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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

"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution" (Dobzhansky, 1973)

The last few years have seen a major reassessment of our understanding of evolutionary theory, with the proposed introduction of an “Extended Evolutionary Synthesis” (EES). In this 20 credit 2nd year module, you will be introduced to both the historical development of the fields of evolutionary biology and genetics through the 19th and 20th centuries, and to more recent advances in genomics, epigenetics, and evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-Devo).

You will consolidate and build on knowledge that was introduced in the first year 'Ecology and Evolution' module (DNS1003) and we will emphasise the importance of the process of evolution and its fundamental relevance to all biodiversity.

Course content

  1. Bioinformatic delineation of species (computer practical). These computer sessions will provide hands-on experience of the use of molecular data (DNA sequences) in identifying species.

  2. Evolution and genetics in the 19th century (the "Modern Synthesis"). This topic will introduce the development of evolutionary theory from antiquity to the mid-20th century, identifying key experiments and important figures in the fusion of population genetics and Darwinian theory that we know as the 'Modern Synthesis'.

  3. Do we need an "extended evolutionary synthesis"? Some have argued that the 'Modern Synthesis' is no longer fit for purpose given advances that have been made in some key fields of biological sciences, and that we need an 'Extended Evolutionary Synthesis'. This idea will be discussed with respect to two main fields: 3a. Evolutionary-developmental biology (Evo-Devo) 3b. Genomics

  4. Genetic markers, linkage mapping and QTL analysis. This final section will cover important genetic markers and technologies, and their application to selective breeding.

Assessment Criteria

C- to C+

Knowledge mostly based around lectures and practicals. Some evidence of reading at least some of the prescribed literature outside the lectures. Limited evidence of understanding and ability to critically evaluate and synthesize the various strands of information.

(C- to C+)


Basic knowledge derived from the lectures and practicals, but with no evidence of ability to critically synthesize this basic knowledge

(D- to D+)


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

(B- to B+)


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

(A- to A*)

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 embryonic 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
CLASS TEST Blackboard test 1

An online Blackboard test, relating to module content taught up to that point, comprising MCQs and data handling/numerical questions

EXAM End of Module open book exam

An open book exam, based on problem-solving activities

REPORT Spider bioinformatics report

A report based around the computer practicals at the start of the module, comprising short answer questions and presentation of key figures.

CLASS TEST Blackboard test 2

An online Blackboard test, relating to module content taught up to that point, comprising MCQs and data handling/numerical questions

COURSEWORK Lab simulation 2

Labster simulation activity

COURSEWORK Lab simulation 3

Labster simulation activity

COURSEWORK Lab simulation 4

Labster simulation activity

COURSEWORK Lab simulation 5

Labster simulation activity

COURSEWORK Lab simulation 1

Labster simulation activity


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Online videos and related activities, followed up with live chat and Q&A sessions

Practical classes and workshops

Bioinformatics practical - spider DNA. Labster practical simulation activities

Private study

Videos and other resources will be made available via the module Blackboard page to guide independent study. There is a dedicated module TALIS reading list. There is an expectation that elements of the directed reading and supporting materials will be used to build upon the lecture material when students are completing assessments.


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

  • Appreciate the interdisciplinary and/or reciprocal nature of relationships within the subject area.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of processes through the study of relevant systems.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Recognize the moral, ethical and social issues relating to the subject.
  • 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
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Prepare effective maps, diagrams and visualizations.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies to ensure competence in basic experimental and/or fieldwork skills.
  • Engagement with current subject developments and their application.


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Reading list

Reading list on TALIS

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: