Well, tomorrow begins some serious craziness here at UC Davis for me. School started today for the Fall Quarter here and tomorrow a class I am co-teaching (with Jim Doyle and Susan Keen) has its first lecture. The course is labelled BIS002 C “Introduction to Biology”. It is the third class in a three course/three quarter series. BIS 002A covers molecular and cellular biology, genetics and related topics (just lecture). BIS 002B covers the principles of ecology and evolution (with a lab). And BIS 002C covers “Biodiversity and the Tree of Life” (also with a lab).
A few things to note. First, each of these courses has to get taught each quarter here, since so many students major in or do something related to life sciences here at Davis. And on top of this, each course has some 6-700 students (or more). Alas, since we do not have a lecture hall big enough for this number of students, we have to give each lecture twice. This means that, for BIS 002C which I only teach a little over a third of, I end up giving 24 lectures over three weeks (2 sections x 4 lectures per week per section = 8 lectures / week). It is a bit crazy shall we say. But fun too. In total, some 2500+ students go through the series per year.
So, tomorrow it begins for me for 3+ weeks of intensity. But I look forward to it I guess each year since the topics I cover I hold near and dear to my heart. For the first week of the class, I will introduce the students to phylogeny (what is it, what are phylogenetic trees, how do we infer them, how do we use them). Then I spend two whole weeks discussing microbial diversity – phylogenetic and functional. I view this as a privilege in many ways as it is somewhat unusual for 8 lectures to be used in an introductory course on microbial diversity.
Anyway, I will be posting here some comments and details about the class and I thought I would give this tiny introduction. Tomorrow we will spend some time introducing the course and discussing practical details and then I will get 20-30 minutes to introduce students to phylogenetic trees. The whole series currently uses as a textbook “Life: The Science of Biology, 8th Edition” by Sadava et al (we are switching over to the 9th edition but not for this quarter) and for class I try to use as many figures from the text as possible. But I also mix in my own here and there.
Here is an outline for tomorrow after the course intro
1. Introduction to biodiversity of life
2. Discussion of phylogeny
* Show a few trees
3. Discuss how trees are oversimplifications of true evolutionary history but are useful
* Populations not shown
* Not all lineages shown
* Complication of reticulation/gene transfer
4. Describe different components to a tree
5. Walk through the course outline using a tree of life as a guide
6. 3-4 examples of uses of phylogenetic trees
7. If time permits show a little movie (see below)