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Module BNS-2002:
Evolution & Genetics

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr John Mulley

Overall aims and purpose

This 20 credit, 2nd year module will run in the first semester, and it is designed to convey the logic and excitement of research in evolutionary biology. By including recent case studies in a variety of organisms and systems, we plan to familiarize students with the evolutionary approach to framing and testing hypotheses. Students will consolidate and build on knowledge that was introduced in the first year 'Ecology and Evolution' module (DNS1003) and we will emphasize the importance of the process of evolution by natural selection and its fundamental relevance to all biodiversity.

In this module we aim to:

  1. Examine the population genetics of animals and plants and show how this relates to evolution by natural selection.

  2. Describe genetic variation, its importance, and how various evolutionary forces help to shape patterns and distribution of genetic diversity.

  3. Consider the evidence for evolution, and introduce students to current research in the field of evolution.

  4. Give students the opportunity to use contemporary bioinformatic tools to delimit species and investigate intraspecific variation from an evolutionary perspective.

Course content

Evolutionary theory; heredity; genetic variation; developmental genetics and the evolution of development; genetic markers, linkage mapping and QTL analysis; the Hardy Weinberg model; gene flow; random genetic drift and selective processes; micro- and macro-evolutionary processes.

Assessment Criteria


Basic knowledge derived from the lectures and some prescribed reading, but with limited ability to critically synthesize this basic knowledge


Knowledge based around lectures and, for marks at the higher end of the scale, with clear evidence of reading the prescribed literature outside the lectures. The student understands the some of the fundamentals and demonstrates some ability to critically evaluate and synthesize the various strands of information.


Knowledge greatly extends upon lecture material and demonstrates extensive evidence of extra reading. The student understands the fundamentals and demonstrates an ability to critically evaluate and synthesize various strands of information.

Learning outcomes

  1. Be able to explain how contemporary bioinformatic tools can be used to delimit species and to investigate intraspecific variation from an evolutionary perspective.

  2. Have a clear understanding of the principles of evolution by natural selection and some basic theories in population genetics, as well as an appreciation of current debates in evolutionary theory and the role of development in morphological change.

  3. Appreciate the various types of genetic marker, the technology involved in their use, and their potential utility in population and ecological genetics, taxonomy, disease and evolution.

  4. Be able to integrate knowledge acquired from different sources, and to apply a problem-solving approach when presented with a hypothetical scenario.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

A 1 hour test towards the end of the module, covering all lecture content

EXAM End of Module Exam

A 2 hour exam, comprising data handling/analysis and short answer questions

REPORT Report 40

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Lectures, revision sessions, practical preparation and feedback sessions

Practical classes and workshops

Population genetics laboratory practical

Bioinformatics practical

Private study

Revision, writing and directed study: material in the form of illustrations, references to journal articles, reviews and book chapters will be placed on Blackboard for the students to access. There is a dedicated module TALIS reading list. Students will be directed to particular material during the course of the module, some of which will form the basis for the mid-module test. There is an expectation that elements of the directed reading will be used to support the lecture material when students are answering questions in the final examination.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.

Subject specific skills

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Conduct fieldwork and/or laboratory work competently with awareness of appropriate risk assessment and ethical considerations
  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Engagement with current developments in the biosciences and their application.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies of living systems.
  • Undertake practical work to ensure competence in basic experimental skills.


Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: