BIOSCI 109 : Ecology and Evolution: The Continuum of Life


2022 Semester One (1223) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Explores the ecological mechanisms that determine the distribution and abundance of organisms, and the evolutionary mechanisms which drive change over time. Also explores the role of society and mātauranga Māori in recognising and seeking solutions for human-induced environmental change. Course components emphasise critical thinking and scientific communication skills.

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 how Te Ao Maori and the practice of ecologists connect. (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 25% Individual Coursework
Quizzes 5% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 45% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Final Exam

Students must pass the practical (assignments and reports) and the theory (exam and quizzes) independently to pass the course overall.

Key Topics

ECOLOGY: Population demographics, dispersal, meta-populations, community interactions, disturbance & succession, ecological networks, energy flow, disruptors, Climate change
EVOLUTION: Heredity & genetics, Genetic drift, Natural selection & adaptation, Speciation, Phylogenetic trees, Macroevolution, Stem and crown groups, molecular phylogenies, major radiations and extinctions, major transitions (stem and crown groups, transitional fossils, evo-devo)
ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION IN ACTION: Evolution & society, science in NZ Aotearoa, biogeography, people as disruptors, anthropocene, marine and terrestrial ecosystems

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 early in semester. (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 are available at both field sites. Toilets are gender neutral at the Kaipatiki 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 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.

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.

In response to feedback from studfents in 2021, the lecture content for the evolution section has been reorganised and the number of evolution lectures has been reduced in 2022.

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.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


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 course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

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 students may be asked to submit 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. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 31/03/2022 09:04 a.m.