BIOSCI 109 : Ecology and Evolution: The Continuum of Life


2020 Semester One (1203) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Life is hard, thus responding to variation in biotic and abiotic variables is crucial for survival at all levels of biological hierarchy. Ko ahau te taiao, ko te taiao, ko ahau (I am the land, and the land is me) – the ecosystem defines quality of life. Develops an understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms through which life has evolved to cope with change over time, and the ecological mechanisms that determine the distribution and abundance of organisms today; how populations and communities adapted to change in the past, how they respond to environmental challenges today, and how they are likely to respond to change in the future as the climate changes.

Course Overview

Course components are designed to develop critical thinking and scientific communication skills and include a one-day weekend field trip (students may select to complete a marine or terrestrial based activity), scientific report and scientific poster.
BIOSCI 109 must be taken by all students in the Biological Sciences major alongside its sister courses BIOSCI 108 Biodiversity: Patterns of life and BIOSCI 101 Life! Origins and mechanisms.

Course Requirements

Restriction: BIOSCI 104

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Explain how biotic and abiotic factors drive the distribution, diversity and abundance of organisms. (Capability 1 and 4)
  2. Explain the processes and mechanisms of evolution and how these impact biodiversity and the functioning of organisms and ecosystems. (Capability 1, 2 and 4)
  3. Explain the characteristics’ of Mātauranga Māori and Māori perspectives and its relevance to the practice of ecologists. (Capability 4 and 6)
  4. Explain the consequences of human activities for genes, individuals, populations, communities and ecosystems. (Capability 2, 3 and 6)
  5. Use and apply scientific methods and processes to gather, analyse, interpret and/or synthesise data to draw conclusions and make scientifically based decisions. (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 5)
  6. Critically evaluate and synthesise primary ecological and evolutionary literature. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  7. Communicate ecological and evolutionary concepts and experimental outcomes clearly and logically using language and formats appropriate for a scientific audience. (Capability 1, 4, 5 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 25% Individual Coursework
Reports 20% Individual Coursework
Quizzes 5% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Final Exam
Students must obtain a minimum of 50% in overall in the course AND 50% minimum mark in the exam to pass the course.

Key Topics

Contructing and testing hypotheses, Nature of Science, Models in science
ECOLOGY: Population ecology, Spatial distribution, Connectivity, Community interactions, Ecological succession, Ecological networks, Nutrient cycling & energy, Disruptors, Ecological restoration, Biological invasions, Climate change
EVOLUTION: Heredity & genetics, Genetic drift, Natural selection, Speciation, Phylogenetic trees, Macroevolution, Stem and crown groups, Evo-devo, Hox genes, Molecular clock analyses, molecular phylogenetics, Cambrian explosion, major transitions within phyla

Learning Resources

Course guide can be purchased from Ubiq the university bookstore.

Special Requirements

  • There is a one off field trip on either Saturday 21st or Sunday 22nd March. Fieldwork involves approximately 6 hours of outdoor research identifying plants along unpaved bush tracks or coastal rocky shore surveys. Some gear can be borrowed from the department (e.g. raincoats and gumboots) and accompanying persons and service/guide dogs may be able to attend – please contact course coordinator Caroline Aspden ( for more information about these or to discuss other access requirements.
  • Students are required to supply and wear a lab coat while in the teaching lab.
  • All students must pass the exam to pass the course.

Workload Expectations

Following University workload guidelines, a standard 15 point course represents approximately 150 hours of study.
Over the semester the teaching time will be 3 hours of lectures per week, 3 hours of labs per fortnight and one 6 hour field trip. For the 12 teaching weeks, this totals to 54 hours. Since the course as a whole represents approximately 150 hours of study, that leaves a total of 96 hours across the entire semester for independent study, e.g. reading, reflection, preparing for assessments/exams.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Your course coordinator is Caroline Aspden (phone +64 9 923 9711, email Please let me know how best we can support you in this course.

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 12/02/2020 08:12 p.m.