Welcome to Bi/GE 105 at the California Institute of Technology.

The course takes place in the WI 2014 term.



The objective of this course is to use broad brush strokes to paint a picture of modern thinking on evolution, both of living organisms and the planet they inhabit. The first part of the course will take a decidedly historical and naturalistic perspective, focusing on the timeline of evolution (based on the geological record of fossils and geochemical signatures) and how the natural history of both the inanimate and animate worlds in the hands of Darwin and Wallace (and their distinguished predecessors) led to the articulation of the tenets of evolution by natural selection as well as a picture of a dynamic Earth. This will be followed by an examination of the emergence of modern genetics which gave us a molecular picture of variation. Next, we will undertake a study of the forces of evolution such as selection, drift, migration and mutation and how population genetics provides a quantitative framework for examining the interplay between these forces. With these preliminaries in hand, we will then turn to a variety of case studies in evolution that illustrate the principles of the subject with some of the remarkable studies that have been made to test these ideas. We will close with a discussion of the great human experiment in which human activities have rewritten the story of evolution.


Grading breakdown will be as follows: 50% homework; 10% class participation; 30% lab; 10% field work.

The extension for the lab is 1764.

2014-02-28: Galapagos reader is available here. This reader comes from a course similar to ours at Cornell University and is full of useful papers from the original literature about the Galapagos.

2014-03-12: Essential information for students going on the field trip is available here. Please read carefully.