Courses Under Development

This page describes several courses that I am currently in the process of developing material for.


Evolutionary Biology

“Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” – Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973

tree-of-life-fig1Course Description:  This course provides an advanced understanding of evolution, the fundamental unifying theory of biology. Students will learn the main processes of evolution, as well as patterns resulting from those processes, and thus develop a toolkit of “evolutionary thinking” and scientific knowledge that is critical for biologists and the general public. Through a broad survey of evolutionary biology, students will learn to evaluate scientific evidence about evolution, and also to understand and apply concepts about microevolutionary and macroevolutionary processes to biology and current issues. Topics covered will include 1) genetics, development, and environment; 2) basic population genetics theory; 3) evolutionary processes (natural selection, genetic drift, mutation, migration); 4) adaptation and sexual selection; 5) phylogenetics, paleontology, and macroevolutionary processes; and 6) evolutionary applications.

Required Text: Freeman and Herron (2007).  Buy it on Amazon. Freeman S, Herron JC (2007) Evolutionary Analysis, 4th edition. Benjamin Cummings. 800 pp.




2007spring_troll1Course Description:  I will instill in students an understanding of and great appreciation for the world of fishes. Fishes are a monophyletic group that encompasses >32,500 species and thus outnumber all other vertebrate species combined (including birds, amphibians, “reptiles”, and mammals). Not surprisingly, given this diversity, fishes also display remarkable variation in ecology (e.g. habitat, life history), morphology, and biogeography.  This course provides an advanced introduction to the fascinating biodiversity of fishes, including the patterns and processes influencing fish evolution, form and function, interactions, distributions, and abundances. Fishes are very important to local and global ecological assemblages, including human societies, and many of them are increasingly threatened by human activities. The student will learn to use scientific reasoning to make decisions about real-world problems in fish biology and conservation.

Required Text: Barton (2007).  Buy it on Amazon. Barton, M. (2007) Bond’s Biology of Fishes, 3rd edition. Thomson Brooks. 912 pp.




7-03f04Course Description: This course introduces biology majors to basic concepts in classical and modern genetics, including population genetics, quantitative genetics, and evolutionary genetics. Genetics is an active and growing field of research that has produced many breakthrough discoveries in understanding the origin, function, and evolution of living things, across levels of biological organization and with applications to medicine as well as wildlife and human societies. In addition to learning core course content (e.g. structure and function of genes, chromosomes, and genomes) and dispelling common misconceptions about genetics, students will learn to approach genetics as scientists, analyzing and drawing conclusions from experimental data on genome, gene and protein function, phenotypic traits and inherited diseases.  

Required text: Griffiths, A.J., et al. (2015) Introduction to Genetic Analysis. 11th Edition. W.H. Freeman, New York.  Buy it or rent it on Amazon



Statistical Phylogenetics and Phylogeography

Course Description: Statistical phylogenetics and phylogeography are relatively young fields of research spawned by the last 30 years of advances in DNA sequencing/genomics, phylogenetic systematics, statistical population genetics, and computational biology. These two research areas are inexorably linked, as both rely on similar theoretical and computational advances, such as likelihood-based models built based on coalescent theory and algorithms for estimating species trees. Moreover, phylogeography represents a bridge between phylogenetic systematics (macroevolution) and population genetics (microevolution). This is a hands-on course that emphasizes the use of model-based inference to build and compare models estimating key population or interspecific parameters (e.g. population size, migration, phylogeny, evolutionary rates). Students will attend lectures, discuss key papers from the literature, and conduct individual research projects using likelihood and Bayesian methods learned during computer exercises. Topics covered in this course include 1) hypotheses testing; 2) probability theory; 3) likelihood and Bayesian statistical approaches; 4) coalescent models; 5) UNIX and R programming basics; 6) Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC, and variations) estimation of parameters; 7) coalescent-based species delimitation; and 8) testing biogeographic hypotheses using approximate Bayesian computation (ABC).

Required Text: Haddock, S., Dunn, C. (2010). Practical Computing for Biologists. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA. 538 pp.  Buy it on Amazon

See the helpful Practical Computing for Biologists website here for more information.