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Course Descriptions

BIOL 59500BTL Building the Tree of Life

Session Offered:

Spring Credit 3


BIOL 12100, 13100, 13500 or 19500, 23100, 23200, 24100, & 24200.  Other recommended prerequisites: 1) research experience, 2) have the skills necessary to read primary literature, and 3) be prepared to learn coding.  Departmental Permission is required but will be granted to biology majors who meet the prerequisite.


The Tree of Life represents Earth’s biodiversity and its history, and forms the basis of all biological knowledge. Phylogenetic methods allow us to reconstruct the Tree of Life and infer the evolutionary history and relationships of genes and organisms. This knowledge, in turn, can be used to address questions of organismal classification, biogeography, community assembly, and macroevolution. This jointly taught course introduces tree thinking and its underlying algorithms of inferring phylogenies, with an emphasis on the various applications of phylogenetic methods to such topics as those listed above. Through a combination of lectures, computer labs, and discussion of primary literature, the course will provide hands-on experience with commonly-used tools and their applications in research for senior undergraduate and graduate students from relevant science backgrounds.



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