Biology 103

BIOL 103
Environmental Biology

Catalog Entry

BIOL 103. Environmental Biology
Three hours lecture; two hours laboratory (4).

For any student who is not a Biology major. An introduction to how the natural world works and of the scientific methods used to study the natural world. Emphasis is on the study of ecology and the process and products of evolution. Applications are made to the importance of biological diversity, and the impact of humans on the natural world and the methods used to understand and ameliorate such impacts. BIOL 103 is not a prerequisite for upper level study in Biology. Biology majors should take BIOL 131. Students who are not Biology majors but need to take upper level Biology courses should take BIOL 105. This course has been approved for credit in the Natural Sciences Area of the Core Curriculum.


Detailed Description of Course


  • Evolution
    • Natural and artificial selection
    • Speciation
    • Evolution of life on earth
    • Methods of classification of organisms
  • Overview of major taxa
    • Adaptation and evolution of diversity
    • Comparative structure and function
    • Behavior (evolution and adaptive significance)
  • Interaction of organisms with environment
    • Species level concerns:
      • Population genetics (genetic drift, bottleneck, etc)
      • Population size (and genetic diversity)
      • Habitat destruction (fragmentation)
      • Extinction
      • Rare and endangered species (importance of diversity)
      • Endangered Species Act
    • Community level concerns- Species interactions
      • Mutualism
      • Competition
      • Predation
      • Parasitism
      • Disease
      • Introduced species
    • Ecosystem level concerns
      • Nutrient and hydrologic cycles
        • Concept
        • Examples
      • Food web and energy flow
      • Resource depletion (tragedy of the commons)
      • Pollution
      • Biomagnification
      • Unique community structure – biomes (habitat diversity)
      • Ecosystem threats
    • Laws protecting the environment
      • Resource management
      • Clean air
      • Clean water


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The course will be taught in the lecture/laboratory format.

Readings from textbook and other sources will require students to understand some content without a teacher's explanation. Information searching and evaluation skills will be taught as part of student secondary research.

Laboratories will emphasize the following skills: observing systematically, asking questions that can be answered with observation or experiment, designing experiments based on those questions, collecting data systematically, data analysis and presentation, and drawing appropriate conclusions.

Students will practice these skills in lab both by planning, doing, and reporting on experiments and by debating and discussing controversies in environmental biology.

Whenever possible, students will practice using basic mathematics and statistics, including graphing appropriately and measuring accurately with the metric system.


Goals and Objectives of the Course 

Students will understand the methodologies of scientific inquiry; think critically about scientific issues and understand that the results of scientific research can be critically interpreted; participate in informed discussions of scientific issues; and describe the natural/physical world within the context of a specific scientific discipline.


Students will be able to:

a.       employ scientific methods to gather and analyze data and test hypotheses in a laboratory setting

b.      distinguish between findings that are based upon empirical data and those that are not

c.       explain the relationships among the sciences and between science, technology, popular media, and contemporary issues in society

d.      explain how scientific ideas are developed or modified over time based on evidence

e.       use the language of science to explain scientific principles within the context of a specific scientific discipline


Assessment Measures

Assessment measures will vary with the instructor, but will generally include lecture and laboratory exams and a final exam. Continuing assessment will involve quizzes, class projects, laboratory reports and take-home exams. Students may be asked to do outside research and prepare written or oral presentations applying what they have learned. Students may be asked to argue, orally or in writing, for a particular position in areas where there is disagreement. Students may be asked to develop laboratory projects and will present the projects and results in poster or oral presentations.

  • Student ability to think critically and to construct logical arguments will be assessed by their abilities to present, orally and/or in writing, their laboratory research and/or library research. They will also be assessed in their ability to make arguments for particular positions.
  • Student understanding of the empirical nature of science will be assessed through targeted exam questions. Their understanding will also be assessed through the quality of their lab reports and lab project presentations.
  • Student ability to apply scientific methods and to use scientific problem-solving will be assessed by observing the development of their laboratory projects, assessing their project presentations, and assessing their arguments in presenting scientific disagreements.
  • Student ability to relate science to the world at large and to see connections between science, technology, and society will be assessed through written or oral presentations on current scientific issues, and particularly through written or oral arguments in areas where there are disagreements.


Other Course Information

Depending on enrollment, multiple instructors may teach the course in a given semester. They will coordinate laboratory exercises.


Review and Approval

Date Action Approved by

March 2009 Dr. Joe B. Hagen, Chair