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The following information is from the 2018-19 Vassar College Catalogue.

Biology: I. Introductory

105 Introduction to Biological Processes 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

Development of critical thought, communication skills, and understanding of central concepts in biology, through exploration of a timely topic. The content of each section varies.

Topic for 2018/19a: Genetically Modified Organisms. From corn engineered to be herbicide-tolerant to salmon engineered to grow at twice the usual rate, genetically engineered organisms (or GMOs in common parlance) have continued to be in the news and spark controversies. In this course we use examples of GMOs to explore key principles in biology, though for the purposes of this class we use the term "GMO" very loosely.  We study examples of both human engineered and random changes to DNA and their outcomes.  We cover the key principles of genetics, evolution, ecology, and cellular metabolism by exploring "GMOs" in the context of biofuel production, agriculture and the spread of malaria.

Topic for 2018/19a: Let's talk about sex. What does it mean to be "male" or "female"? What about transgendered or intersex? In this course we learn fundamental biological principles and processes by examining the evolution, cell biology, endocrinology, genetics, and physiology of mechanisms underlying sexual determination and differentiation. We also explore current topics in sex determination and differentiation across non-human vertebrates to examine differences in mechanisms underlying the development of sex. Kelli Duncan.

Topic for 2018/19a: Pets, Crops and Livestock:  Biology of Animal and Plant Domestication. For at least nine tenths of its existence, our species survived by hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants. Then, about eight to 10 thousand years ago, our ancestors from at least seven different regions of the world independently domesticated certain species of wild animals and plants. These transitions from foraging to farming were the greatest events in our cultural history. From a biological perspective, domestication is an evolutionary process, a long-term selection experiment, that has affected both domesticates and ourselves. By examining domestication from a biological point of view, you should gain a better understanding of central biological concepts and improve your abilities to obtain, understand, critically evaluate, and communicate biological information. Mark Schlessman.

Topic for 2017/18ab: Wild Canids and Domestic Dogs. This course explores the evolutionary diversity of dogs, both wild and domestic. We discuss the evolution of dogs from wolves as well as the artificial selection used to develop different dog breeds. To fully understand these evolutionary changes we explore topics such as the bio-chemical pathways involved in aggression and the genetics of coat color. Specific dog breeds are used to examine topics such as the physiology of performance and the genetic basis of disease. We also examine the diversity of wild canids from a conservation perspective, examining how their ecology interfaces with current population and genetic constraints. Meg Ronsheim.

Topic for 2018/19b: Viruses and their hosts. This course explores the fundamentals of biology through the study of viruses and the organisms they infect.  Viruses invade host cells and take control, using host structures and processes to their advantage. By investigating how viruses replicate, transmit, and evolve, we can learn a great deal about cell biology, molecular biology, genetics, physiology, and evolution.  We also explore the role of viruses in cancer, the importance of viruses in ecosystems, the impact of viruses on human evolution, and the use of viruses in classical experiments in biology. David Esteban.

Three 50-minute periods.

106 Introduction to Biological Investigation 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

Investigation of biological questions via extended laboratory or field projects. Emphasis is placed on observation skills, development and testing of hypotheses, experimental design, data collection, statistical analysis, and scientific writing and presentation. The department.

Prerequisite(s): for all students wishing to take BIOL 106 one of the following is required: BIOL 105, a 4 or 5 in AP Biology, or a 5, 6, or 7 in IB Biology (HL). Students with other advanced biology content or any other concerns should confer with the department chair regarding placement into 106.

One 75-minute period and one 4-hour laboratory.

141 Introduction to Statistical Reasoning 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

(Same as MATH 141) The purpose of this course is to develop an appreciation and understanding of the exploration and interpretation of data. Topics include display and summary of data, introductory probability, fundamental issues of study design, and inferential methods including confidence interval estimation and hypothesis testing. Applications and examples are drawn from a wide variety of disciplines. When cross-listed with biology, examples will be drawn primarily from biology.

Prerequisite(s): three years of high school mathematics.

Not open to students with AP credit in statistics or students who have completed ECON 209 or PSYC 200.

