BIO102: Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Ecology

Course Syllabus for "BIO102: Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Ecology"

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In BIO101, you were introduced to biology on a microscopic scale when you learned about the functions of molecules, genes, and cells.  In this course, you will learn about biological changes that happen on a very large scale, across entire populations of organisms and over the course of millions of years, in the form of evolution and ecology.  Evolution, the process by which different species of organisms have developed and diversified from their evolutionary forbears, has been a central theme in the field of biology ever since Darwin first published his theories about it.  Mounting evidence from many different branches of science all point to the fact that species have experienced a gradual but definite physical change.  In this course, we will learn about evolution and theories that stem from evolution. We will also learn about ecology, the study of the interactions between different types of organisms and their surroundings.  Changes in surroundings will force organisms to adapt and change—often in terms of the way in which they interact with one another.  An ecosystem, or a biological community that contains both an environment and all of its inhabitants, can be quite large and can contain hundreds or even thousands of species. Evolution and ecology have together shaped our understanding of how life has changed over time on Earth, across billions of years of its history.  It explains why giraffes have long necks and why hummingbirds have long beaks.  It also explains why all land vertebrates share common skeletal features!

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Use his or her understanding of Mendelian genetics and patterns of inheritance to predict genotypes and phenotypes of offspring and work backwards to identify the genotypes and phenotypes of a parental generation. 
  • Distinguish between inheritance patterns that involve autosomal vs. sex-linked traits and identify the respective consequences of each type of inheritance.
  • Identify what distinguishes Darwin’s theory of evolution from other arguments that attempt to explain diversity across species and/or many generations.
  • Identify which of many types of natural selection is acting on a particular population/species.
  • Identify which of many types of sexual selection is acting on a particular population/species.
  • Identify the factors that alter the frequencies of alleles in populations over time and describe the effects of these factors on populations.
  • Recognize, read, and create phylogenies and cladograms, using them to explain evolutionary relationships.
  • Determine the ecological interactions affecting a particular community and identify the effects of specific relationships (symbiosis, competition, etc.) on species within that community.
  • Distinguish between world biomes in terms of their climate, nutrient cycles, energy flow, and inhabitants.
  • Estimate the effects that changes in physical or biological factors have on particular ecosystems, using knowledge of nutrient cycles and energy flow.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (Adobe Reader, Flash, etc.).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Be competent in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Course Information

Welcome to BIO102.  Below, please find some general information on the course and its requirements.
Course Designer: Olivia D'Ambrogio
Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free online materials.  However, the course makes primary use of the following materials: 

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials.  In order to pass this course, you will need to complete the final exam and earn a 70% or higher.  Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you finish it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.


Note that you will only receive an official grade on your final exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for it, you will need to work through the assignments and all the reading material in the course.


Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 58.75 hours to complete.  Each unit includes a time advisory that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  These should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit and then to set goals for yourself.  For example, Unit 1 should take approximately 6.25 hours to complete. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1 and 1.2 (a total of 3.5 hours) on Monday night; subunit 1.3 and the assessment (a total of 2.75 hours) on Tuesday night; etc.


Tips/Suggestions: Make sure to review the learning outcomes for the course and those set out for each unit.  Keep these in mind as you work through the course materials and take notes on each of the resources in the course.  These notes will be useful review as you study for your final exam.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.