BIO312: Evolutionary Biology

Course Syllabus for "BIO312: Evolutionary Biology"

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One of the best ways to understand the present is to understand the past. Evolutionary Biology is the study of the changes in life forms over time - changes that have occurred over millions of years as well as those that have occurred over just a few decades. In this course, we will look at the various mechanisms of evolution, how these mechanisms work, and how change is measured. The concepts you learn in this course will serve as a foundation for studying fossil records and current classification schemes in biology. We will begin the course by reviewing the evolutionary concepts of selection and speciation. We will then learn to measure evolutionary change through comparisons with the Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium, to understand the process of change through Game Theory, and to interpret and classify changes by creating phylogenies. The course will wrap up with a look at the history of life according to the fossil record and a discussion of the broad range of life forms as they are currently classified. At the end of this course, you will have a better understanding of the evolution of life. Also, this course will prepare you for future study and research in macroevolution, microevolution, genetics, anthropology, zoology, botany, behavioral biology, and computational biology.

Learning Outcomes

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

  • define evolution and describe different types of selection;
  • define Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and demonstrate the problem-solving use of the theory in population genetics studies of natural populations;
  • provide examples of the mechanisms of evolution and describe how they impact the genetic makeup of populations;
  • provide examples of games used in evolutionary game theory and connect biological phenomena to the game theory;
  • develop simple phylogenies from molecular or morphological data;
  • identify important evolutionary events that have occurred throughout Earth’s geological history, starting with the hypotheses on the origin of life;
  • characterize and provide examples of the major plant and animal phyla and identify important evolutionary novelties in the main clades of the tree of life; and
  • demonstrate the knowledge of human evolutionary history and identify the key events in human evolution. 

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 (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash);

√    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.);

√    have competency in the English language;

√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook; and

√    have completed BIO101: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology and BIO102: Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Ecology

Course Information

Welcome to BIO312: Evolutionary Biology. General information on this course and its requirements can be found below.

Course Designer: Kristian Demary, Ph.D.

Primary Resources: This course is composed 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: readings, lectures, web media, interactive labs, and assignments. You will also need to complete the following:

  • Interactive Lab: “The Virtual Stickelback Evolution Lab”
  • Interactive Lab: “Forces of Evolution”
  • Assessment: “Hardy-Weinberg”
  • Interactive lab 1: “Forces of Evolution, pt. 2”
  • Activity: “The Evolution of Interspecific Mutualism”
  • Activity: “Wolf Sheep Stride Inheritance”
  • Assignment: “Molecular Biology and Phylogeny”
  • Assessment: “Phylogeny”
  • Interactive Lab: “Radioactive Dating Game”
  • Activity: Taxonomy of Various Groups of Organisms
  • The Final Exam

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the assignments and the interactive lab listed above.
In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam. Your score will be tabulated as soon as the exam has been completed. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: Completing this course should take you a total of 67 hours. Please note that each unit has its own time advisory. This will help you better manage your time.

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