172 Microbial Wars 1

(Same as STS 172) This course explores our relationship with microbes that cause disease. Topics including bioterrorism, vaccinology, smallpox eradication, influenza pandemics, antibiotic resistance, and emerging diseases are discussed to investigate how human populations are affected by disease, how and why we alter microorganisms intentionally or unintentionally, and how we study disease causing microbes of the past and present. The use of new technologies in microbiology that allow us to turn harmful pathogens into helpful medical or industrial tools are also discussed. David Esteban.

Not offered in 2018/19.

178 Special Projects in Biology 0.5Semester Offered: Fall or Spring

Execution and analysis of a laboratory or field study. Project to be arranged with individual instructor. The department.

Open to first-year students and sophomores only.

Biology: II. Intermediate

202 Plant Physiology and Development 1Semester Offered: Spring

An examination of the cellular and physiological bases of plant maintenance, growth, development, and reproduction; with emphasis on the values of different plants as experimental systems. To get a complete introduction to the biology of plants, you should also take BIOL 208. 

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

205 Introduction to Microbiology 1Semester Offered: Fall

An introduction to the world of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The study of bacteria is stressed. Studies of the morphology, physiology, and genetics of bacteria are followed by their consideration in ecology, industry, and medicine. David Esteban.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Two 75-minute periods; two 2-hour laboratories.

208 Plant Diversity and Evolution 1Semester Offered: Fall

Plant structure and function is examined in a phylogenetic context. Emphasis is placed on adaptations to novel and changing environments as well as plant-animal and plant-fungal coevolution, including plant-pollinator and plant-herbivore interactions. Laboratories include comparative study of the divisions of plants and the identification of locally common plants and fungi in the field. Margaret Ronsheim.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106, or ENST 124, or permission of the instructor prior to registration.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

217 Human Physiology 1Semester Offered: Spring

What happens when you go on a ski trip and stay at high altitude? How do diuretics help with the regulation of blood pressure? How do we maintain our body temperature or respond to an infection? This course considers the fundamental principles of physiology using the human body as the model system. We examine genetic, cellular, organismal and evolutionary aspects of how our bodies operate to enable us to eat, sleep, move, breathe and reproduce. We consider how our mammalian bodies tackle the problems of terrestrial life. The laboratory includes independent, experimental investigations with an emphasis on experimental design, data collection and analysis. Kathleen Susman.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106 and either BIOL 105, AP Biology with a 4 or 5 AP score, or IB higher level 5, 6 or 7 test score, unless otherwise noted.

Two 75-minute periods and one 4-hour laboratory

218 Cellular Structure and Function 1Semester Offered: Fall

An introduction to cell biology, with a focus on subcellular organization in eukaryotes. The regulation and coordination of cellular events, and the specializations associated with a variety of cell types are considered. Topics include organelle function, the cytoskeleton, and mechanisms of cell division. Laboratory work centers on investigations of cell function with an emphasis on biological imaging. Nancy Pokrywka.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

226 Animal Structure and Diversity 1Semester Offered: Spring

The members of the animal kingdom are compared and analyzed in a phylogenetic context. Emphasis is placed on the unique innovations and common solutions evolved by different taxonomic groups to solve problems related to feeding, mobility, respiration, and reproduction. Laboratory work centers on the comparative study of the anatomy of species representative of the major animal phyla. The department.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

228 Animal Physiology 1Semester Offered: Fall

A comparative examination of the mechanisms that animals use to move, respire, eat, reproduce, sense, and regulate their internal environments. The physiological principles governing these processes, and their ecological and evolutionary consequences, are developed in lecture and applied in the laboratory. Kelli Duncan, Megan Gall, John Long.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

232 Developmental Biology 1

The study of embryonic development including gametogenesis, fertilization, growth, and differentiation. Molecular concepts of gene regulation and cell interactions are emphasized. The laboratory emphasizes classical embryology and modern experimental techniques. Straus.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

238 Molecular Genetics 1Semester Offered: Spring

Principles of genetics and methods of genetic analysis at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. Emphasis is placed on classical genetic experiments, as well as modern investigative techniques such as recombinant DNA technology, gene therapy, genetic testing, and the use of transgenic plants and animals. Jennifer Kennell, Nancy Jo Pokrywka.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

