Genes and Evolution


Fall 2013 quarter

Taught by

genetics, molecular biology
evolution, biology, anthropology


One year of college-level biology. Familiarity with probability is recommended.

The theory of evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology, unifying disciplines as diverse as molecular genetics and behavioral ecology. Evolution provides an explanation for the extraordinary biological diversity on this planet. What is the best way to study this process—by focusing on the mechanisms producing genetic variation, by looking at modern organisms for evidence of past evolutionary forces or by generating theory that fits with what we already know? At what level does natural selection act—on genes, on organisms, or on groups of organisms? This program will present and discuss some of the big ideas in evolution and at the same time, examine how we, as scientists, with distinct processes and cultures, approach these questions.

We will study several aspects of microevolution—the change that occurs within populations, over time spans that are directly observable by humans—and spend time in the field early in the quarter as a class. Our microevolutionary focus will be animal behavior and students will work in pairs on field-based projects throughout the quarter, while regular workshops in statistics will allow students to conduct their own analyses on their data. On a parallel track, we will consider some of the genetic processes underlying this evolutionary change. We will begin with classical Mendelian genetics and move on to a formal treatment of population genetics and analysis of complex traits. We will be undertaking a laboratory project using Drosophila .

This upper-division science program will have an intensive workload, including reading the primary literature and carrying out experimental work in the laboratory and in the field. Student learning will be assessed by problems sets, writing assignments, statistics workshops and exams.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

biology, health-related fields. Successful completion of this program is necessary but not sufficient for consideration for the study abroad program Animal Behavior and Zoology (WS 2014).

Academic Website

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$190 for a five-day field trip.  

Upper Division Science Credit

Upper division science credit may be awarded in genetics and evolutionary biology.


Date Revision
May 14th, 2013 The fee has increased from $150 to $190.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall)

Class standing: Junior–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Numbers

Jr - Sr (16 credits): 10181
Jr - Sr (1-16 credits): 10629

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