ENV BIOL 3545 - Molecular Methods in Ecology and Evolution

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2024

This course provides an in-depth exploration of the molecular approaches, techniques and concepts used in the fields of ecology and evolution. This course is designed to equip students with the necessary knowledge and practical skills to effectively integrate molecular biology techniques into their ecological and evolutionary studies. Throughout the course, students will delve into a range of molecular methods, such as DNA sequencing, genotyping, and phylogenetic analyses, and explore their significance and application in ecological and evolutionary research. By combining theoretical knowledge with hands-on laboratory exercises and data analysis, students will develop a comprehensive understanding of how molecular tools can be employed to address critical questions in ecology and evolution. The course will cover a range of topics, including genetic diversity and population genetics, molecular systematics and phylogenetics, molecular ecology, and molecular evolution. Students will learn to design and execute experiments, collect and analyze molecular data, and interpret the results in the context of ecological and evolutionary processes, and environmental detection and monitoring. Additionally, ethical considerations and challenges associated with molecular research will be addressed. Through interactive lectures, discussions, and practical sessions, students will gain proficiency in laboratory techniques, data interpretation, and critical thinking. They will also explore recent advancements in molecular methods and their applications in the rapidly evolving field of environmental DNA. By the end of the course, students will have a solid foundation in molecular methods and their applications, enabling them to conduct independent research projects and contribute to cutting-edge studies in ecology and evolution. They will be equipped with the skills necessary to navigate the ever-expanding field of molecular biology and apply these techniques to unravel the complex interactions between organisms and their environments, as well as the evolutionary processes shaping biodiversity.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code ENV BIOL 3545
    Course Molecular Methods in Ecology and Evolution
    Coordinating Unit Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 6 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Assumed Knowledge ENV BIOL 2501
    Course Description This course provides an in-depth exploration of the molecular approaches, techniques and concepts used in the fields of ecology and evolution. This course is designed to equip students with the necessary knowledge and practical skills to effectively integrate molecular biology techniques into their ecological and evolutionary studies.
    Throughout the course, students will delve into a range of molecular methods, such as DNA sequencing, genotyping, and phylogenetic analyses, and explore their significance and application in ecological and evolutionary research. By combining theoretical knowledge with hands-on laboratory exercises and data analysis, students will develop a comprehensive understanding of how molecular tools can be employed to address critical questions in ecology and evolution.
    The course will cover a range of topics, including genetic diversity and population genetics, molecular systematics and phylogenetics, molecular ecology, and molecular evolution. Students will learn to design and execute experiments, collect and analyze molecular data, and interpret the results in the context of ecological and evolutionary processes, and environmental detection and monitoring. Additionally, ethical considerations and challenges associated with molecular research will be addressed.
    Through interactive lectures, discussions, and practical sessions, students will gain proficiency in laboratory techniques, data interpretation, and critical thinking. They will also explore recent advancements in molecular methods and their applications in the rapidly evolving field of environmental DNA.
    By the end of the course, students will have a solid foundation in molecular methods and their applications, enabling them to conduct independent research projects and contribute to cutting-edge studies in ecology and evolution. They will be equipped with the skills necessary to navigate the ever-expanding field of molecular biology and apply these techniques to unravel the complex interactions between organisms and their environments, as well as the evolutionary processes shaping biodiversity.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Associate Professor Kate Sanders

    Course Timetable

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

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes

    No information currently available.

    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)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.

    1-4

    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.

    2-4

    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.

    1, 4, 5, 6

    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.

    5, 6

    Attribute 5: Intercultural and ethical competency

    Graduates are responsible and effective global citizens whose personal values and practices are consistent with their roles as responsible members of society.

    3, 5

    Attribute 6: Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural competency

    Graduates have an understanding of, and respect for, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander values, culture and knowledge.

    3

    Attribute 7: Digital capabilities

    Graduates are well prepared for living, learning and working in a digital society.