241 Ecology 1Semester Offered: Fall

Population growth, species interaction, and community patterns and processes of species or groups of species are discussed. The course emphasizes these interactions within the framework of evolutionary theory. Local habitats and organisms are used as examples of how organisms are distributed in space, how populations grow, why species are adapted to their habitats, how species interact, and how communities change. Field laboratories at Vassar Farm and other localities emphasize the formulation of answerable questions and methods to test hypotheses. Carol Christenson, Megan Gall, Margaret Ronsheim.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour field laboratory.

244 Genetics and Genomics 1Semester Offered: Fall

From understanding the role of a single gene in a single organism to understanding how species evolve, the field of genomics provides a lens for studying biology at all scales. In this course we develop a foundational understanding of genetics concepts and processes, and then deploy this foundation to probe some of the hottest questions in genomics. How do genomes evolve? What makes us human? How can we combat emerging diseases? In the lab component, students learn molecular biology and bioinformatics techniques, design and engineer a synthetic bio-machine from standard genomic parts, and use genomic approaches to understand how organisms interact with the environment. Jodi Schwarz.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

248 Evolutionary Genetics 1

This course focuses on the genetic bases of evolutionary processes and the applications of genetics in evolutionary studies.  Topics include reviews of transmission (Mendelian) genetics, DNA replication, transcription, and translation; the origin of meiosis and sexual reproduction; the microevolutionary processes of mutation, selection, genetic drift, and gene flow; the genetics of speciation; the origins of new genes; gene regulation and macroevolution; epigenetics and evolution; evolutionary genomics; and applications of evolutionary genetics to pressing societal concerns such as antibiotic, herbicide, and pesticide resistance; conservation biology; GMOs; and climate change.  Laboratories include computer simulations and bench work utilizing a variety of currently employed genetic techniques.  This course is especially appropriate for Biology majors focusing on ecology and evolution, Environmental Studies majors doing biology concentrations, and Neuroscience majors focusing on behavioral ecology and evolution. It provides good background for these advanced Biology courses:  BIOL 352 - Conservation Biology; BIOL 353 - Bioinformatics; BIOL 355 - Ecology and Evolution of Sexual Reproduction; BIOL 383; and BIOL 387 - Symbiotic Interactions.  Margaret Ronsheim, Mark Schlessman.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106 or ENST 124, or permission of the instructor prior to registration.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

272 Biochemistry 0 or 1Semester Offered: Spring

(Same as CHEM 272) Basic course covering protein structure and synthesis, enzyme action, bio-energetic principles, electron transport and oxidative phosphorylation, selected metabolic pathways in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.  Colin Aitken, Eric Eberhardt, Teresa Garrett, Krystle McLaughlin, Straus.

Prerequisite(s): CHEM 244 and BIOL 106.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

275 Paleontology and the Fossil Record 1Semester Offered: Fall

(Same as ESCI 275) Paleontology isn't just a "dead science"- by studying processes that have occurred in the past, we can deepen our understanding of the current biota inhabiting the Earth. Conversely, by studying the modern distribution of organisms and the environmental, taphonomic, and ecological processes that impact their distribution and preservation, we can enhance our understanding of the processes that have controlled the formation and distribution of fossils through time. In this course, we explore the methodology used to interpret the fossil record, including preservational biases and how we account for them when studying fossil taxa. We also explore large-scale ecological changes and evolutionary processes and discuss how they manifest across geologic time, and how these relate to Earth's changing fauna. We additionally learn about how paleontology has developed as a field in the context of different historical and social perspectives. Lab exercises focus on applying paleontological methods to a variety of different fossil and recent samples.

Two 75-minute periods and one 4-hour laboratory period.

