Evolution and Ecology is the first of four courses in the core Biology curriculum. Though you are enrolled in separate lecture and lab courses, we treat them as an integrated whole. You will be introduced to the basic concepts, principles, and theories of ecology and evolution. Since E&E is the foundational course for the entire Biology curriculum, you will also be developing skills required by a scientist, which will help you throughout your studies in Biology. These skills include asking testable, scientific questions, seeking answers through literature and experiments, working collaboratively with your peers, building and exploring mathematical models, and communication of scientific information, among others.
The “lecture” portion of the course will focus on a series of case studies we have designed based upon well-studied ecological/evolutionary systems. Each case includes learning basic ecological/evolutionary principles, as well as the statistical analysis required to understand the primary scientific literature upon which the case studies are based. I have put lecture in quotations because in this course, there will be relatively few days when we will be standing in front of the class delivering material while you sit passively taking notes. Instead, this course is designed around the best practices of teaching, which involve multiple types of active learning. In this learner-centered environment, you will be an active participantin the classroom. You should be prepared to collaborate in small groups, discuss readings, both in small groups and as a class, work problems on the board, and, in general, be engaged in your learning.
The focus of the laboratory portion of the course is to put into practice the scientific method through the development and implementation of group research projects. The class will be divided up into groups of 4 – 6 students. Each group will generate a testable ecological question, design an experiment, collect data, analyze the data, and present the findings in a group oral presentation to the rest of the class. In addition, each student will write an individual lab report on their project. We will guide you through each step of the process, through which you will begin developing skills required of a scientist.
This is the first course in a four semester sequence of introductory biology classes. It is followed by Biological Diversity, Cell and Molecular Biology, and Genetics. The semester will integrate ecological and evolutionary understanding through a series of case studies that concentrate attention on three well-studied ecological or evolutionary systems.