"I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something
than educate people and hope they were entertained."

-- Walt Disney

BIOL 205: Comparative Invertebrate Zoology
- Course webpage -

Biology 205 is a comparative survey of primarily marine invertebrates, a field so vast that we can only begin to scratch the surface in one 4-unit course. Consequently, the course treats most groups only superficially. However, over a 14 week semester, the class will be introduced to a diverse array of animals that most students have never seen before and at present cannot even imagine!

The course is organized along three major themes that are fundamental to zoology:

(1) Functional morphology: form, function & system compatibility
(2) Ontogeny: development & life history
(3) Phylogeny: unity, diversity & evolutionary history

The objectives of the course are (1) to introduce students to how animals are organized, how they work, and how they reproduce themselves; (2) to provide students with a basic understanding of animal diversity; (3) to stimulate an appreciation of invertebrates and their remarkable evolutionary innovations; and (4) to provide students with a solid foundation in the field of invertebrate zoology, so that students can make informed decisions regarding environmental/conservation policy, scientific research agendas and public education programs.

In order to accomplish these goals, it will be necessary for students to assimilate a substantial amount of new factual information, but also to integrate and synthesize that information into ideas and concepts. Together, we can learn a great deal from invertebrates, and I hope that students will experience a high level of enjoyment during our exploration not only of these fascinating organisms but also the broader phylogenetic context within which each one of our populations has evolved.

This course runs from September to December.

Photos by Jeff Leander - 09/2003 & 04/2007

BIOL 428: Evolutionary Morphology of Marine Invertebrates

This is an advanced course in comparative organismal biology focused on the macroevolution of morphology in marine invertebrates, an extremely diverse assemblage of lineages that encompasses all animals, excluding insects and vertebrates. This course provides students with the opportunity to expand their expertise in comparative zoology by addressing reoccurring themes in the evolution of marine animals. Content areas include modern views of metazoan phylogeny; comparative invertebrate embryology; the evolution of miniaturization in marine meiofauna; gelatinous and transparent body forms in pelagic invertebrates; bioluminescence and symbioses in deep-sea invertebrates; strategies for attachment, locomotion and protection in benthic invertebrates; and broad patterns of morphological change as reflected in both living and extinct lineages. Each topic in the course will draw on primary scientific literature in order to emphasize different approaches to research on marine invertebrates.

The range of body forms and lifestyles represented by marine invertebrates greatly overshadows the (morphological) diversity of any other group of organisms, and a major challenge is to make sense of this diversity within the context of evolutionary history. The emergence of molecular approaches to developmental biology and systematics has revolutionized our understanding of the overall phylogenetic tree of animals. However, interpretation and criticism of these molecular data rely on broad knowledge of organismal biology, a vital area of scholarship that is fading in life science programs as the DNA revolution in biology continues to unfold. BIOL 428 helps reverse this trend by providing 3rd and 4th year students with the opportunity to rigorously investigate the morphological diversity and evolution of marine invertebrates and expand their expertise in comparative zoology, natural history and marine biology. The course will be particularly beneficial to students considering careers in research, teaching, ecotourism, public aquaria, and marine conservation.

Prerequisite: BIOL 205 and 3rd year standing or higher.

This course runs from September to December.


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