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Unformatted text preview: BioEE 2780 Fall 2009 Evolutionary Biology & Diversity Irby Lovette (lead professor) “When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all.” —biologist E. O. Wison “ Nothing in Biology makes sense but in the light of Evolution .” —geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky “ Simply put, training in evolutionary thinking can help both biomedical researchers and clinicians ask useful questions that they might not otherwise pose. ” —Nesse et al., editorial in Science 311: 1071 (2006) This course is both a survey of the earth’s spectacular biodiversity and an introduction to the fascinating processes of evolution that have produced the grand Tree of Life. The effects of evolution span all of biology, from protein function to the most complex animal behaviors. And both evolution and biodiversity are relevant to your personal life in ways you might not anticipate. For example, health professionals deal with these topics every time they encounter a patient who harbors a community of bacteria with antibiotic resistance… and Cornell students experience elements of sexual selection every time they flirt with potential partners. Evolutionary theory is elegant and fascinating, and an understanding of how evolutionary processes shape and maintain biological diversity is crucial for anyone interested in applied or basic sciences. Active arenas of related research involve many disciplines, from lab projects on selection on fruit-fly genomes to field biologists investigating why so many tree species occur in a single patch of tropical rainforest. This course is designed as an overview of the many evolutionary approaches to exploring, explaining, and categorizing biological diversity. We have three basic goals for the semester. First, we want you to gain an understanding of the major evolutionary processes and an appreciation for the ways that evolutionary biologists approach their work. Second, we seek to arm you with the knowledge and tools needed to understand the evolutionary issues you will encounter in the future, in both academic and nonacademic settings. Finally, we will survey all major groups of organisms, from bacteria to mammals, and learn how we are all related via the evolutionary Tree of Life. As professors and practicing scientists, we think that evolution and biodiversity are fun and fascinating topics. In this course, we get to explore questions like: Why is sex so pervasive in the natural world? Why do we age? How did life originate? Why are there 1000 times more species of beetles than species of mammals? What factors determine whether a particular pest species will cause heavy damage to a crop? Why do the sexes look so different in some species, but nearly identical in others? What do we know about the relationships between humans and other primates? What evolutionary challenges do medical professionals deal with every day?...
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This note was uploaded on 11/27/2009 for the course BIOEE 2780 at Cornell.