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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 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

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 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*)


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+)

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

MCQ test based on lecture material

EXAM End of Module Exam

2 hour short answer exam based on the lecture material.


Practical report covering the spider DNA barcoding bioinformatics activities. Comprises relevant figures and tables as explained in the sessions, and answers to a prescribed set of questions. 2000-2500 word equivalent.


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

Bio5.3 i. An appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms, their molecular, cellular and physiological processes, their genetics and evolution, and the interrelationships between them and their environment ii. The ability to read and use appropriate literature with a full and critical understanding, while addressing such questions as content, context, aims, objectives, quality of information, and its interpretation and application iii. The capacity to give a clear and accurate account of a subject, marshal arguments in a sophisticated way and engage in debate and dialogue both with specialists and non-specialists, using appropriate scientific language iv. Critical and analytical skills including a recognition that statements should be tested and that evidence is subject to assessment and critical evaluation v. The ability to employ a variety of methods of study in investigating, recording and analysing material vi. The ability to think independently, set tasks and solve problems.

Bio5.5 i. Recognise and apply subject-specific theories, paradigms, concepts or principles (for example the relationship between genes and proteins, or the nature of essential nutrients in microbes, cells, plants and animals) ii. Analyse, synthesise and summarise information critically, including published research or reports iii. Obtain and integrate several lines of subject-specific evidence to formulate and test hypotheses iv. Apply subject knowledge and understanding to address familiar and unfamiliar problems v. Recognise the moral and ethical issues of investigations and appreciate the need for ethical standards and professional codes of conduct.

Bio5.6 i. Demonstrate competence and progressive development in the basic and core experimental skills appropriate to the programme of study ii. Design, plan, conduct and report on investigations, which may involve primary or secondary data (for example from a survey database) iii. Obtain, record, collate and analyse data using appropriate techniques in the field and/or laboratory, working individually or in a group, as is most appropriate for the subject under study iv. Undertake field and/or laboratory investigations of living systems in a responsible, safe and ethical manner. v. Comply with health and safety policies, Good Laboratory Practice, and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health assessments recognise and explain the importance of quality control and quality assurance vi. Recognise and explain the need for procedures for obtaining informed consent and appreciate the underlying ethical issues, including respect for the rights of access, for example, in field work or in order to map the genes of a community, family or group of plants or animals, including humans vii. Demonstrate an understanding of the ethical and other issues relating to animal welfare. viii. Explain and justify the impact of investigations on the environment, on the organisms or subjects under investigation, and on other stakeholders.

Bio5.7 i. Use and interpret a variety of sources of information: textual, numerical, verbal, graphical ii. Carry out sample selection; record and analyse data in the field and/or the laboratory; ensure validity, accuracy, calibration, precision, replicability and highlight uncertainty and possible bias during collection iii. Prepare, process, interpret and present data, using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques, statistical programmes, spreadsheets and programmes for presenting data visually iv. Solve problems by the most appropriate method.


Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: