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Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

BIOL 4141: Evolution

Students examine central concepts in the contemporary theory of evolution, such as variation, descent, natural selection, adaptation, speciation, and extinction on both micro- and macro-evolutionary scales. Emphasis is placed on presentation of changes in evolutionary thinking and discussion of how the current theory of evolution developed from the time of the Greek philosophers to modern evolutionary synthesis. This historical approach addresses scientific theories, which are first proposed and then continuously modified to accommodate new findings. Students’ major projects consist of independent research into current controversies surrounding evolutionary theory. Topics include origins of living systems, species and their origins and extinctions, adaptation and constraints, systematics, and evolutionary ethics.

Learning outcomes

  • Discuss and compare the elements of the theory of evolution.
  • Recognize evolutionary processes on different temporal scales.
  • Relate the changes in evolutionary thinking by outlining how historical approaches are continuously modified to accommodate new findings.
  • Use recently developed tools and applications in the field of evolutionary biology.
  • Apply the principles of evolutionary theory to a myriad of contemporary problems and questions.
  • Critically evaluate scientific findings.
  • Interpret and communicate scientific knowledge and results effectively.
  • Justify arguments effectively, using logical and scientific support.
  • Identify questions and problems in current scientific knowledge and propose novel approaches for their resolution.
  • Appreciate the way in which scientific inquiry is embedded in the fabric of the society in which it exists.
  • Effectively communicate the process of evolution to a general audience.
  • Objectively assess peer work.

Course topics

  • Elements of evolutionary theory
  • Setting the evolutionary stage
  • On the Origin of Species
  • Variation and inheritance
  • The modern synthesis
  • Contemporary evolutionary theory: reviewing elements of evolutionary theory in the light of current knowledge
  • Topics in evolution that can be challenged: origins, adaptation and its constraints, speciation and extinction, systematics and evolutionary ethics

Required text and materials

There is no required textbook for this course.


To successfully complete this course, students must achieve a passing grade of 50% or higher on the overall course and 50% or higher on the mandatory Final Project.

Discussion 1: Evidence for Evolution 5%
Quiz 1 4%
Discussion 2: Evolution Simulation 5%
Assignment 1: Writing About Evolution for the Public 20%
Discussion 3: Phylogeny of Candy Bars 5%
Assignment 2: Evolution Paper Author Investigation 10%
Discussion 4: Lamarck and Epigenetics 5%
Quiz 2 6%
Mandatory Final Project: Topics in Evolutionary Theory 40%
Total 100%

Open Learning Faculty Member Information

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Students will receive the necessary contact information at the start of the course.

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