New Biology Courses for 2021W

2021W – Discovering the Species on Earth
BIOL 448J (3 credits)
Term 1, Tues & Thurs 3:30-5:00
Instructor: Wayne Maddison (

This is a course on how biologists discover new species. Species taxonomy is one of the oldest Big Science projects — 250 years of a worldwide collaborative effort to map the species of animals, plants, fungi, and microbes on the earth. Even though its mission is centuries-long, it is urgent. After 250 years, we are probably less than 20% of the way to completion; many remarkable species remain out there, undiscovered. And many may go extinct before we find them.

Topics included:

  • The mission (why it matters to discover and distinguish species)
  • How to find new species in the field and in museums
  • History of the field
  • Numbers of species on earth; estimates; broad patterns (e.g. by clade; latitudinal gradients)
  • What are species?
  • How species are formed (phylogeny & speciation biology)
  • Evidence to distinguish species (from morphology to genomes)
  • Classification and naming
  • How new species are described
  • Databases

Assessment based primarily on assignments (small report or presentation, ca. every two weeks). Subject to change (as the course is still under development), this could include (1) tracing the taxonomic history of a small group of species, including current work and databases, (2) doing a species description, (3) review of a species concept controversy, (4) review of the application of genomic species delimitation methods.

2021W: BIOL 490A-201, Evolution in Urban Environments
Student Coordinator – Sunny Gong & Faculty Sponsor – Jeannette Whitton
Term 2, Mondays & Wednesdays from 5 to 6:30 pm

Evolution in Urban Environments aims to explore current research in the emerging field of urban evolutionary ecology and discuss its applications to solving current issues in social and environmental justice, urban design, and conservation biology. The course examines the various ways that species evolve and adapt to living in anthropocentric environments, and will cover topics such as parallel evolution in cities around the world, effects of habitat fragmentation on gene flow, human-wildlife conflicts and more. In this peer-based learning environment, students will explore topics through the socio-eco-evolutionary framework, an interdisciplinary approach that integrates social and life science research to study biodiversity in the unique ecosystem of cities.

To register in this seminar, please send a statement of intent (approx 100 words) to answering:
1) How do you think this course will contribute to your overall academic and/or career goals?
2) What unique academic perspectives and/or lived experiences would you be able to contribute to this seminar?
3) What background knowledge experiences on evolutionary biology such as classes you took or any work/volunteering experiences do you have? BIOL 336 or an equivalent is recommended, but not necessary if you are able to describe your strategies in dealing with potential knowledge gaps.

Please also include your name, student number, year of study, and major.

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