BIOSCI 109 : Ecology and Evolution: The Continuum of Life


2021 Semester One (1213) (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

 Haere mai, welcome to BIOSCI 109. If you are interested in how organisms interact with each other and the environment and about the evolution of organisms and how they survive, or don't survive, in their changing habitats then BIOSCI 109 is a good choice for you. Course components are designed to develop critical thinking and scientific communication skills as they apply to contemporary challenges arising from human activities and for te ao Māori, as well as in the context of interpreting ancient evolutionary evidence.
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. Learning activities include a one-day weekend field trip.
If you enjoy this course we advise you to consider the BSc in Biological Sciences pathways in ‘Ecology’, ‘Evolution’, ‘Marine Biology’ or ‘Zoology’.

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. Describe patterns of distribution, diversity and abundance of organisms and the factors that drive these over a range of spatial and temporal scales. (Capability 1 and 4)
  2. Explain the consequences of human activities for genes, individuals, populations, communities and ecosystems. (Capability 2, 3 and 6)
  3. Describe the characteristics’ of Mātauranga Māori and Māori perspectives and its relevance to the practice of ecologists. (Capability 4 and 6)
  4. Construct scientific questions that are specific and testable. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Use and apply scientific methods and processes under supervision to gather, analyse, interpret and/or synthesise data in order 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 pass the exam to pass the course.


The course is supported by a Tuākana tutor. For more information and to find contact details for the BIOSCI 109 Tuākana coordinator, please see

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, Mātauranga Māori
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

Special Requirements

Field trip
There is a compulsory one off five hour field trip to a reserve in Auckland on either a Saturday or Sunday of week two. (Check SSO or Canvas for field trip dates.)
  • Students must complete a field activity form before completing field work.
  • There are no extra costs associated with these field trips, however you will need to make your own way to the reserves. Public transport details for getting to the reserves will be available in Canvas.
  • Attending a field trip is essential to being able to write the reports for assessment.
  • Fieldwork involves approximately 5 hours of outdoor research  identifying plants along unpaved bush tracks. Fairly minimal walking is required (~1km) but the ground is uneven and could be slippery. Please discuss any accessibility issues with the course coordinator Caroline Aspden (, we are able to adjust for student needs.
  • Students must bring their lunch and adequate water (at least one litre), there are no shops.
  • You will also need to bring appropriate clothing (sunhat, raincoat, warm layers) and comfortable covered footwear (laced shoes e.g. trainers or boots, or gum boots NO jandals or sandals) that you don't mind getting wet or dirty. 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.
  • Toilets (gender neutral) are available at the field site.
Students are required to supply and wear a lab coat while in the teaching lab.

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 5 hour field trip. For the 12 teaching weeks, this totals to 53 hours. Since the course as a whole represents approximately 150 hours of study, that leaves a total of 97 hours across the entire semester for independent study, e.g. reading, reflection, preparing for assessments/exams.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including labs and field trips to complete components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including labs and field trips will not be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

A remote version of the course can be made available to students located overseas because of border restrictions, or those with an exemption to study remotely.

Learning Resources

Course guide can be purchased from Ubiq the university bookstore and will also be available as a pdf in Canvas.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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

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.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

Level 1:  Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode
Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person.  All teaching and assessment will have a remote option.  The following activities will also have an on campus / in person option: Lectures, labs, office hours
Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely

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 04/03/2021 11:40 a.m.