Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2023

Course Description

Welcome to the fascinating, emerging arena of Evolutionary Developmental Biology, or ‘Evo-Devo’. You might wonder what is so interesting, or novel about merging the disciplines of evolution and development. My hope is that you form some of your own ideas on this topic through the semester; however, I will start by suggesting that Evo-Devo represents a new way of thinking about form and function – be it at the level of genes, cells, tissues, or the entire organism. It draws upon the theories and approaches of great minds such as Darwin and Von Baer, while incorporating the knowledge gained from modern technologies, such as molecular biology and the mathematical modeling of phylogeny. It is this integration of so many areas of biology that enables scientists to begin addressing some of the most difficult and powerful questions organisms wield. Questions such as: What is the role of natural genetic variation? How is developmental homeostasis achieved? How is evolutionary novelty created? What role does the environment play in all of the above? For some of you many of these concepts will be new, for others the concepts will be familiar, but the context and way of relating these areas will be new.

Topics to be considered in this course include: developmental bias and constraint, the nature of homology, the origins of novelty, plasticity, polyphenism, and genetic assimilation. Welcome to the journey, and to this opportunity to evolve your own interests...according to whatever environmental influences come your way!

Student Outcomes

Course Objectives:

  • Recognize and develop an appreciation for the learning power behind integrating information from multiple subdisciplines of Biology.
  • Gain greater confidence and skill in discussing key work in the area of Evolutionary Developmental Biology.
  • Demonstrate the ability to engage in meaningful discussion, ask relevant questions and develop unique ideas.

Student Outcomes – Students will be able to:

  • Apply key concepts in the field of Evolutionary Developmental Biology through accurate and thoughtful written responses to reading-related questions and class discussions.
  • Discuss controversial scientific information in groups, and problem solve Evo-Devo related case studies that are relevant for today’s world.
  • Create and present visual talks that demonstrate a depth of knowledge on assigned topics.
  • Utilize knowledge gained across the semester to complete a scaffolded assignment that culminates in a research proposal.