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Evolutionary Biology

In this course you will learn about fundamental processes of evolution, the tools evolutionary biologists use to study these processes, and the biological systems – from viruses to blue whales – to which these tools can be applied.

This course is designed to help you learn how to think, write, and talk about evolutionary biology. The primary focus of the course will be reading and discussions of the textbook, Evolution: Making Sense of Life. We will cover diverse topics ranging from the history of evolutionary thought to sexual conflict to animal behavior to human evolution. You will have the opportunity to learn from the scientific literature, museum collections, and expert guest lecturers.

  • Course structure

    Teaching format

    The primary focus of the course will be reading and discussions of the textbook. Morning lectures will center on a single book chapter, and you will have a short writing assignment associated with each chapter of the book. These essays will help you improve your writing skills and allow for frequent feedback about your understanding of core concepts.

    All discussions and laboratory exercises are mandatory. All guest lectures are mandatory, especially as their content will be included in the exam. Lectures and exercises that will take place in person are indicated in the schedule. All other class meetings will be held over Zoom. In case of absence, ask the course leader what you can do to earn credit for the material.

    Learning outcomes

    A list of the learning outcomes can be found in the syllabus. Please find the link to the syllabus on the right side of this page.


    There are two sections for grading in this course. Please note that this is different from previous courses.

    1. Laboratory exercises and group discussions (7.5 credits, pass/fail)
     a. Attendance of scheduled lectures and activities is mandatory
     b. There are 17 assigned chapter essays. Students must turn in at least 15. Essays must be submitted before the relevant class discussion.
    c. Museum group project: groups will present the major findings of a publication that used the Naturhistoriska riksmuseet collections.
    d. Given students complete the minimum requirements of the laboratory exercises and group discussions, grading will be based upon the clarity of understanding demonstrated in the written exam and final essay (see below).

    2. Theory (7.5 credits, A-F scale )
    a. Written exam, take home
    b. Final essay and oral presentation


    Christopher Wheat

  • Schedule

    The schedule will be available no later than one month before the start of the course. We do not recommend print-outs as changes can occur. At the start of the course, your department will advise where you can find your schedule during the course.
  • Course literature

    Note that the course literature can be changed up to two months before the start of the course.

    Zimmer, C. & Emlen, D. J. Evolution: Making Sense of Life. 3rd edition. W. H. Freeman 2020. ISBN‏: ‎1319079865.

  • Contact

    Student office
    Study counsellor for basic level