276 Plants and Plant Communities of the Hudson Valley 0.5

(Same as ENST 276) Plants are the most conspicuous components of terrestrial ecosystems. In this course, you learn how to observe and describe variation in plant form so you can recognize locally common plant species and determine their scientific names. You also learn to recognize the characteristic plant communities of the Hudson Valley. This course is structured around weekly field trips to local natural areas. Locations are chosen to illustrate the typical plant species and communities of the region, the ecosystem services provided by plants, environmental concerns, and conservation efforts. This course is appropriate for students interested in biology, environmental science, and environmental studies, and anyone wishing to learn more about our natural environment. Mark Schlessman.

Environmental Studies majors may take this course instead of ENST 291.

Not offered in 2018/19.

First 6-week course. Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

290 Field Work 0.5 to 1Semester Offered: Fall or Spring

298 Independent Work 0.5 to 1Semester Offered: Fall or Spring

Execution and analysis of a field, laboratory, or library study. The project, arranged with an individual instructor, is expected to have a substantial paper as its final product.

Prerequisite(s): permission of the instructor.

Biology: III. Advanced

303 Senior Research 1Semester Offered: Fall or Spring

Critical analysis, usually through observation or experimentation, of a specific research problem in biology. A student electing this course must first gain, by submission of a written research proposal, the support of a member of the biology faculty with whom to work out details of a research protocol. The formal research proposal, a final paper, and presentation of results are required parts of the course. A second faculty member participates both in the planning of the research and in final evaluation.

Prerequisite(s): permission of the instructor.

316 Seminar in Neurobiology 1Semester Offered: Fall

A multi-level examination of nervous systems, this course is an advanced and integrative evaluation of current topics in neurobiology. Topics vary but may include glia, evolution of nervous systems, neuroimmune interactions, mechanisms of neural communication and plasticity. Emphasis is placed on current thinking and research and course material is drawn from the recent neurobiological literature. Kathleen Susman. 

Prerequisite(s): two units of 200-level Biology or one unit of 200-level Biology and NEUR 201.

Two 75-minute periods

323 Seminar in Cell and Molecular Biology 1Semester Offered: Fall

An intensive study of selected topics at the cellular and subcellular level. Topics vary, but may include organelle structure and function, advanced genetics, and mechanisms of cellular organization. Emphasis is placed on current models, issues, and research areas, and course material is drawn largely from primary literature.

Topic for 2018/19a: Epigenetics. Most cells in our bodies contain the same set of DNA, yet there are ~200 different cell types, each with unique patterns of gene expression. How do those cells establish and maintain their identities? How do environmental factors such as temperature, nutrition and social stress exert long lasting effects on organisms and their progeny? The field of epigenetics is shedding new light on these and many other interesting questions in biology. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression (and hence traits) that cannot be explained by alterations in the DNA sequence. These changes instead involve chemical modifications to DNA and its associated histones. Some of these changes can be passed down through mitosis and some even through meiosis.

Exploration of this topic involves student presentations and active discussion of primary research articles and expands upon the participants' previous coursework in genetics and chemistry. Jennifer Kennell.

Prerequisite(s): CHEM 244 and one unit of Genetics (BIOL 238, BIOL 244, or BIOL 248) and one other 200-level Biology course (or NEUR 201).

Two 2-hour periods.

324 Molecular Biology 1Semester Offered: Fall

(Same as CHEM 324) An examination of the macromolecular processes underlying storage, transfer, and expression of genetic information. Topics include the structure, function, and synthesis of DNA; mutation and repair; the chemistry of RNA and protein synthesis; the regulation of gene expression; cancer and oncogenes; the molecular basis of cell differentiation; and genetic engineering. Colin Aitken.

Prerequisite(s): one unit of any 200-level biology and one unit of biochemistry (BIOL 272/CHEM 272 or CHEM 325).

Two 75-minute periods.

340 Experimental Animal Behavior 1Semester Offered: Fall

Examination of the relationship between behavior and the individual animal's survival and reproductive success in its natural environment. Evolutionary, physiological, and developmental aspects of orientation, communication, foraging, reproductive tactics, and social behavior are considered. Methodology and experimental design are given particular emphasis. The department.

Prerequisite(s): one unit of any 200-level biology and one of the following: BIOL 226, BIOL 228, NEUR 201, PSYC 221, or PSYC 229. 

Two 2-hour periods.

