Animal Defense

This course examines the evolution, morphology, physiology, and behavior of biological defense mechanisms. From spines to chemicals to crypsis we take an in-depth look at the range in biological defense mechanisms and how scientists study and learn about them. We will first explore concepts surrounding natural selection and evolution to establish how defense mechanisms evolved across the tree of life, leading to evolutionary arms races. Then we will establish how predators search, identify, and capture prey items through establishing fundamentals in sensory biology.

Being Social

Why are so many animals social? Why is there so much variance in social behavior across the animal kingdom? And what good is being social anyway? In this course, we will learn about the ecology and evolution of key social behaviors – such as fighting, finding a mate, dominance hierarchies, and cooperation – to understand how these behaviors evolved and how they function. This course will incorporate discussion, lecture, activities, writing, and running short experiments.

Wetland Ecology

Wetlands are some of the most highly protected ecosystems in the world and for good reason. There are numerous ways that wetlands benefit society, including providing wildlife habitat, pollution filtration, shoreline protection, and carbon sequestration. In this course, we will examine the physical, chemical and biological components of wetlands and their ecological processes. Course material draws mainly from primary literature, including seminal papers of wetland ecology and novel research in the field.

Environmental Justice and Equity

 The EPA describes environmental justice as “no population due to policy or economic disempowerment, is forced to bear a disproportionate burden of negative human health or environmental impacts of pollution.” Examples include evidence demonstrating that low wealth communities have less tree cover, a deficit that leads to higher cardiopulmonary health issues. Course explores environmental justice in the U.S.. Topics covered include crime and stress, food security, air and water quality, park provisioning, environmental gentrification, and environment-related maladies.

Ecology of Farming

Ecological examination of subsistence and industrial farming, beginning with pre-agricultural ecological conditions in the paleolithic and neolithic and the transition to food production across geographic regions. Topics include optimal foraging/diet selection, climate change, and plant/animal domestication. Discussions of water, fertilizer, technology, and ethics in today's globalized industrial farming.

Biopolymers to Disease

Cells organize some components through the formation of membraneless compartments. These compartments positively drive distinct cell functions; however, they can also go awry to create issues in the cell, underlying multiple neurodegenerative disorders (Alzheimer’s, ALS, Parkinson’s). Biopolymer physics can be used to explain formation of these membraneless compartments, which form via intracellular phase separation.

Oceans and Health

Focus on the concept of “One Health” that the health of the environment and the people who live in it are linked. The basis (from a biological perspective) of threats facing the marine environment and interactions between environmental and human health and their role in global health disparities. For example, in discussing fisheries and aquaculture, the course will cover environmental impacts of these extractive industries and their importance in human and societal well-being.

Marine Climate Change

Exploration of climate change science focusing on marine ecosystems and inhabitants - specifically ocean acidification, warming and sea level rise. Factors causing climate change, and how those vary spatially, focusing on sensitive polar ecosystems and marine mammal populations. Critical examination of climate change modeling using EdGCM (research-grade Global Climate Model), focusing on how scientists use models, observations/theory to predict climate, and assumptions/uncertainty implicit in modeling.

Computing on the Genome

This course will provide an introduction to key concepts in the genome sciences, using tools and concepts from computational biology and bioinformatics. Topics to be covered include genome structure, function, variation, and evolution. Students will learn computational and statistical methods for describing and quantifying various aspects of genome biology and will apply these tools to real world data. Prerequisite: Familiarity with molecular biology concepts such as DNA replication, transcription, and translation. No prior programming experience is required.

Cell Shape(s) and Dynamics

Cell shape and shape change are fundamental features of biological development and homeostasis. We investigate the intimate relationship between cellular structure and function at molecular, sub-cellular, cellular and tissue length scales. We study a range of cell types, from the very simple (e.g., red blood cells) to those that are structurally complex (e.g., epithelia, muscle and nerve). We integrate information from studies in vivo, in vitro, in cell free systems and on purified proteins.