Biology: Ecology and Evolution Minor

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The biology: ecology and evolution minor provides students with the opportunity to experience both the ecological and evolutionary underpinnings of modern biology. The minor explores these areas of biology through laboratory and field experiences.

Notes about this minor:

  • The minor is closed to students majoring in biology or enrolled in the biology concentration of the environmental science major.
  • Posting of the minor on the student's academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.
  • Notations may appear in the curriculum chart below outlining pre-requisites, co-requisites, and other curriculum requirements (see footnotes).


Choose one of the following sequences:
   General Biology I
This course serves as an introduction to cellular, molecular, and evolutionary biology. Topics will include: a study of the basic principles of modern cellular biology, including cell structure and function; the chemical basis and functions of life, including enzyme systems and gene expression; and the origin of life and evolutionary patterns of organism development on Earth.
   General Biology I Lab
This course provides laboratory work to complement the lecture material of General Biology I. The experiments are designed to illustrate concepts of basic cellular and molecular biology, develop laboratory skills and techniques for microscopy, and improve ability to make, record and interpret observations.
   General Biology II
This course serves as an introduction to animal and plant anatomy and physiology, in addition to the fundamentals of ecology. Topics will include: animal development; animal body systems; plant development; unique plant systems; Earth's terrestrial and aquatic environments; population and community ecology; animal behavior; and conservation biology.
   General Biology II Lab
This course provides laboratory work to complement the material of General Biology II. The experiments are designed to illustrate concepts of animal and plant anatomy and physiology, develop laboratory skills and techniques for experimenting with live organisms, and improve ability to make, record, and interpret observations.
   Introductory Biology I
This course serves as an introduction to molecular biology, cellular biology, genetics, developmental biology, and evolutionary biology. Topics will include: a study of the basic principles of modern cellular biology, including cell structure and function; the chemical basis and functions of life, including enzyme systems and gene expression; and both the processes and patterns of the organismal development (ontogeny) and the evolution of life on Earth (phylogeny). Laboratory experiments are designed to illustrate concepts of basic cellular, molecular, developmental, and evolutionary biology, develop laboratory skills and techniques for microscopy and biotechnology, and improve ability to make, record and interpret observations.
   Introductory Biology II
This course serves as an introduction to the diversification of life, plant anatomy and physiology, animal anatomy and physiology, and ecology. Topics include a survey of the taxonomic diversity of the major groups of living organisms, the anatomical and physiological adaptations of both plants and animals, and the principles of the ecological relationships among organisms and environments. Laboratory exercises are designed to illustrate concepts of taxonomy, anatomical & physiological adaptation, and ecological relationships. Labs are also designed to help the development of laboratory skills and techniques for experiments with live organisms, and improve the ability to make, record and interpret observations.
Required Course
Choose at least one of the following:
   General Ecology
This course is an introduction to population, community and ecosystem ecology, stressing the dynamic interrelationships of plant and animal communities with their environments. The course includes such ecological concepts as energy flow and trophic levels in natural communities, population and community dynamics, biogeography and ecosystem ecology.
   Evolutionary Biology
This course investigates the historical framework of evolutionary biology and the meaning/nature of evidence pertinent to biological evolution. Topics will include: earth history, the evolution of proteins and the genetic code, molecular evolution, neutral theory vs. selection, genetic variation, natural selection, migration, mutation, genetic drift, fitness, population dynamics and genetics, speciation, systematics and classification systems, molecular phylogenetics, the evolution of eukaryotic organisms, behavioral evolution, historical biogeography, and human evolution and variation.
Elective choices should total a minimum of 11 credit hours
   Animal Behavior
This course is a comparative study of animal behavior from an evolutionary perspective. Lectures will examine the organization of behaviors including survival behaviors, social dynamics, and human behavior. Labs will demonstrate methods of gathering and interpreting behavioral data in the laboratory and in the field.
   Galapagos: Ecology & Evolution
A semester-long lecture course followed by a 14-day field trip to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. Students meet weekly on the RIT campus during spring semester to learn about the wildlife and geology of the islands, and about their influence on Darwin’s theory of evolution. Galápagos is still an area of vibrant research and students will be introduced to current ecological, genetic, and geological studies. We will explore ongoing difficulties of balancing human needs with environmental conservation in the Galápagos. The field trip occurs shortly after the close of the semester in which the course is given. We will visit various sites in the islands, with excursions focusing on the unique wildlife and the geology. There are frequent snorkeling opportunities. The course provides outstanding opportunities for nature photography. Enrollment is limited to 15 students. A travel fee is required. (Permission of instructor)
