Spring 2020

BIOL-T 591, History of Life

Course Dates: 1/13/2020 - 5/8/2020

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Course Description

This graduate-level online seminar course is an overview of the roughly four billion year evolutionary history of life on the Earth. We explore the evolution of life forms, highlighting seminal events that have occurred in the history of our planet that have impacted the various trajectories of life on Earth. In addition, we will visit the development of biological evolutionary theory to emphasize its importance as the central concept to all aspects of biology and its applications (healthcare, agriculture, etc.). The intent is to provide insights and approaches to evolutionary history that can be used by secondary education instructors in both high school-level and introductory college-level coursework.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

Learning Materials

A WEBCAM is REQUIRED for this course for discussions and the course project. If a student does not have a camera integrated into her/his computer, a plug-in web camera can be purchased from an electronics store (e.g., Best Buy) or online (e.g., Amazon). A basic webcam (e.g., 720p with audio recording) will cost $20-35.

Richard Fortey - Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth. (paperback ISBN 978-0375702617)

Stephen Jay Gould - Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. (paperback ISSN 978-0393307009)

Andrew A. Knoll - Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth (paperback ISBN 978-0691165530)

Neil Shubin - Your Inner Fish (paperback ISBN 978-0307277459

Additional required readings will be posted on Canvas.


Discussions (include both leadership and participation components; groups will produce a discussion report each week): 43%
Reflective Papers (x4, one for each book we read in the course): 32%
Course Project (includes online presentation and peer evaluations): 25%