352 Conservation Biology 1Semester Offered: Spring

(Same as ENST 352) Conservation Biology uses a multidisciplinary approach to study how to best maintain the earth's biodiversity and functioning ecosystems. We examine human impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem function and discuss how to develop practical approaches for mitigating those impacts. We start the semester by assessing the current human footprint on global resources, asking questions about what we are trying to preserve, why we are trying to preserve it, and how we can accomplish our goals. We critically examine the assumptions made by conservation biologists throughout, using case studies from around the world to explore a range of perspectives. Discussion topics include conservation in an agricultural context, the efficacy of marine protected areas, the impact of climate change on individual species and preserve design, restoration ecology, the consequences of small population sizes, conservation genetics, the impacts of habitat fragmentation and invasive species, and urban ecology. Margaret Ronsheim.

Prerequisites: two units of 200-level biology or one unit of 200-level biology and one of the following: ESCI 221, ESCI 361, GEOG 224, GEOG 260, or GEOG 356.

353 Bioinformatics 1

(Same as CMPU 353) DNA is the blueprint of life. Although it's composed of only four nucleotide "letters" (A, C. T, G), the order and arrangement of these letters in a genome gives rise to the diversity of life on earth. Thousands of genomes have been partially sequenced, representing billions of nucleotides. How can we reach this vast expanse of sequence data to find patterns that provide answers to ecological, evolutionary, agricultural, and biomedical questions? Bioinformatics applies high-performance computing to discover patterns in large sequence datasets. In this class students from biology and computer science work together to formulate interesting biological questions and to design algorithms and computational experiments to answer them. Jodi Schwarz.

Prerequisite(s): For students registering under the BIOL prefix, ​​the prerequisites are o​ne unit of any 200-level biology and one unit of Genetics (BIOL 238, BIOL 244, or BIOL 248)​; BIOL students do not need to have any Computer Science background​. ​For students registering under the CMPU prefix, the prerequisite is CMPU 203 or permission of the instructor; CMPU students do not need to have any Biology background.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 2-hour periods.

355 Ecology and Evolution of Sexual Reproduction 1

Sex: "nothing in life is more important, more interesting - or troublesome." This quotation from Olivia Judson, Ph.D., (a.k.a. Dr. Tatiana) is just one recent example of the long-standing fascination that ecologists and evolutionary biologists have had with sexual reproduction. This course begins with the question: What is sex? We then examine the current status of competing hypotheses for the evolution of sex, and then turn our attention to the myriad ecological and evolutionary consequences of sexual reproduction. We consider such questions as: Why are there only two sexes? Why do males and females look and behave differently? When is it advantageous to produce more sons than daughters (or vice versa)? When is it advantageous to be a hermaphrodite or to change sex? To address such questions in a biologically rigorous way, we need to draw on a wide range of theoretical work and empirical evidence from cellular and molecular biology, genetics, developmental biology, ecology, and evolutionary biology. Mark Schlessman.

Prerequisite(s): one unit of any 200-level Biology and one of the following: BIOL 208, BIOL 226,  BIOL 241, or Genetics (BIOL 238, BIOL 244 or BIOL 248).

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 2-hour periods.

356 Topics in Plant Physiology 1Semester Offered: Fall

A consideration of physiological aspects of primary production, including the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients through plant systems. Topics will focus on the recent primary literature in the field.

Prerequisite(s): two units of any 200-level Biology.

Two 75-minute periods.

360 Animal Communication 1Semester Offered: Spring

All animals use communication to navigate interactions with other individuals. At its most basic animal communication is a feedback loop. Senders produce signals which travel through the environment and are picked up by a receiver. The reception of the signal changes the behavior of the receiver through either voluntary or involuntary neural and hormonal changes; this, in turn, changes the behavior of the sender. In this course we discuss (1) how animal signals are produced, transmitted, and received; (2) how information transfer has evolved and been optimized; (3) how animals use communication in mate attraction, social integration, and predator-prey interactions; and (4) the controversy surrounding the definition of communication. Animal communication is a highly interdisciplinary field and we explore the chemical and physical properties of signals, as well as the mathematical models, neural and hormonal control, and the ecological and evolutionary underpinnings of animal communication. This course also examines animal communication in the wild and thus some self-scheduled field work is required. Megan Gall.

