Instructor: Kocher, Levine, Sullivan
Description of Course Goals and CurriculumIn general, the aim of EEB 211 is to learn the mechanisms underlying evolution, animal behavior, and ecology. In particular how these three branches intersect and affect one another was emphasized as well. The course is organized into three main units, evolution, animal behavior, and ecology. Within these units were subunits that explored specific ideas like the mechanisms of evolutionary change or the ecology of populations. The course is organized such that the previous knowledge gained from a prior unit inform your understanding of the current unit. For example, the last lecture focused on the dynamics between evolutionary thought and ecological studies. The most challenging aspect about this course is keeping up with all the information presented. A commitment to doing the readings and attending all the lectures is necessary to learn the course content. I would recommend taking notes on the readings before the lecture addressing the topics and keeping a list of key terms (either in a Quizlet set or on flashcards) to remember them for the exams.
Learning From Classroom InstructionEEB 211 is composed of two 80-minute lectures and a 3-hour lab section every week. There are assigned textbook readings for every lecture and pre-lab materials. Lecture: This past semester, the course was taught by Professor Kocher and Professor Levine. Professor Kocher’s lectures included those about evolution and animal behavior, while Professor Levine took over at the end of the semester to talk about ecology. I would recommend reading the assigned textbook chapter before lecture or at least skimming the reading for key terms in order to not become lost when new concepts are introduced in lecture. Both professors make use of clicker questions, which are utilized to keep track of your attendance at lectures, so make sure to register your clicker during the first week of class. Many times, definitions are provided on the lecture slides, which meant that most students preferred to take notes on the slides (either printed out or on a laptop/tablet) to write down what the lecturer says that is not on the slides. The midterm and final exams are based off of information provided in lecture, so it is crucial to attend. Lab: The 3-hour lab section each week explored a wide range of topics from succession to respiration. Labs are led by an assigned teaching assistant and other lab technicians. The majority of the time the lab did not match up with what students are learning in lecture. Students are expected to read the pre-lab materials and come with a good sense of what the lab requires. Following each lab, students are required to write lab reports based on a set of questions provided by the staff. If you are struggling with lab reports, I would recommend reaching out to your TA and asking for tips for the next report. In addition, grading varies across TAs, so it would be to your benefit to learn exactly what your TA expects of your writing.
Learning For and From AssignmentsThe majority of your grade in EEB 211 is based on your performance on the midterm and final examinations. These examinations require students to apply concepts learned in lecture to new problems in a way that shows they have mastered the content. The problems are mainly short answer and a few quantitative questions. The short answer questions vary in that some are simply straightforward recall of definitions (e.g. What is evolution?) while others require students to apply concepts to a new context. I prepared for exams by going through the lecture slides and my notes to create a study guide that consisted of the main topics discussed in lecture that day. My study guide was not a mere replication of my notes but rather I used it as a way of testing my knowledge of the concepts by asking myself questions like what does evolution look like in the absence of natural selection. In a way, I was already creating exam-like questions for myself while preparing. I also created a Quizlet set for all the vocabulary from the readings and lectures as students are expected to recognized key terms or phrases without prompting. Additionally, I prepared a list of questions for my TA, which focused on topics I felt I hadn’t completely mastered and met with him several days before the exams. The assigned readings for this course are minimal and should be utilized as necessary. I found them helpful as an introduction to key terms and as a way of reinforcing the new material into my memory. While the readings for Professor Kocher’s lectures line up with her lectures, Professor Levine’s did not. As a result, I would advise students to wait until after his lectures to do the correct readings.
External ResourcesA service like Quizlet or Anki is helpful for memorizing vocabulary in EEB 211. I would recommend modifying the set and adding new words as they are introduced in order to keep up with them rather than cramming before the exams. In general, collaboration with your classmates is helpful when preparing for the exams. If you are able to teach someone else the material, then you know you have successfully mastered your understanding of the topic. Moreover, it is insightful to ask someone else for their understanding of an idea that you do not understand.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionEEB 211 is a pre-requisite for many higher-level courses in the department and serves as the foundation for further learning in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. This course will push you to grow in your ability to learn independently as there are no problem sets or written assignments besides lab reports. Attend office hours with the professors and/or your TA to address gaps in your understanding earlier in the semester rather than later in order to avoid future stress before exams. Expect to put in a couple hours of work per week into preparing for this course. EEB 211 can be taken with other lab courses as long as you feel confident in your time management skills. By taking this course, I realized that I wanted to continue studying the biology of life on Earth and the different ecosystems life occupies.
Life on Earth: Chaos and Clockwork in Nature