    1, 4, 5, 6

    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

    5, 6
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    A desktop or laptop computer for which you have administration rights (we may require you to install some software - such as R-studio, Geneious, MEGA - to run analyses), with Microsoft Office (or equivalent) installed and a webbrowser to access MyUni. 

    Microsoft Office 365 is available free to all students - https://www.adelaide.edu.au/technology/your-services/software/software-for-students?check_logged_in=1#microsoft-office-365

    A lab coat, safety glasses and fully enclosed shoes for practical sessions.
    Recommended Resources
    We recommend the following textbooks to support your learning in this course

    Freeland JR (2020) Molecular Ecology, Third Edition

    Rowe G, Sweet M, Beebee T (2017) An Introduction to Molecular Ecology

    Herron JC and Freeman S (2015) Evolutionary Analysis, Fifth Edition

    Futuyma DJ and Kirkpatrick M (2017) Evolution, Fourth Edition

    Berry O, Holleley C, Jarman S (2022) Applied Environmental Genomics
    Online Learning
    This course does not include face-to-face lectures. 

    The theoretical and background content for this course will be delivered via pre-recorded lecture material, presented as a series of short (10-20 min) recorded modules, pre-existing videos from external providers and recommended reading delivered in the MyUni weekly modules.

    Students are expected to undertake this online learning in their own time and each week prior to the face-to-face workshops and practicals
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    Online Lectorials and Reading - The theoretical and background content for this course will be delivered via pre-recorded lecture material, presented as a series of short (10-20 min) recorded modules and/or pre-existing videos from external providers delivered in the MyUni weekly modules.

    Workshops - Course content will be discussed and re-enforced at weekly workshops during which a practical application of molecular methods will be introduced. During these face-to-face workshops students will be expected to draw on their knowledge of content (delivered in part A above) and discuss in small groups how the problem/research question could be solved/addressed using molecular approaches.

    Practicals - Practical, hands-on skills in sample collection, wet-lab methods, bioinformatic data analysis and interpretation will be presented in weekly practicals. These will focus primarily on essential wet-lab skills, experimental design, controls and quality assurance needed to produce appropriate genetic data from a range of samples. Some short field trips may be included to demonstrate sample collection for eDNA work.
    Workload

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

    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., workshops and practicals), as well as non-contact time (e.g., watching online content, reading, writing reports and revision for the exam).
    Learning Activities Summary
    Weekly online lectures, workshops and practicals will broadly focus on:
    1. The application of neutral molecular markers in evolutionary biology and ecology - phylogeny, phylogeography, population genetics, wildlife forensics and biosecurity, mating systems and behaviour
    2. Adaptive responses to environmental change - contemporary evolution, phenotypic plasticity, and transcriptomics
    3. Detection and monitoring using environmental and non-invasive DNA - eDNA for biodiversity assessment, palaeoecology, species interactions (including diet analysis) and non-invasive DNA methods

  • 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 Assessment Type Assessment Weighting Learning Outcomes
    Workshop/Practical Reports Formative 60% 1-6
    Exam Summative 40% 1-5
    Assessment Detail

    3 x 1500 word workshop/practical reports (20% each): Students will be required to write up 3 workshop/practical reports at approximately 3-4 week intervals. Writing and results presentation will follow standards for scientific and industry reporting.

    Written exam (40%): A two hour exam will be held at the end of the semester.
    Submission
    All assignments must be submitted by the due date and accompanied by a corresponding Cover sheet. 

    Extensions for Assessment Tasks
    Extensions of deadlines for assessment tasks may be allowed for reasonable causes. Such situations would include compassionate and medical grounds of the severity that would justify the awarding of a replacement examination. Evidence for the grounds must be provided when an extension is requested. Students are required to apply for an extension to the Course Co-ordinator before the assessment task is due. Extensions will not be provided on the grounds of poor prioritising of time.

    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.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.