Course Description - Students explore core principles in biology that are encountered on a daily basis in the news as they relate to changes in our lives and society in general. These are controversial issues that society is debating, because they affect social policy. Several foci emerge from this debate. First, what is the role of biotechnology on our lives? This includes issues with the widespread use of antibiotics and genetically modified foods, genetic testing, cancer treatment and pharmaceutical development. Second, what happens when biology challenges the beliefs and activities of people? This includes issues dealing with stem cell technology, the origin and evolution of life, the preservation of biodiversity, and human impact on the biosphere. Each week a different issue is investigated using a multifaceted approach to increase student awareness of the underlying controversy. First, a basic knowledge of the biological principle is pursued via in- and out-of-class lecture and readings. Next, in-class problem-solving and discussion of the controversy is undertaken. And finally, a student run debate is held to more fully appreciate the underlying reasoning and passion of opposing viewpoints.
Team-taught - Dr. Joe O'Tousa and Dr. Gary Belovsky
Fall, every year
BIOS60529-01: Theoretical Population Ecology
Course Description - This course examines the role of mathematical modeling in examining ecological questions. Starting with principles of single species population dynamics and individual characteristics, the course builds upward to examine interactions between populations (competition, predation, etc.), food webs and eventually ecosystem functioning. The course stresses the basic concepts of ecology in mathematical terms, their degree of scientific validation, and emerging questions, rather than the methodologies of studying and assessing populations. These concepts are examined using studies from a wide range of animal and plant species. The course is structured in a manner that does not assume that students are already mathematically adept, but attempts to explain the rationale for certain ecological concepts and why certain mathematical skills are useful in addressing these concepts.