   Invertebrate Zoology
A study of the biology of invertebrate animals with emphasis on phylogeny and functional morphology.
   Vertebrate Zoology
This course provides a synthesis of the ecological, behavioral, anatomical, and physiological characteristics of vertebrates in an evolutionary context.
   Biology of Plants
This course will focus on aspects of plant anatomy and diversity and their impact on plant physiology. Adaptations to the environment and biotechnological approaches to unraveling the physiology of plants will be explored. A feature of this course will be discussion groups on plant topics from the popular scientific literature- e.g. Biofuels, Bioengineered Plants. The laboratory classes will follow the lectures closely, to give an opportunity to examine the structure and physiology of different plant genera.
   Vertebrate Evolution
This course is a study of the major changes in vertebrate functional morphology through time. The course will begin with fossilized fish records. The vertebrate evolution will then be traced to the era of mammals and end with humans. Additionally fossil evidence depicting major transitions between the vertebrate classes, modern taxonomy, including cladistic analysis, geologic time and stratigraphy, and plate tectonics will be presented.
   Evolution and Creationism
This course explores the current controversy over the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Topics covered include pre-Darwinian views of natural history, Natural Theology and the argument from design, pre-Darwinian views of evolution, On The Origin of Species, and the public and scientific reception of natural selection. The major 20th and 21st century court cases, beginning with Scopes, and the Creationist responses, will be presented. The social and philosophical implications of evolution will be a major underlying theme.
   Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy
This course is a comparative study of the evolution of organ systems among vertebrate animals with an emphasis on structural changes in homologous characters among representative vertebrate lineages. The course will explore the concepts of allometry, biomechanics, biophysics, ontogeny, phylogeny using examples from vertebrate integument, skeletal, muscular, respiratory, circulatory, digestive, urogenital, endocrine, nervous, and sensory systems.
   Comparative Animal Physiology
This course is a comparative study of fundamental physiological mechanisms. It covers a broad range of organisms studied from the standpoint of evolution of functional systems, the mechanisms and morphological variations that exist to deal with functional problems posed by the environment, and the special mechanisms used to cope with extreme environments.
   Tropical Ecology
   Introduction to Population Genetics
This course consists of a study of DNA, genes, inheritance, genetic variation, genetic architecture, and change within and among populations. Fundamental genetics topics include DNA, gene, and chromosomal structure and function along with, transmission genetics, Mendelian inheritance patterns, sex-linked inheritance, genetic linkage, and the Hardy-Weinberg Principle. Population based topics will include genetic variation, its importance, how it originates and is maintained as well as inbreeding, random mating, mutation, migration, selection, genetic drift, the effects of small population size, fitness, population subdivision, the shifting balance theory, inter-deme selection, kin selection, neutral theory, molecular evolution, molecular clocks, multi-gene families, gene conversion, artificial selection, the genetic basis of quantitative traits and the fundamental theorem of natural selection.
   Freshwater Ecology
This course will explore the ecology of freshwater ecosystems, including rivers, lakes, and wetlands; with an emphasis on ecosystems in Western New York. The chemical and physical environment of each system and the resulting biological communities will be explored. Threats to the ecosystem services supplied by freshwater resources will also be investigated.
   Seneca Park Zoo Internship
This course will combine in-class lecture from specialists in the zoological field with volunteering in a zoo. This course will require the use of knowledge gained to design an exhibit for a selected species as a group. Topics covered will include the purpose of zoos, the history of the Seneca Park Zoo, wildlife medicine, population (conservation) genetics, biological exhibit design, zoo research, animal behavior, zoo management, zoo community education, and zoo ethics. There will be an opportunity to develop an understanding of the biological basis of the zoo’s activities. This course will provide an intensive hands-on experience by assisting zoo staff in one department area for 8 hours, plus 2 hours of classroom work, per week over the semester.
This course is the study of the distribution of biodiversity on the earth. Patterns of past and present animal and plant distributions are used to help understand the mechanisms of basic biological processes including speciation, dispersal, divergence, and extinction. This course will cover the character and history of the science of biogeography, as well as its basic principles and applications. We will also examine the assumptions, methods, and conclusions of historically significant biogeographic studies.
   Marine Biology
This course explores marine biology by focusing on the diversity of life and influence of oceanographic phenomena on the various ecosystems. Morphological and physiological adaptations along with environmental threats will also be investigated.
   Conservation Biology

* At least two courses must be taken at the 300-level or higher.