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Course Description

This course provides a broad overview of evolutionary biology. It examines the concepts and mechanisms that explain evolutionary change and the evolution of biological diversity at different levels of biological organization (gene to ecosystem) and across space and time. It also introduces historical forms of scientific inquiry, unique to biology. The course is designed to be of interest to students with general interests in science and in research in all areas of biology.

Please note that this course uses a competency-based learning model. Progression through the course will involve the completion of ungraded checkpoint quizzes. You must pass these checkpoints to move forward. Remedial supports will be available in the event that you do not pass a checkpoint quiz; you will need to review and re-take the quiz until you meet the competency threshold to move forward. The course offers learners flexible pacing, the possibility to accelerate completion, and personalized support, but requires learners to have good time-management skills and self-motivation.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the learner should be able to:

  1. Apply scientific reasoning to evolutionary questions;
  2. Formulate and devise tests of evolutionary hypotheses using a variety of approaches and types of data;
  3. Recognize and correct common misconceptions involving core evolutionary concepts;
  4. Recognize the relevance of evolutionary biology both as a unifying framework for all life sciences and apply it in a variety of contexts including agriculture and human health.
  5. Recognize and distinguish the effects of the main mechanisms of evolution within populations, including mutation, natural selection, genetic drift, and gene flow;
  6. Accurately apply “tree thinking” when interpreting phylogenetic relationships;
  7. Identify and distinguish the roles of random and non-random processes in evolution;
  8. Recognize the various forms of natural selection in terms of effects on allele frequencies within populations (directional, diversifying, stabilizing, and balancing selection), the factors affecting differential reproduction (ecological selection, sexual selection), and the operation of selection at multiple levels of biological organization;
  9. Differentiate and apply adaptive versus non-adaptive explanations for the origins of biological traits; and
  10. Identify species concepts and explain common mechanisms and patterns of speciation and extinction;

Course Topics

  • Science as a way of knowing
  • Evolutionary thinking
  • Variation and inheritance
  • Mechanisms of evolution
  • Natural selection 1
  • Natural selection 2
  • Trait evolution 1
  • Trait evolution 2
  • Species and speciation
  • Diversification and extinction
  • Patterns and trends in evolution
  • Human evolution and health

Additional Requirements

Pre-requisite(s): BIOL*1070, BIOL*1090


Assessment Item Weight Learning Outcomes
Case Study 1: Whale Evolution 10% 1, 2, 3, 6
Case Study 2: Bacterial Evolution and Antibiotic Resistance 10% 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7
Case Study 3: Plant Population Genetics 10% 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8
Case Study 4: Gain and Loss of Insect Wings 10% 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9
Case Study 5: Speciation in African Rift Lake Cichilds 10% 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10
Case Study 6: Human Evolution and Evolutionary Medicine 10% 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Term Project 25% 3, plus others depending on topic chosen
Reflections (2) 15% 1, 3, 4, plus others depending on topics chosen
Total 100% 1 - 10


Technical Requirements

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*Course details are subject to change.


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