Prerequisite(s): two 200-level courses, with at least one of the following: BIOL 226, BIOL 228, BIOL 241, or NEUR 201.

One 3-hour period plus one 75-minute period.

370 Immunology 1

An examination of the immune response at the cellular and molecular levels. Topics include innate and adaptive immunity, the role of the microbiome in immunity, and the structure, function, and synthesis of antibodies.  Mechanisms for recognition, communication, and cooperation between different classes of lymphocytes in producing immune responses are also stressed, as are the genetic basis of immunological diversity and the cellular definition of "self'' which makes each individual unique.  Immune tolerance, the immunological basis of transplantation, allergic responses, tumor immunology, and immune deficiency diseases are discussed.

Prerequisite(s): CHEM 244 and two units of 200-level Biology.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

375 Sensory Ecology 1

There are many behaviors that are critical to the survival and reproduction of animals including finding food, avoiding predators, attracting mates, and raising offspring. The ability to successfully engage in these behaviors is dependent on the ability of organisms to acquire and respond to information in their environment.  In this course we will discuss the concept of information, the types of information available in the environment, the diversity of sensory systems animals have evolved to exploit that information, and how sensory information and processing influence behavior. Sensory ecology is a highly interdisciplinary field and we make use of mathematical, physical, chemical and biological principals. The class is divided among traditional lectures, student led discussions of the primary literature, and hands-on experiences with sensory ecology data collection and analysis. Megan Gall.


Prerequisite(s): one unit of any 200-level Biology and one of the following:  BIOL 226, BIOL 228, BIOL 241, or NEUR 201.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

377 Advanced Research Methods 1

Design and conduct an original research project in a small collaborative group. Develop experience with experimental techniques in biology, develop a working knowledge of relevant research literature, practice scientific writing and participate in the peer review process. Research time: 6-10 hours a week.

Prerequisite(s): two units of 200-level Biology and permission of the instructor.  

Students enrolled in BIOL 377, Advanced Research Methods, may not also register for BIOL 303 to fulfill biology graduation requirements.

Not offered in 2018/19.

One 2-hour period.

378 Engaging Biologists and Their Research 1

A close examination of the active research programs of several biologists who will visit Vassar to present their research to the Biology Department. By reading and discussing the primary literature and interacting with biologists at different stages of their careers, students develop a deep understanding of several current areas of biological research, and gain a better understanding of the scientific process. Students write a substantial paper focusing on one or more of the research areas discussed in class. Jodi Schwarz.


Prerequisite(s): two units of any 200-level Biology.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Three 75-minute periods.

379 Today's News in Biology 1

This course explores trending topics in the media that are related to biology. We examine how the topic is portrayed by different media sources, research the scientific literature to develop an independent understanding of the topic, and discuss related social and ethical issues. Possible topics may include: emergence of antibiotic resistance; probiotics; overfishing; sports-related head injuries; genetic engineering; climate change; degradation of natural ecosystems; emerging infectious diseases; vaccines. Hughey.

Prerequisite(s): two units of any 200-level Biology.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 2-hour periods.

381 Topics in Ecosystem Ecology - Ecosystem Structure and Function 1Semester Offered: Spring

(Same as ENST 381) Ecosystems are complex systems, where biotic and abiotic factors interact to create the world we see around us. Understanding the nature of ecosystems is fundamental to understanding how disturbance and change in a dynamic world will influence ecosystem stability. This is especially critical as we enter the Anthropocene; a time in our planets history where one species, modern humans, dominate. Major changes brought about by increased human activity include changing climate regimes, invasive species spread and biodiversity loss. This course explores how ecosystems, both aquatic and terrestrial, are assembled (structured) and how different ecosystems process energy and matter (function). We use our understanding of structure and function to explore how different ecosystems respond to changes in the environment (including climate change, invasive species introductions, loss of biodiversity and pollution). A class project will explore an ecosystem scale problem, and students will develop a plan for effectively communicating the scientific understanding of the problem to multiple stakeholders. Lynn  Christenson.

