ENV BIOL 3590 - Evolutionary Biology III
North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2019
General Course Information
Course Code ENV BIOL 3590 Course Evolutionary Biology III Coordinating Unit School of Biological Sciences Term Semester 2 Level Undergraduate Location/s North Terrace Campus Units 3 Contact Up to 11 hours per week and a 4 day field trip Available for Study Abroad and Exchange N Prerequisites ENV BIOL 2501 Corequisites ENV BIOL 3560 Incompatible ENV BIOL 3230, ENV BIOL 3122, ENV BIOL 3123, ENV BIOL 3550 Assumed Knowledge ENV BIOL 2500, ENV BIOL 2503, ENV BIOL 3535 Course Description This course aims to provide advanced practical experience in 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 through practical, project, and fieldwork. Practical and project topics may 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. The course will include a compulsory 4-day field camp to study the extinct terrestrial biota of South Australia.
Course Coordinator: Dr John ConranJohn Conran
The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.
Course Learning OutcomesOn successful completion of this course students should be able to:
1. analyse, synthesise and critically evaluate cutting-edge practical methodologies 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
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 and 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)
Learning & Teaching Activities
Learning & Teaching ModesThis 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 10 x 3-hour practicals that focus on problem-solving practical issues of testing theory. Students will also undertake 18 hours on a research-based literature review 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 4-day palaeontology field camp and associated pre- and post-camp workshops (part of the practical sessions) 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.
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 to the course (e.g., practicals and field camps), as well as non-contact time (e.g., reading and revision).
Learning Activities SummaryPractical 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; 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. 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.
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 4-day 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. 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 of current literature-based research topics working in groups of 3–4 students with an academic expert (and involving peer assessment), but with each student producing an independent final report. These projects will provide students with experience in designing, executing and presenting modern evolutionary research projects in a professional manner, as well as group collaborative research.
Specific Course RequirementsThe course involves field trips for local field work and a compulsory 4 day camp to a distant field station. Students will be informed of the relevant Environmental Health and Safety procedures at the beginning of the course.
Small Group Discovery ExperienceSmall Group Discovery will be through research projects in groups of between 2–6 students, as well as through the field camp. These projects will be designed, established and completed by the students with input from senior academic staff. The development of these projects and their execution will involve approximately weekly contact throughout semester, intensifying during key periods of analysis and interpretation. During the field camp the students will also have more or less continuous access to academic staff.
The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:
- Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
- Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
- Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
- Assessment must maintain academic standards.
Assessment task Type of assessment Percentage of total assessment for grading purposes
Yes or No
Outcomes being assessed / achieved Approximate Timing of Assessment Practical reports Formative & summative 40% No 1-4 Weeks 2–10 Field
Summative 20% No 1-4 Week 11/12 Field
Formative & summative 10% No 1-4 Week 11/12 Research Project:
Assessment Related RequirementsNone
Assessment DetailPractical Reports: (40% of total course grade).
Practical Reports are all 2–3-week projects and mostly group based (2–6 students), but the 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 (30%):
A major component of this course will be the compulsory 4-day palaeontology field camp to the Naracoorte Caves during the first
week of the mid-Semester break. 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. Assessment is by a written 2500 word report, as
well as a 5 min oral presentation per student, based on the essay (after it has been submitted).
Research Project Report (30%):
The research report will assess the students’ skills to investigate and synthesise new knowledge and to place their conclusions into a wider context with appropriate scientific rigour. Student communication is assessed individually on their ability to interpret, synthesize and evaluate evidence-based theory, as well as through group participation and collaboration (5%; by peer assessment). Assessment will also involve individual essay outlines in week 8 (5%) and individual literature reviews of approximately 2500 words due in week 12 (20%).
SubmissionIf 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.
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.
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