- Biology 105, Evolution
- Biology 161A, Functional Morphology of the Vertebrates
- Biology 216, The Theory of Evolution
My major undergraduate assignment is vertebrate anatomy (Bio 161a), which is the first quarter of a two-quarter sequence. I cover the evolution of the vertebrate skeleton and functional anatomy. I show how simple principles of Newtonian mechanics enable us to understand how the vertebrate body plan can be modified to adapt the organism to specialized lifestyles. I place a special emphasis on convergence, since in this context convergence demonstrates how mechanical principles cause very different organisms to evolve very similar morphologies. Throughout the course, I emphasize that evolution is the process that governs the changes that we see in vertebrate evolution. My major graduate assignment is the core evolution course. I take a Socratic approach to the presentation of historical development of major concepts in evolution, beginning with a reading of the Origin of Species and Mendel’s original paper presenting the discovery of particulate inheritance. We proceed to directed readings that trace the fate of natural selection through the modern synthesis era, then end the course with the more detailed development of one modern manifestation of evolutionary biology. This last portion of the course varies among years. I regularly sponsor undergraduates in independent studies or honors projects and involve 15-20 students at a time in my research program.