Announcements, Schedule & FAQs

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Society for Northwestern Vertebrate Biology, Student Scholarship Announcement (due January 15).

Remaining schedule (updated Dec 7):

Class Schedule

Color coded syllabus

FAQs (last updated September 7th)

Q: Is Vertebrate Evolution upper-division?

A: Yes! Students who do consistently high-quality work will receive 16 upper-division science credits, likely in evolutionary biology, vertebrate anatomy and physiology, and philosophy of science.

Q: I was really interested in the year-long program, Evolution: Patterns and Processes. How similiar is this program going to be?

A: Because this is a one-quarter, single-faculty program, we won't be covering nearly as much ground as was planned for Evolution. We won't be delving into genetics or development, and will spend little time on microevolution (aka evolutionary ecology). This program will give you a solid background in macroevolution (aka origin of species), however, through lectures, anatomy labs, and computer labs, in which we learn how to build evolutionary trees. In addition, the focus will be on vertebrates, and roughly half of the time in the classroom will comprise a survey of vertebrate zoology, including what anatomical and physiological characters distinguish the major groups of vertebrates.

Q: How will you be assessing student work in this program?

A: I will be evaluating your work (your rigor, intellectual curiosity, and comprehension) in several ways. While this is not a final list, these are likely to include:

  • 8 weekly take-home quizzes
  • 8 sets of study questions, to be completed before class, for discussion on Mondays
  • One in-class quiz (week 2) on chordate phylogeny (a memory quiz)
  • Anatomy lab: two practicals, plus weekly dissection skills and participation
  • Computer lab: Three phylogeny assignments
  • Student research and lectures on assigned system in anatomy or physiology (teams of two students)
  • Research papers on topics to be discussed in the Fall, which use at least 15 peer-reviewed sources
  • Poster presentations following from individual research projects

Q: I'm interested in the program, but don't believe in dissecting animals. Can I opt out of the anatomy lab?

A: No. The anatomy lab will be an integral part of the program--you need to be prepared to take the full 16 credits, or find an alternate program. That said, we will not be dissecting any wild-caught animals (which is why we will probably not be dissecting sharks, even though they are the standard example of a "basal vertebrate" in most comparative anatomy labs). The cats that we will be dissecting were euthanized by Humane Societies across the U.S., then collected by biological supply companies for prep for use in classroom settings. They were not killed for use in the lab. Finally, dissection of organisms is the best way to fully understand the diversity between both individuals and species, and having respect for the organisms that we dissect is imperative in an anatomy lab. If, despite these considerations, you are unwilling to participate in dissections for six weeks of the quarter, you should look for another program.

Q: Only six weeks? What will the remaining anatomy labs consist of?

A: We will spend three weeks comparing skulls from a variety of vertebrates (almost all of which are reproductions of actual skulls, not real bone). And there will be a final lab practical in week 10 as well.

Q: Week 10? Didn't you say it was week 9 before? My calendar says Monday of week 9 is the Monday after Thanksgiving. Have you no heart?

A: After carefully considering this question for a while, I've decided that we won't have class during Thanksgiving week. That does mean, however, that you'll have to come back from Thanksgiving ready for a lot of work in the last two weeks of class.

Q: Will there be any field component of the program?

A: There will be two all-program field trips, not three as advertised earlier: two day trips late in the quarter, to Kennedy Creek to see the salmon run, and somewhere else relatively local to see the beginning of amphibian breeding behavior in late November/early December. We are NOT going to go on a multi-day trip to Eastern Washington early in the quarter.