ENV BIOL 3123 - Issues in Evolutionary Biology III

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2015

The aims of this course are to introduce research approaches employed in a range of key topics in evolutionary biology and to develop critical thinking when assessing current literature in the area. Topics discussed will include: the evolutionary gain and loss of adaptive traits, human demographic history as inferred using ancient DNA, molecular tools for biodiversity discovery and conservation, and computational challenges for processing and interpreting large-scale genomic data in speciation studies

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code ENV BIOL 3123
    Course Issues in Evolutionary Biology III
    Coordinating Unit School of Biological Sciences
    Term Semester 2
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 6 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites ENV BIOL 2501, ENV BIOL 3002 or ENV BIOL 3230
    Corequisites ENV BIOL 3122
    Restrictions Available to BSc(EvolBiol) students only
    Course Description The aims of this course are to introduce research approaches employed in a range of key topics in evolutionary biology and to develop critical thinking when assessing current literature in the area. Topics discussed will include: the evolutionary gain and loss of adaptive traits, human demographic history as inferred using ancient DNA, molecular tools for biodiversity discovery and conservation, and computational challenges for processing and interpreting large-scale genomic data in speciation studies
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Marc Jones

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    1 Demonstrated understanding of the current major issues in evolutionary biology and how they are being tackled through interaction with experts in the field.
    2 Show proficiency in summarising information, and presenting key results and concepts via oral presentations and written work.
    3 Demonstrated skills in the design and execution of a research project, including statistically sound sampling strategies and the analysis and interpretation of results.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Knowledge and understanding of the content and techniques of a chosen discipline at advanced levels that are internationally recognised. 1,2
    The ability to locate, analyse, evaluate and synthesise information from a wide variety of sources in a planned and timely manner. 2,3
    An ability to apply effective, creative and innovative solutions, both independently and cooperatively, to current and future problems. 3
    Skills of a high order in interpersonal understanding, teamwork and communication. 1-3
    A proficiency in the appropriate use of contemporary technologies. 1-3
    A commitment to continuous learning and the capacity to maintain intellectual curiosity throughout life. 1-3
    A commitment to the highest standards of professional endeavour and the ability to take a leadership role in the community. 1-3
    An awareness of ethical, social and cultural issues within a global context and their importance in the exercise of professional skills and responsibilities. 3
  • Learning Resources
    Online Learning
    Teaching materials and course documentation will be posted on the MyUni website (http://myuni.adelaide.edu.au/).
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    1 lecture of 1 hour per week

    1 tutorial of 1 hour per week

    Session: 1 x 3-4 hour lab session per week for weeks 2 - 12 in supervisor's laboratory.

    Lectures are presented by academic staff on topics directly related to their own research.
    The aim is to give students an insight into the approaches and challenges of current
    evolutionary research. Tutorials develop material covered in the lectures, and encourage critical thinking on key issues via discussion with an academic expert.
    Independent projects provide students with experience of designing and executing a research project, and will help them to decide whether to undertake Honours

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    A student enrolled in a 3 unit course, such as this, should expect to spend, on average 12 hours per week on the studies required. This includes both the formal contact time required for the course (e.g., lectures and practicals), as well as non-contact time (e.g., reading and revision).
    Learning Activities Summary
    Week 1 Lecture

    Introduction to the course. Project selection and setup. Andy Austin
    How functional morphology varies in response to different habitats and what it can indicate about adaptive evolutionary change among different groups of taxa. Brett Goodman
    Week 2 Lecture
    The plant fossil record and the climate change debate. Bob Hill
    Brett Goodman / Morphological adaptation
    Week 3 Lecture
    Testing biogeographic hypotheses Ed Biffin
    Bob Hill / The plant fossil record and the climate change debate
    Week 4 Lecture

    Regressive evolution or why do biologically functionless traits get reduced or lost: case-studies from the underground. Steve Cooper
    Ed Biffin / Molecular dating and biogeographic history of conifers
    Week 5 Lecture
    New research using DNA techniques Andy Austin
    Steve Cooper / Regressive evolution
    Week 6 Lecture
    Human evolutionary history – insights from ancient DNA. Wolfgang Haak
    Andy Austin / Molecular techniques and the future of taxonomy
    Week 7 Lecture
    Genomics of Speciation. Steve Donnellan
    Wolfgang Haak / Ancient human DNA
    Week 8 Lecture

    How continuing rapid advances in technology are presenting novel research challenges, shaping the way we approach data generation and analysis. Terry Bertozzi
    Steve Donnellan / Genomics of speciation
    Week 9 Lecture
    TBA Phill Cassey
    Terry Bertozzi / Computational challenges in evolutionary biology
    Week 10 Lecture
    No lecture
    TBA Phill Cassey
    Week 11 Lecture
    No lecture
    Work on major project
    Week 12 Lecture
    No lecture
    Work on major project
    Small Group Discovery Experience
    While undertaking individual research projects students will be based in a supervisor's laboratory and will have the opportunity to interact and discuss topics with relevant post doctoral fellows and phd and honours students.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Task Type Hurdle Weighting Learning Outcome
    Major report  Formative/ Summative


    55% 1-3
    Project outline Formative No 5% 1-3
    Tutorial reports x 11 Formative/ Summative No 30% 1,2
    Tutorial presentation Summative No 10% 1,2
    Assessment Detail

    Tutorial Presentations
    Each tutorial will begin with a short student presentation summarising the key points from the preceding lecture. Students required to volunteer for one tutorial presentation. A reading list and list of key points will be provided by the lecturer. The tutorial presentation will be assessed according to coverage of relevant key points, structure, clarity of delivery, and capacity to generate discussion of the topic.

    Tutorial Reports
    Write-up 11 tutorial reports with a limit of 400 words each. The reports will follow each block of 11 tutorials, with one major question from each tutorial. The submission dates for tutorial reports are listed in the course handbook; each is worth an equal percentage of your total mark for tutorials.

    Major project outline
    The major project outline will be submitted in week 7 and should be prepared after consultation with your project supervisor. The tutorial presentation is worth 5% of your total mark. It is a valuable opportunity to recieve feedback on the progress of your major project. It should comprise a short description of your project (

    Major project report
    The project is worth 55%; this weighting is indicative of the amount of time students should devote to the project (~100 hours over the course of the semester including the laboratory sessions). The word limit is 5,000 words including references. It is to be written-up in the format of a scientific journal paper, with introduction, methods, results and discussion.

    Late Submission

    If an extension is not applied for, or not granted then a penalty for late submission will apply. A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment for each calendar day that the assignment is late (i.e. weekends count as 2 days), up to a maximum of 50% of the available marks will be applied. This means that an assignment that is 5 days late or more without an approved extension can only receive a maximum of 50% of the marks available for that assignment.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy (http://www.adelaide.edu.au/policies/101/) course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

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