if any, sympathy for a student caught plagiarizing. If you are unsure what plagiarizing is please familiarize yourself with the University guidelines (http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/handbook/appeals/scholoff.pdf). If you are still unsure please talk to me. Your paper will be assessed using Turn-it-in.com.
Mid-term test (15% of final grade)
In class October 25th. The test will consist of short answer questions of the type you will see on the final exam. This is an opportunity to gage your progress through the course. Both lecture and lab material will be covered.
Final Exam (25% of final grade)
The final exam is cumulative and will be a 3-hour exam during the regular exam period. Both lecture and lab material will be covered. It will consist of a (i) short answer section (1/2 page answers) dealing usually with matters of definition, critical distinction, logical structure, etc, and (ii) an essay section where you will be a given a choice among a few alternative questions.
Here are a few examples of the types of questions I might ask:
(i) short answer
What is the comparative method in biology, how is it used, and for what?
Specify, and briefly describe, the two entirely distinct approaches to the task of biological classification, making clear the crucial distinctions between them.
Describe the differences between Punctuated Equilibrium and Phyletic Gradualism with respect to: a) anagenesis b) rates of cladogenesis c) the fossil record.
Write a piece designed to convince a skeptic that blind, natural, forces can give rise to organic complexity.
Write on kin-selection, demonstrating its relationship to conventional “natural selection”, its usefulness in evolutionary explanation, and some of the trickiness of the concept.
This page was last updated on
September 10, 2010
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