Bio 43: The evolution of plant diversity

This course has several, interrelated objectives. First, it serves as an introduction to the science of phylogenetics, providing an overview of both the theory and methodology involved in constructing phylogenetic trees, and how to use trees to study character and organismal evolution. For our second objective, we put this new framework to immediate use by using phylogeny to explore and illustrate 400 million years of land plant evolution. Bio43 examines major trends in plant evolution from functional, ecological, and biogeographical perspectives. Students will leave the class with a basic understanding of 1) phylogenetic theory and methods of studying character evolution, 2) plant anatomy and morphology, 3) evolutionary relationships among the major land plant clades (with emphasis on the flowering plants), and 4) major evolutionary trends that have significantly shaped the diversity of plant life that we see today. The third and most important objective is to instill in students the ability to look at any biological problem through the lens of "phylogeny-colored glasses"- a powerful way to examine the complexity of life that surrounds (and includes) us.

braving hunting season in search of carnivorous plants at the Great Swamp, RI (2009)

2011 syllabus

Bio 150: Plant Physiological Ecology

The primary aim of Bio 150 is to examine the role of the environment in shaping the anatomical, physiological, and ecological diversity of vascular plants. Lectures will provide an overview of plant-environment interactions, focusing on anatomical and physiological adaptations of leaves, stems, and roots to different habitats. A comparative, phylogenetic approach will be emphasized. This is a hybrid lecture/seminar course, where classes will consist of both chalkboard lectures by the professor as well as discussions of articles from the primary literature. In addition, BIO 150 is designed to be a hands-on course, and lectures are viewed mostly as supplements to the semester-long greenhouse project that will provide students with first-hand experience in measuring and interpreting plant functional traits. Students will work on a set of group projects that are designed to test long-standing assumptions about the evolution and adaptive nature of certain plant traits. Projects will differ from year to year, but will be chosen by the professor based on outstanding questions in the current literature. Students will leave the class with a solid foundation both in plant functional ecology and in applying a phylogenetic comparative approach to studies of organismal biology. Furthermore, they will gather first hand experience in data collection, experimental design, data analysis, and the presentation of a scientific study.

It's Camtastic! bio150 undergrads get passionate about CAM photosynthesis (2009)

2011 syllabus