ENV BIOL 3550 - Evolution of Australian Biota III

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2016

This course aims to provide advanced understanding of fundamental principles and modern advances in techniques for systematics, evolution and the fossil record and the application of these to the study of the evolution and conservation of biodiversity. Students will use research approaches employed in a range of key topics in evolutionary biology and apply critical thinking by assessing current literature in the area. Topics will include: past climates and habitats and how they have shaped the present day Australian biota; evolutionary trees; morphological and molecular systematics, ancient DNA; molecular clocks; biogeography; extinction; and computational challenges for processing and interpreting large-scale genomic data in phylogeography. Several themes will be explored in detail throughout the course, in particular the adaptations displayed by native animals and plants to arid, nutrient-stressed, aquatic and/or marine environments. The course will include a 2 day (weekend) field camp to study the extinct terrestrial biota of South Australia.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code ENV BIOL 3550
    Course Evolution of Australian Biota III
    Coordinating Unit School of Biological Sciences
    Term Semester 2
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 6
    Contact Up to 11 hours per week and a 2 day field camp
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange
    Prerequisites ENV BIOL 2501 & ENV BIOL 3530
    Incompatible ENV BIOL 3230, ENV BIOL 3122, ENV BIOL 3123
    Assumed Knowledge ENV BIOL 2500 & ENV BIOL2503
    Course Description This course aims to provide advanced understanding of fundamental principles and modern advances in techniques for systematics, evolution and the fossil record and the application of these to the study of the evolution and conservation of biodiversity. Students will use research approaches employed in a range of key topics in evolutionary biology and apply critical thinking by assessing current literature in the area. Topics will include: past climates and habitats and how they have shaped the present day Australian biota; evolutionary trees; morphological and molecular systematics, ancient DNA; molecular clocks; biogeography; extinction; and computational challenges for processing and interpreting large-scale genomic data in phylogeography. Several themes will be explored in detail throughout the course, in particular the adaptations displayed by native animals and plants to arid, nutrient-stressed, aquatic and/or marine environments. The course will include a 2 day (weekend) field camp to study the extinct terrestrial biota of South Australia.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr John Conran

    Course Timetable

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

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course students should be able to:

    1 analyse, synthesise and critically evaluate knowledge of cutting-edge solutions to problems in evolutionary biology and demonstrate an understanding of the importance of evolutionary studies as a foundation of comparative biology;
    2 Demonstrate skills in the design and execution of a research project, including statistically sound sampling strategies and
    the analysis and interpretation of methodologies for the reconstruction and interpretation of phylogenetic and biogeographic patterns and processes;
    3 Understand the importance of the fossil record in evolutionary studies and the role of phylogenetic studies in the wider context of biodiversity and conservation;
    4 Present experimental results relating to the Australian biota in a written or oral form that aligns with conventions for
    scientific reports and discuss scientific matters of current international interest in an informed manner;
    5 Demonstrate team-oriented management of projects, especially communication with peers.
    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)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    1-5
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    1-5
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    3-5
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    1-5
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • Able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    2,4,5
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
    1,2,4,5
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    This course demonstrates theory and practice through the direct exposure of logic, experimental design and experience of the natural environment. Class activities are supported through field-based observation. Theory and practical aspects will be built from 3 x 1-hour lectures per week, 9 x 3-hour practicals that focus on problem-solving practical issues of testing theory, 5 x 1-hour specialist tutorials on cutting edge current research topics.

