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There are several opportunities for undergraduate students at Northwestern University to take courses with a strong emphasis on ecology, evolution, conservation, and organismal biology. Learn more about these and other courses in the undergraduate course catalog.

Course Descriptions

BIOL SCI 332 (PBC 430) Conservation Genetics
In this course we will learn how basic evolutionary and genetic principles inform the conservation and management of wildlife, game, and plant populations. We will read and discuss current research in the primary literature. We will examine case studies of current practices, including: managing genetics of native and ex situ and zoo populations, reintroducing and restoring plants and animals to the wild, selection in harvested populations, evaluating genetic consequences of habitat fragmentation, measuring genetic diversity, responses to climate change. To synthesize new concepts and theory we will engage in group problem-solving and computer simulation exercises. Two field trips are planned: Lincoln Park Zoo and Chicago Botanic Garden. Each student will make a presentation to the class. 

BIOL SCI 336 (PBC 415) – Spring Flora
Field-based approach to learning the process of identifying major components of the Chicago Region flora. Understanding evolutionary relationships, ecological interactions, and vegetative and reproductive structures of plants will be emphasized in a field-based setting.

BIOL SCI 337 (PBC 435) Biostatistics (formerly Quantitative Methods & Statistics for Plant Conservation Biology)
Methods for analyzing data sets in ecology and conservation biology will be taught in a computer lab setting. Students will also conduct research projects using original or publicly available data and results will be presented to the class in a professional, publication ready form.

BIOL SCI 339 (PBC 451) Critical Topics in Ecology and Conservation
This course provides students with the conceptual and theoretical framework within the field of plant biology (especially ecology) and conservation. This is a seminar style class based on reading and discussion of works ranging from historical literature to recent studies including topics such as conservation policy, economics of conservation, climate change, invasive species, habitat fragmentation, and applied conservation case studies.

BIOL SCI 341 Population Genetics
Processes that affect allele frequency change and thus cause evolution. 
Prerequisites: BIO 215, 217, 219, 308 and a course in statistics.

BIOL SCI 346 Field Ecology
This course is an intensive experience in ecological field research. Each class will meet in the local Cook County Forest Preserve District, rain or shine. Transportation will be provided. Each week's field trip will be for the purpose of collecting data, which students will analyze before the next meeting of the class. Topics to be covered include plant identification, competition, parasitism, diversity metrics, effects of exotic species, etc. Prerequisites: BIOL SCI 215 and a course in statistics.

BIOL SCI 347 Conservation Biology
Evolution, ecology, and conservation of patterns of biological diversity. 
Prerequisites: BIOL SCI 215 or Env Sci 202 and a course in statistics.

BIOL SCI 349 (PBC 402) Community Ecology
The purpose of this class is 1) to introduce students to the scope of the science of ecology at more complex levels of organization, and 2) to develop sophistication in understanding community and ecosystem ecology literature through the exploration of both classical and recent literature. 
Prerequisite: BIOL SCI 215 or ENV SCI 202, or permission of instructor.

BIOL SCI 350 (PBC 401) Plant Evolution and Diversity
Modern systematics emphasizing application and major themes in the evolution of vascular plants. 
Prerequisite: BIOL SCI 330 or equivalent and permission of instructor.

PBC 418 - Soils and the EnvironmentThe Earth's Critical Zone
General treatment of soils and environmental implications: soil development, morphology; physical, chemical, hydrologic, and biological properties; water use, erosion, and pollution; management of soils as related to plant growth and distribution. The course is intended for those preparing to be professional environmentalists and who have a background in biology and chemistry but no, or minimal, knowledge of soil science. Thus, the primary emphasis of the course is defining and describing soil properties and processes that determine the fundamental role soils play in the environment. The associated laboratory and demonstration exercises experientially reinforce the concepts presented in lectures. 
Prerequisites: BIOL SCI 215, 217, 219, 308; CHEM 103 or 172.

PBC 450 Field and Lab Methods in Plant Biology and Conservation
This course is aimed to provide students with the knowledge, critical thinking, and practical skills to design, execute, and analyze plant biology and conservation research in order to help find solutions to real conservation problems. As this often requires the mastery of many skill sets across disciplines, the course is team taught and includes hands on training in topics such as experimental design, sampling methods, managing data, soil analyses, pollinator and breeding studies, DNA extraction, PCR, and DNA fingerprinting.


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