Instructors and contact information

  • Ryan Thum (1st half of the Spring Semester), Office hours: Mondays 12 N-1PM, Tuesdays 3-4PM, and by appointment in 313 Plant Bioscience Building, email. Communicate via email as of 23 March
  • Matt Lavin (2nd half of the Spring Semester), Office hours: Mondays 10AM-12:30PM and by appointment in 308 Plant Bioscience Building, email. Communicate via email as of 23 March
Lecture: Monday Wednesday Friday 9-9:50AM (section 01) or 1-1:50PM (section 02)
Locations: 105 Reid Hall (section 01) and 101 Reid Hall (section 02)
Office hours: Mondays 10:00AM-12N in 408 Lewis Hall

Course learning outcomes

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

13 January. Ryan Thum begins lecturing. Course Introduction; Natural Selection.
15 January. Natural selection: concepts.
17 January. Natural selection: concepts.
20 January. Martin Luther King Day, no class.
22 January. Natural selection: empirical examples.
24 January. Natural selection: empirical examples.
27 January. Natural selection: important points.
29 January. Population Genetics: Intro/Hardy-Weinberg/Selection.
31 January. Population Genetics: Intro/Hardy-Weinberg/Selection.
3 February. Population Genetics: Selection.
5 February. Population Genetics: Selection.
7 February.  Population Genetics: Selection.
10 February. Exam #1.
12 February. Population genetics: Drift & Migration.
14 February. Population Genetics: Migration and Mutation.
17 February. Presidents Day, no class.
19 February. Quantitative Genetics: Quantitative Traits.
21 February. Quantitative Genetics: Heritability.
24 February. Quantitative Genetics: Response to Selection.
26 February. Quantitative Genetics: Multiple Traits.
28 February. Review for Exam #2.
2 March. Exam #2.
4 March. Matt Lavin's introduction to 2nd half of class and case study 1.
6 March. Case study 1 on YNP grizzly bears and southern California bighorn sheep.
9 March. Case study 2 on human migration and related evolutionary concepts.
11 March. Case study 2 on human migration and related evolutionary concepts.
13 March. Case study 3 on the Srebrenica massacre and related evolutionary concepts.
16-20 March. Spring Break.
23 March. Case study 4 on westslope cutthroat trout and related evolutionary concepts. Course content online as of this date.
25 March. Case study 5 on the Snake River sockeye and related evolutionary concepts.
27 March. National Conference on Undergraduate Research, no class. The flow of online content respects this no-class day.
30 March. Case study 6 on North American wolves from the taiga forest (1st part).
1 April. Review for Exam #3. Answers to Exam 3 from last year posted to D2L content.
3 April. Exam #3.
6 April. Case study 6 on North American wolves (2nd part) and related evolutionary concepts.
8 April. Case study 7 on Montana Ponderosa pine.
10 April. University Day, no class. The flow of online content respects this no-class day.
13 April. Case study 7 on Montana Ponderosa pine.
15 April. Case study 8 on Gunnison sage grouse.
17 April. Case study 8 on Gunnison sage grouse.
20 April. Case study 9 involving phylogenetic forensics.
22 April. Case study 9 involving phylogenetic forensics.
24 April. Case study 10 involving parsimony analysis of Cetartiodactyla.
27 April. Case study 10 involving parsimony analysis of catarrhine primates.
29 April. The intellectual reach or extension of phylogenetics.
1 May. Review for Exam #4.
4 May, Monday. section 001 and 002, Exam #4, 4:00-5:50PM. Administered via D2L during this time frame
4 May, Monday. section 001 and 002, Exam #4, 8:00-9:50AM. Administered via D2L but contact Matt Lavin
The Registrar publishes the Spring 2020 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.

Required 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. Formative assessments using iClicker questions will continue as quizzes administered via D2L. Please check the Quizzes tab in D2L.

Relevant websites providing examples, data, and tools for analysis