    Students will also undertake 36 hours of research-based project work with academics covering a range of evolutionary topics and skills resulting in the development of a scientific paper on the area studied. Scientific method, derivation of hypotheses from theory, designing experiments to test hypotheses, collecting data, analysis and synthesis and presentation of results will be overseen in small group projects during a 2 day palaeontology field camp and associated pre and post camp workshops in which students apply these skills. Each component of the course is approached systematically so that by the end, all components have been brought together through individual reports, group reports and presentations.
    Workload

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

    A student enrolled in a 6 unit course, such as this, should expect to spend, on average 24 hours per week on the studies required. This includes both the formal contact time required to the course (e.g., lectures and practicals), as well as non-contact time (e.g., reading and revision).
    Learning Activities Summary
    Lecture practical and project topics will include: palaeontology, past climates and ecosystems and their impacts on the present day biota, particularly focusing on, but not limited to the Cenozoic (12 lectures); Evolution of the Australian Flora covering molecular and morphological approaches to the study of major angiosperm groups as well as aspects of their evolutionary biology, focusing on pollination co-evolution and exaptation (12 lectures). Evolution of the Australian fauna, focusing on radiations, adaptations and specialisations throughout the changing Australian environment over time, using morphological and molecular approaches to the study of phylogeny and phylogeography (12 lectures).

    Students will learn to apply scientific techniques and approaches, as follows:

    1. Field camp – class and small group learning: A major component of this course will be the compulsory 2 day weekend palaeontology field camp to the Naracoorte Caves. This field camp brings together all aspects of the course; from identification of a problem for scientific solution, development of theory, derivation of hypotheses, experimental design and analysis, interpretation and refinement of the theory. Small group learning and exposure to extinct faunas and their palaeoenvironments will provide a diversity of challenges within which students will apply new methods and the limits of scientific inference and to then present an oral communication based on their essay once their essay is submitted

    2. Practicals – small group and individual learning: The practical classes centre on the development of skills acquired in Evolutionary Biology II and Research Methods in Evolution Biology III. By generating outcomes about evolutionary patterns and/or processes from evolutionary questions, they will be challenged to recognise that this is not the end-point-in science, nor that there is necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach to research.

    3. Tutorials These will expose students to cutting edge problem solving skills needed to advance knowledge and are presented by specialist academic staff on topics directly related to their own research.

    4. Research project This will provide students with the problem solving skills and challenges needed to advance their own knowledge. The aim is to give students an insight into the approaches and challenges of current evolutionary research and to encourage critical thinking on key issues via discussion with an academic expert in a research environment. These independent projects will provide students with experience in designing, executing and presenting modern evolutionary research projects in a professional manner.
  • 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 Due Weighting Learning Outcome
    Mid-term Test Formative & Summative Week 6 20% 1-5
    Practical Reports Formative & Summative Weeks 2-10 15% 1-5
    Field Camp Presentation Formative & Summative Week 10 10% 1-5
    Project Report Summative Week 12 25% 1-5
    Final Exam Summative Exam Period 30% 5
    Assessment Detail
    Mid Term Test: (20% of total course grade, 2 hours).
    Comprises a combination of short answer and essay questions and will cover lectures 1–12, tutorials and some material from practicals, with the exception of the research project.

    Practical Reports: (15% of total course grade).
    Practical Reports are all 3-week projects and mostly group based (2–6 students), but the three reports are submitted and marked individually and of equal value. Students will receive feedback within two weeks on each of the practical reports submitted for assessment.

    Field Camp Presentation (10%):
    The field camp involves a series of observations and experiments conducted by everyone in the class to demonstrate logic, design, collection and analysis of data working in groups. This component occurs during the first half of the course in order to
    teach students how to carry out the different aspects behind research.  Student oral communication and ability to ensure the logical integrity between each step, including interpretation will be assessed by the middle of the semester. Students who do not attend the field camp will be required to write an essay that requires comparable intellectual and temporal investment as expended by students on the camp.

    Research Project Report (25%):
    The research report will assess the students’ skills to create new knowledge and to place their results into a wider context with appropriate scientific rigour.  Student communication is assessed individually on their ability to interpret, synthesize and evaluate evidence-based theory. Assessment will be at the end of the semester through individual reports written in the style of scientific papers of approximately 2500 words.

    End of Term Test Final Exam: (30% of total course grade, 2 hours).
    It covers mainly lecture material from weeks 7–12 and the tutorials, to ensure summative knowledge of the course, but will integrate concepts and theories from the entire course. It is mainly short answer and essay questions.

    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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