Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Population Genetics and Evolution
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 21 x 1 Hour Lectures
Practical 1 x 4 Hour Practical
Workshop 2 x 4 Hour Workshops


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Oral Presentation  (10 minutes) and poster  10%
Semester Assessment Written field course report  (<2000 words)  40%
Semester Assessment Written Laboratory report  (<1500 words)  30%
Semester Assessment Case Study Essay  20%
Supplementary Assessment Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  100%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. Formulate testable evolutionary hypotheses, using knowledge of genetics, evolution, ecology and biogeography.

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

3. Analyse phenotypic variation within and between populations, using multivariate statistics.

4. Analyse chromosomal and DNA sequence variation within and between populations, using appropriate laboratory methods.

5. Calculate indices of genetic diversity, fitness, inbreeding, population subdivision, etc., using simple mathematical formulae and/or appropriate computational methods.

6. Test evolutionary hypotheses using molecular phylogenetic methods.

7. Solve problems in the fields of conservation, plant/animal breeding, fisheries management, public health, etc. by applying knowledge of population genetics.

8. Communicate results effectively, using appropriate media.

Brief description

This year 3 module will build upon population genetic concepts encountered in earlier modules, emphasising the use of population genetic methods to test hypotheses and solve problems in diverse fields of research.

The module will begin with a week-long residential field course, in which students will study variation in natural populations and gain skills in biological fieldwork. Specimens collected during the field course will be used in subsequent laboratory practicals and computer workshops. This will provide students with an overview of the entire process of population genetics research, from collection of material in the field, through preparation of chromosomes and DNA in the laboratory, to analysis of data using statistical and phylogenetic methods.
Context will be provided through lectures, introducing new concepts and methods in population genetics and using case studies to illustrate their applications. Students will be provided with opportunities to explore and develop their own interests through group projects during the field course and individual case studies during the semester.


Residential Field Course:
Collecting data in the field
Measuring phenotypic variation
Multivariate statistical analysis
Chromosomal variation
Island biogeography
Small-group project

Semester 1 lecture topics:
Genetic diversity
Natural selection
Genetic drift
Effective population size
Applications: conservation
Applications: fisheries management
Applications: animal and plant breeding
Applications: epidemiology

Semester 1 practicals:
DNA extraction and quantification
Amplification of genetic markers
Data analysis (computer workshop)

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Students are required to calculate indices of genetic diversity, fitness, inbreeding, population subdivision, etc., using simple mathematical formulae and/or appropriate computational methods. They are also required to use and understand multivariate statistics and phylogenetic methods.
Communication During the field course, students present the preliminary results of their group projects orally and through the production of a hand-drawn poster.
Improving own Learning and Performance During the field course, students are required to keep a notebook, containing their data collected in the field and any contextual observations. These will be reviewed with an instructor, during and after the course, allowing students to reflect on their learning and performance. The field course report will be assessed early in Semester 1, providing feedback which students can use to improve their performance in subsequent assessments. The case study essay will be assessed mid-way through the semester, motivating students to engage in background reading and apply their knowledge early in Semester 1.
Information Technology Students are required to use a range of specialist programmes and resources, including genetic databases, statistical packages, population genetic and phylogenetic software.
Personal Development and Career planning Students are required to apply population genetics methods to real-world challenges in diverse fields of research. This will encourage them to envision ways in which they can use their knowledge and training to build careers for themselves.
Problem solving During the field course, students plan and execute projects in small groups, formulating hypotheses, deciding which locations to sample, which measurements to make and how best to analyse their results and present their findings. During the semester, each student undertakes a case study in a field of their choice, identifying a problem and describing how they would use population genetics to solve it.
Research skills All assessed coursework requires students to engage with peer-reviewed scientific literature, to provide context for their own findings in the laboratory and in the field. Students are required to identify, download and use content from databases of genetic information (e.g. Genbank). Students practice a range of research methodologies, including field, laboratory and computational methods.
Subject Specific Skills Students will learn to identify, collect and sample biological specimens in the field. They will also learn a range of specialist field, laboratory and computation methods in the field of population genetics and evolution.
Team work During the field course, students carry out a research project in small groups. They are required to plan, execute and present their projects in teams. Most of the other activities performed on the field course also require elements of teamwork. Teamwork is assessed directly through the presentation. Students also receive formative feedback from instructors on their performance as a team.


This module is at CQFW Level 6