Bio 370 – Evolution (Spring 2008)

Instructor:  Dr. Manda Clair Jost  (email:  mandaclair@mail.utexas.edu )

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION: 

 

This course is an upper-level introduction to biological evolution for biology majors, and covers the mechanisms of evolution, the methods of evolutionary analysis, the evolutionary history of life on earth, and why evolution is considered to be the central organizing principle of all modern biology. 

 

An important prerequisite for the course is a firm understanding of basic genetics concepts, such as those taught in BIO 325 here at UT.  You should be fluent in the fundamentals of Mendelian and molecular genetics (such as how chromosomes are structured, how genes are inherited, and how DNA codes for the amino acids in proteins).  If you need a refresher on that material, please review it on your own time by reading the appropriate sections of your favorite genetics text.

 

READINGS:

 

The course will use the first edition of Evolution (2005) by Douglas J. Futuyma, Sinauer Associates.  Course lectures will not strictly follow this text, but the assigned textbook readings are required for the following reason:  evolutionary biology is a complex subject that cannot be mastered solely through the memorization of facts, and often requires more analytical thinking than most other subjects in biology.  You are unlikely to develop a sound understanding of evolutionary biology if your only study strategy is to attend lectures and study lecture notes without doing the assigned textbook readings.  It is not unusual for biology students who have excelled in all prior biology and biomedical courses to find themselves struggling to understand evolutionary biology.  Your textbook will also be useful as a reference for clarifying and understanding the topics that are discussed in lecture.  There will never be questions on any exam about information in the text that is not also covered in lecture.

 

Your discussion section will have assigned readings from Charles Darwin, and more recent publications from the modern literature.  Reading assignments will be announced weekly, and you will be tested on discussion section material.

 

DISCUSSION SECTION:

 

Readings will be assigned weekly for the mandatory discussion section.  Participation in the discussion section is required, and will make up a full 20% of your grade.  Material covered in the discussion section will appear on the exams.  Poor attendance or lack of participation in the discussion section will result in a significant subtraction from your overall grade.  In order for you to participate in discussions in a meaningful way, all assigned readings should be read carefully before the discussion section meets.  Your T.A. for this course should be your main point of contact regarding the readings or questions concerning the discussion section.

 

COURSE WEBSITE:

 

The website for this course will be http://www.bio.utexas.edu/courses/evolution.

 

This site will be used to post all handouts, announcements, and other materials for the course.  There is no guarantee that copies of the PowerPoint lecture slides will be available for your study and use outside of class.  Downloadable copies of lecture slides, when made available, should be viewed as a convenience and not as an expected resource.  You should plan on taking comprehensive lecture notes of your own.  If you miss a lecture, please do not ask your T.A. or the instructor for the lecture notes or slides.  Arrange to get them from another student.

 

EXAMS:

 

There will be four in-class exams for this course, and no final exam during finals week.  The exams will be held in-class on Thursday February 7, Thursday March 6, Tuesday April 8, and Thursday May 1.  The last exam is not cumulative.  There are no dropped exams.  Exams will be based on the material covered in the lectures and on the readings discussed in the sections.  You will not be tested on things covered in the text that were not discussed in lecture.  Exams may include little or no multiple-choice component:  you should come prepared to recall terms and concepts in short-answer form.

 

Graduating students who do not perform well on the exams are advised to seek help from the instructors early.  There are no extra-credit opportunities or other routes of improving your final course grade if you do not perform well on the exams.  If you find yourself struggling with the course material, ask for help.

 

EXAM REGRADE REQUESTS:

 

Sometimes graders make simple mistakes when grading large stacks of exams.  Rarely, graders may also award a student too few points for an answer that should have been scored higher.  Once the graded exams are handed back, please wait until the exam key is posted before asking the instructor and your T.A. about exam questions you missed or had points deducted on.  After the exam key is posted (always on a weekday), you have exactly one week, to the day, to prepare and submit an exam regrade request.  Your written request should be limited to the actual items you are contesting, and should explain why you feel that the grading is in error.  Your original exam must be attached.  Exam regrade requests are due to your T.A. by 5:00 pm, one week to the day after the exam key is posted.  Decisions made on exam regrade requests are final, and you may not re-appeal.

 

MAKEUP EXAMS:

 

There is a very strict makeup exam policy for this course.  Makeup exams will not be granted except in the case of an extreme personal emergency or medical emergency requiring medical treatment, verified by a physician’s note and/or your academic advisor from the Dean's office.  In either case, you must contact the instructor or your T.A. before the test.  With the exception of the most extreme of unpredictable emergencies (e.g., a piano falls onto your head on your way to the exam), missing an exam without contacting the instructor or T.A. beforehand will result in a zero.

 

Note that university policy does not allow makeup exams for common minor illnesses, or for things like forgetting to set your alarm clock properly.  Makeup exams will also not be granted for reasons related to student convenience (e.g. multiple exams scheduled in one week, conflict with extracurricular activities or travel plans, etc.)  Instructors for this course have denied several requests for makeup exams in the past.  In the unlikely event that you do need to request a makeup, it is advisable that you be sure you have a bona fide emergency that absolutely prevents you from taking the exam on the scheduled date.  In the rare event that a makeup exam is given, it is often more difficult than the scheduled exam.  Please keep this in mind when deciding whether or not you are too ill to attend a scheduled exam.  Note for Spring 2008: if an emergency causes you to miss the March 6 exam, you may not schedule a makeup for after Spring Break.

 

GRADING:

 

Final course grades will be calculated as follows:      

 

Discussion Section     20%

Exam 1                     20%

Exam 2                     20%

Exam 3                     20%

Exam 4                     20%

 

Letter grades will be assigned at the end of the course only, based on a curve calculated once all exam scores and discussion section grades are in.  The curve always helps a student’s grade, never hurts it.  Please refrain from requesting an estimate of your letter grade for an exam, or for your course grade during the semester, as the course grading curve is constantly changing.  Your best strategy is to always do as well in the course as you are able.

 

OFFICE HOURS:

 

Office hours for the instructor and T.A. are meant for you to discuss your performance in the course in general, or to ask questions about lectures you have attended.  Office hours are not meant to be used as private tutoring or catch-up sessions for lectures you may have missed.  If you have performed poorly on one or more exams and are concerned about passing the course, please approach your instructor or T.A. with specific questions about course material you are having trouble with.  Note that the answer to the question “how do I improve my grade in the course?” is always “improve your understanding of the course material”.  The instructor and T.A. cannot help you raise your grade but they can help you in understanding the course material so that you can raise your grade. 

 

Student meeting times for Dr. Jost are generally Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:00 until 3:00.  However, since Dr. Jost is not always in her office during those times awaiting students, there is no guarantee that drop-in students will be seen.  The best way to schedule time with Dr. Jost is by prior arrangement in person or by email, or by catching her before or after class.

 

OBSERVANCE OF RELIGIOUS HOLY DAYS:

 

The University policy is that students who miss course work due to the observance of a religious holy day must be given the opportunity to complete the work missed within a reasonable time after the absence, provided the instructor is notified well in advance.  The University policy requires that students must notify course instructors at least 14 days prior to the classes that will be missed.

 

DISABILITIES:

 

Any student with a documented disability (physical or cognitive) who requires academic accommodations should contact the Services for Students with Disabilities area of the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259 (voice) or 471-4641 (TTY for users who are deaf or hard of hearing) as soon as possible to request an official letter outlining authorized accommodations.  You must present us with their letter at least 5 business days (= 1 week) before any exam that will be affected.