Prerequisite(s): one course in Ecology (e.g., BIOL 241 or BIOL 356 at Vassar, or a course taken elsewhere).

382 Topics in Biology 1Semester Offered: Fall

A multi-level examination of advanced topics in biology, this course is an integrative evaluation of current topics in biology, particularly topics in animal or human biology.  Emphasis is placed on current thinking and research and course material is drawn from the recent biological literature. 

Prerequisite(s): two units of 200-level Biology or one unit of 200-level Biology and NEUR 201.

Two 75-minute periods.

383 Hormones and Behavior 1Semester Offered: Spring

This course is a comparative examination of hormones and behavior in animals. We take an evolutionary approach to this topic by emphasizing (1) the common selective pressures that act on all animals and the common hormonal and behavioral responses to these pressures, and (2) how extreme selective pressures drive the evolution of unique mechanisms in the field of behavioral endocrinology. Half lecture, half student led discussions from the primary literature. Kelli Duncan.

Prerequisite(s): two units of 200-level biology.

Two 75-minute periods.

384 The Ecology of Evolution 1Semester Offered: Fall

This course explores the causes of adaptive radiation, possibly the most common syndrome of proliferation of taxa, through evidence that has accumulated since the formulation of the theory. The course reviews the ecological theory of adaptive radiation, the progress of adaptive radiation and phenotypic evolution, the origins of ecological diversity, divergent natural selection between environments, the ecological basis of speciation, and ecological opportunity. Primary literature is used to develop a richer understanding of the theory of adaptive radiation, whose origins trace back to Darwin (1859). 

Prerequisite(s): two units of 200-level Biology courses.

Two 75-minute periods.

386 Stem Cell Biology 1Semester Offered: Spring

Stem cell biology lies at the intersection of developmental/cell biology and medicine. This fast-moving field brings together many aspects of basic and applied biology and medicine including development, regeneration/repair, and cancer. This course covers a broad range of topics relevant to stem cell biology. We also consider the potential consequences and limitations of stem cell therapy, particularly the connection between stem cells and cancer. The format gives students both a broad background and the opportunity to apply critical thinking skills to recent data in this field. Since this is an upper level course, it assumes a basic understanding of genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology, and so concepts drawing from these fields will not be covered in depth. This means that some students may find additional background reading necessary. Class material draws from primary literature and students participate in active discussion and presentations.  Nancy Pokrywka.


Prerequisite(s): two 200-level courses including one of the following: BIOL 218, 238, 244, 248, or 272, and at least one semester of organic chemistry.

Two 75-minute periods.

387 Symbiotic Interactions 1

From the evolution of eukaryotic cells to the creation of entire ecosystems, endosymbiosis is a driving force in biology. This course provides an integrative perspective on host-symbiont interactions in diverse endosymbioses. We spend the first half of the semester examining the critical roles of symbiosis in ecology, evolution, and human systems. Then, we examine the underlying cellular and molecular processes that lead to an integrated host-symbiont partnership, for example mechanisms of host-symbiont recognition, regulation of nutrient exchange, and genomic interactions. Jodi Schwarz.

Prerequisite(s): two 200-level Biology courses, including one of the following: BIOL 205, BIOL 218, BIOL 238, BIOL 244, BIOL 248.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 2-hour periods.

388 Virology 1Semester Offered: Spring

Viruses cause significant diseases in humans, such as AIDS, influenza, and ebola. On the edge between living and non-living things, viruses invade, take over and alter cells in order to reproduce and transmit. Virus structure, replication and pathogenesis, major viral diseases, the immune response to viruses, and vaccination are major topics of discussion. David Esteban.

Prerequisite(s): two units of 200-level biology, including one of BIOL 205, BIOL 218, BIOL 238, BIOL 244, BIOL 248, BIOL 272; or permission of the instructor.

Two 2-hour periods.

399 Senior Independent Work 0.5 to 1Semester Offered: Fall or Spring

Execution and analysis of a field, laboratory, or library study. The project, to be arranged with an individual instructor, is expected to have a substantial paper as its final product.

Prerequisite(s): permission of the instructor.