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    Vassar College
   
 
  Sep 23, 2017
 
 
    
Catalogue 2017-2018
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BIOL 105 - Introduction to Biological Processes

Semester Offered: Fall and Spring
1 unit(s)


Development of critical thought, communication skills, and understanding of central concepts in biology, through exploration of a timely topic. The content of each section varies.

Topic for 2017/18a: Biology in a Changing World. Our world is constantly changing; from the daily cycle of light and dark, to the changing seasons, to the shifts in plate tectonics, change is an ever-present condition on our planet. This change is reflected in the evolutionary history and response of organisms to these varying conditions.  More recently, organisms on this planet have been faced with some very abrupt and significant agents of change. Humans are one of the agents responsible for a plethora of these changes, including pollution, habitat loss, invasive species introductions and climate change. This course will focus on the basic principles of biology that allow us to understand how different species respond to change.  These principles include genetics, evolution and inheritance and the process of natural selection, physiology and energy dynamics. Lynn Christenson.

Topic for 2017/18a: Biology of the Human Microbiome. The human microbiome consists of the bacteria, eukaryotic cells and viruses that inhabit our bodies. These microbes outnumber our human cells by as much as ten to one and their genes may outnumber human genes by over a hundred to one. Once ignored, increasing evidence indicates that an appropriate balance of these microbes plays an essential role in human health. This course focuses on the interactions of the bacterial microbiome and their hosts as a framework for understanding basic biological principles. These include the biochemistry, structure, and function of cells, metabolism, genetic variation, evolution of the host-bacterial relationship, antibiotic resistance, and biodiversity, as well as the impact of diet and antibiotic use on the microbiome and consequences for health and disease. Elizabeth Collins.

Topic for 2017/18a: Singing Life of Birds. Many of us have awoken on a beautiful spring morning to the sound of birds singing. Indeed, bird song has enchanted and intrigued humans for millennia. To truly understand bird song we must understand both the hows (mechanisms and ontogeny) and the whys (function and phylogeny) of singing. We can also approach these questions from a dynamic (how did we get here: ontogeny and phylogeny) or static (what is the current state: mechanisms and function) view. For instance, we might wonder how the brains and muscles of birds work together to produce song or how singing behavior is affected by hormones (mechanisms). We might also wonder if bird song is innate or if baby birds have to learn how to sing (ontogeny). From an evolutionary perspective we might wonder why natural selection has favored singing (function) and how singing behavior is distributed among different bird species (phylogeny).  In our quest to understand bird song we’ll cover topics in genetics, cell biology, physiology, neuroscience, animal behavior, ecology and evolution. Megan Gall.

Topic for 2017/18a: Wild Canids and Domestic Dogs. This course explores the evolutionary diversity of dogs, both wild and domestic. We discuss the evolution of dogs from wolves as well as the artificial selection used to develop different dog breeds. To fully understand these evolutionary changes we explore topics such as the bio-chemical pathways involved in aggression and the genetics of coat color. Specific dog breeds are used to examine topics such as the physiology of performance and the genetic basis of disease. We also examine the diversity of wild canids from a conservation perspective, examining how their ecology interfaces with current population and genetic constraints. Meg Ronsheim.

Topic for 2017/18b: Let’s talk about sex. What does it mean to be “male” or “female”? What about transgendered or intersex? In this course we learn fundamental biological principles and processes by examining the evolution, cell biology, endocrinology, genetics, and physiology of mechanisms underlying sexual determination and differentiation. We also explore current topics in sex determination and differentiation across non-human vertebrates to examine differences in mechanisms underlying the development of sex. Kelli Duncan.

Topic for 2017/18b: Life in the Sea. From coral reefs to kelp forests, and from oceanic planktonic communities to deep sea hydrothermal vents, the ocean is teeming with life. In this course we learn fundamental biological principles and processes by examining the ecology, physiology, cell biology, genetics, and evolution of marine organisms. We also explore current topics in marine research, particularly the role and ecology of planktonic life in the ocean, and how it is affected by climate change and other human activities that impact the ocean environment. Jodi Schwarz.

Topic for 2017/18b: Singing Life of Birds. Many of us have awoken on a beautiful spring morning to the sound of birds singing. Indeed, bird song has enchanted and intrigued humans for millennia. To truly understand bird song we must understand both the hows (mechanisms and ontogeny) and the whys (function and phylogeny) of singing. We can also approach these questions from a dynamic (how did we get here: ontogeny and phylogeny) or static (what is the current state: mechanisms and function) view. For instance, we might wonder how the brains and muscles of birds work together to produce song or how singing behavior is affected by hormones (mechanisms). We might also wonder if bird song is innate or if baby birds have to learn how to sing (ontogeny). From an evolutionary perspective we might wonder why natural selection has favored singing (function) and how singing behavior is distributed among different bird species (phylogeny). In our quest to understand bird song we cover topics in genetics, cell biology, physiology, neuroscience, animal behavior, ecology and evolution. Megan Gall.

Three 50-minute periods.



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