Module Information

Module Identifier
BR32810
Module Title
Evolution Field Course
Academic Year
2016/2017
Co-ordinator
Semester
Semester 1
External Examiners
  • Professor Pat Heslop-Harrison (Professor - University of Leicester)
 
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 1 x 1 Hour Lecture
Field Trip 1 x 50 Hour Field Trip
 

Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Field Notebook  10%
Semester Assessment Small Group Presentations  20%
Semester Assessment Report on class data  35%
Semester Assessment Report on small-group project  35%
Supplementary Assessment Extended practical report essay  : based on sample data provided by module staff  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Collect, record and analyse phenotypic data from a range of different organisms.

2. Identify organisms to species level using a taxonomic key.

3. Interpret phenotypic data in terms of the evolutionary forces acting upon a population.

4. Explain phenotypic patterns in terms of underlying genetic processes.

5. Work effectively as part of a large survey team and in small groups or pairs.

6. Plan and organise their time effectively.

7. Communicate their findings in class discussions and through presentations of group work.

8. Discuss their results in the context of published information obtained by researching the scientific literature.

Brief description

A week-long residential field course in which students will study the action of evolutionary processes on natural populations, as a class and in small groups.

Aims

This module will train and assess students in the collection, analysis and presentation of field data to reveal evolutionary processes at work in natural populations. Results will be interpreted in the light of our knowledge of underlying genetics, enabling students to appreciate the links between processes occurring at the molecular level and those occurring at the level of organisms, populations and species.

Content

This is a week-long residential course based away from Aberystwyth. The field course is preceded by an introductory lecture in Aberystwyth outlining the format of the course, the daily schedule, methods of assessment and identifying essential pre-course reading. Students will undertake several field-based exercises as a whole class. Some of these will occupy a single session in a single location while others are repeated several times at different locations for comparative purposes. Each exercise will be based on a classic study in population genetics or evolutionary biology and will utilise a range of organisms (including molluscs, birds, arthropods and plants) and habitats (including grassland, woodland, heath and rocky intertidal). Topics covered will include natural selection, genetic drift, sex ratio evolution, hybridization, speciation and biogeography. Although field studies will focus upon phenotypic data, this will be analysed and discussed during evening sessions, allowing the genetic context to be introduced. In parallel, students will undertake taxonomy projects in small groups or pairs. Each student group will be assigned a taxonomic group of organisms (usually a family or large genus). They will collect specimens belonging to this taxonomic group from each habitat and will identify them using taxonomic keys, noting the habitat, community composition and key physical and/or chemical features of the location from which each specimen was collected. On the basis of these studies, each group will prepare a portfolio of drawings, descriptions and specimens which will form the basis of a presentation given to the class on the final day of the field course.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Statistical techniques will be applied to class data. Students will also be required to engage with mathematical descriptions of evolutionary processes during the field course.
Communication Written presentation of field data. Oral presentation of taxonomy project, together with production of portfolio including notes, specimens and drawings.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will receive guidance and feedback by staff and peers during the field course and will be provided with plentiful opportunities to reflect upon their performance and progress. This will be assessed through examination of field notes and taxonomy portfolios.
Information Technology Appropriate statistical software will be used by students to interpret class data.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will undertake fieldwork relating to population genetics and evolution which may lead them to view the subject in a new light, taking in its application to conservation issues, etc. Students will also learn key skills in biological fieldwork which may be transferred to other areas of biological science.
Problem solving Students are required to plan and execute their own taxonomy project in small groups, deciding which locations to sample, which measurements to make and how best to present their findings.
Research skills Students undertake fieldwork in which they will employ a range of morphometric and ecological measures. They will also learn to identify species using taxonomic keys. Data will be analysed using appropriate statistical techniques and interpreted in the light of genetic information. Accurate field notes must be kept. After the field course, students will be required to search the literature in preparation of reports.
Subject Specific Skills
Team work Students will be required to work in large teams during class exercises and in small groups to undertake taxonomy projects.

Notes

This module is at CQFW Level 6