All course content will be accessible from D2L (Brightspace).

  • Lecture section 01: 105 Reid Hall on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9:00-9:50AM
  • Lecture section 02: 201 Reid Hall on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 1:10-2:00 PM

Instructors and contact information.

  • Ryan Thum (1st half of the Spring Semester), Office hours: Mondays 10AM-12:30 PM or by appointment in 313 Plant Bioscience Building, email.
  • Matt Lavin (2nd half of the Spring Semester), Office hours: Mondays 10AM-12:30 PM or by appointment in 308 Plant Bioscience Building, email.

Course learning outcomes and objectives

Students will be able to 1) Describe the four fundamental processes of evolution: mutation, migration (gene flow), genetic drift, and selection. 2) Predict the evolutionary response to selection on quantitative traits using the concept of heritability. 3) Interpret phylogenetic trees and use phylogenetic and other methods for inferring the history of biological evolution with genetic and morphological data. 4) Apply analytical methods covered in the course to questions related to population management, forensics, epidemiology, and adaptation. 5) describe why accepting the truth of biological evolution is not the issue compared to valuing "the principles of reasoning and educated discourse that now make belief in evolution obligatory" (Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape).

The expertise of your instructors is organismal biology whereas research that addresses the ultimate origins of life involves cosmology and biochemistry. If interested in such research, a Google search of abiogenesis provides a Wikipedia starting point for the history and recent advances into research on the origin of life. Intelligent Design is also not addressed in this course because it represents a sociological rather than scientific issue (e.g., Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District).

Schedule of lectures

9 January. Ryan Thum begins lecturing. Course Introduction; Natural Selection.
11 January. Natural selection: concepts.
14 January. Natural selection: concepts.
16 January. Natural selection: empirical examples.
18 January. Natural selection: empirical examples.
21 January. Martin Luther King Day, no class.
23 January. Natural selection: important points.
25 January. Population Genetics: Intro/Hardy-Weinberg/Selection.
28 January. Population Genetics: Selection.
30 January. Selection; Review for Exam #1.
1 February. Exam #1.
4 February. Population Genetics: Mutation.
6 February. Population Genetics: Migration.
8 February. Population genetics: Drift.
11 February. Population Genetics: Combinations of factors.
13 February. Quantitative Genetics: Quantitative Traits.
15 February. Quantitative Genetics: Heritability.
18 February. Presidents Day, no class.
20 February. Quantitative Genetics: Response to Selection.
22 February. Quantitative Genetics: Multiple Traits.
25 February. Quantitative Genetics: Multiple Traits.
27 February. Quantitative Genetics: Multiple Traits.
1 March. Review for Exam #2.
4 March. Exam #2.
6 March. Matt Lavin's introduction to 2nd half of class and case study 1.
8 March. Case study 1 on YNP grizzly bears and southern California bighorn sheep.
11 March. Case study 2 on human migration and related evolutionary concepts.
13 March. Case study 2 on human migration and related evolutionary concepts.
15 March. Case study2 on human migration and related evolutionary concepts .
18-22 March. Spring Break.
25 March. Case study 3 on westslope cutthroat trout and related evolutionary concepts.
27 March. Case study 4 on the Srebrenica massacre and related evolutionary concepts.
29 March. Case study 5 on the Snake River sockeye and related evolutionary concepts.
1 April. Review.
3 April. Exam #3.
5 April. Case study 6 on North American wolves.
8 April. Case study 6 on North American wolves.
10 April. Case study 7 on Montana Ponderosa pine.
12 April. Case study 8 on Gunnison sage grouse.
15 April. Case study 9 involving phylogenetic forensics.
17 April. Case study 9 involving phylogenetic forensics.
19 April. University Day, no class.
22 April. Case study 10 involving parsimony analysis of catarrhine primates.
24 April. Case study 10 involving parsimony analysis of Cetartiodactyla.
26 April. Review.
2 May, Thursday. Exam #4, section 002, 8:00-9:50 AM, 201 Reid Hall. Bring a calculator!
3 May, Friday. Exam #4, section 001, 8:00-9:50 AM, 105 Reid Hall. Bring a calculator!
The Registrar publishes the Spring 2019 final exam schedule.

Course grading policies

Formative assessments – 20% of your final grade

  • These assessments are graded based only on you completing them. You are not graded on getting the correct answer(s). These are designed to help you identify which topics/content areas you are strong versus weak on so you can target areas that need work for your studying. And, formative assessments help us identify content areas to focus more or less time on.
  • Examples of formative assessments are in-class discussions and problem sets, iClicker questions, online quizzes.

Summative assessments – 80% of your final grade

  • These assessments are graded based on whether you get them correct. Summative assessments evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit.
  • Summative assessments will come in the form of four exams scores. Each exam score will contribute 20% to your final grade.

Require materials

iCLICKERS - iClickers are required for this class, and we will use them for formative assessments. Be sure you have purchased an iClicker at the bookstore, and bring them to every class session. Please register your clicker right away. You will need your NetID username and password to register. It is critical that you continue to use the SAME clicker every day, and it is a good idea to put your name on your clicker in case you lose them of confuse them with other identical-looking clickers.

Web sites providing examples, data, and tools for analysis:

  • Computer simulation programs by Jon C. Herron, including AlleleA1 and ForensicEA.
  • The computer simulation program, Populus, covers many topics in evolution and ecology.
  • The University of California Museum of Paleontology: Understanding Evolution (see "The Tree Room").
  • Wikipedia accurately addresses and defines evolutionary concepts and terms.
  • A free PDF book, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, produced by the National Academy of Science.