BIOSCI 733 : Molecular Evolution and Conservation Genomics


2022 Semester Two (1225) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Using the molecular archive to address ecological and evolutionary questions. Provides a broad theoretical and practical basis for undertaking studies in fields ranging from conservation genetics/genomics and connectivity, and biosecurity and forensics, to phylogenetics and molecular evolution. Topics may include the neutral theory of molecular evolution, molecular identification of species, gene flow, selection at the molecular level, and inbreeding depression.

Course Overview

Many ecological and evolutionary questions can be addressed by using the information stored in the molecular archive. This course is good preparation for anyone wanting to do postgraduate research in fields ranging from conservation genetics/genomics and connectivity, and biosecurity and forensics, to phylogenetics and molecular evolution. Topics may include the neutral theory of molecular evolution, rates of molecular evolution, molecular systematics, genome change and speciation, molecular identification of species, gene flow and population structure, selection at the molecular level, inbreeding depression and mutational load, and the use of molecular markers for estimation of kinship and the description of mating systems, and the broader societal context of working in molecular ecology.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

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

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate orally and in writing a broad understanding of molecular evolutionary principles (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  2. Apply these evolutionary principles to a variety of practical questions ranging from conservation genetics to genome evolution (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 6)
  3. Explain and critically evaluate underlying theory, methodological approaches and experimental design in group and individual contexts (Capability 1, 2, 4 and 5)
  4. Apply individual and group experience to practical evolutionary research skills across the areas of population genetic and genomic analyses, phylogeographic analysis, conservation genetics and phylogenetic analyses (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  5. Research, critically evaluate and synthesise scientific publications to prepare a large literature review on an original and novel topic in molecular ecology (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)
  6. Lead and facilitate group learning activities, including presenting a scientific seminar, leading class discussions, and providing peer evaluation and feedback (Capability 1, 2 and 4)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Essay 30% Individual Coursework
Assignments 30% Individual Coursework
Discussions 20% Peer Coursework
Presentation 20% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6


Although there is no formal Tuākana program associated with postgrad courses, we aim to facilitate a Tuākana-Teina approach where students and staff all collaborate as facilitators, advisors and learners. Many seminars, assessments and activities are student-led, providing opportunities for leadership of teaching activities, and both collegial and independent learning. We value diverse perspectives and develop an inclusive, welcoming culture of scholarly inquiry.

Key Topics

Key topics will vary week to week, and will be depend on the interest of the students in the course. Key topics will be primarily theory-led and skills based (critical evaluation). Students work with staff mentors to choose their own topics for the literature review essay and the presentation.

Potential topics include: 
• Neutral theory and the molecular clock
• Drift, inbreeding and mutational load 
• Gene flow and population structure 
• Population genomics 
• Recent trends in phylogenetic inference 
• Selection at the molecular level 
• Population inference from the coalescent

Special Requirements

There are no field trips or out-of-hours activities. As well as the weekly seminars, students must have one meeting with one of the lecturers to collaboratively plan their literature review essay. This can be in person, by phone or by internet (e.g. zoom).

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, each week you can expect 2 hours of seminars, 4 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 4 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

There is no exam, but there is weekly coursework which must be submitted before class each week, and requires considerable time to prepare. The major assignment is a literature review which requires extensive reading, an individual with one of the staff, and considerable writing time throughout the semester.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities to complete components of the course.
Learning activities including seminars will not be available as recordings.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

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.

No specific text book is needed, just scientific papers. These are chosen each week by the students, with support from staff. 

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.

Each year, student suggestions and feedback play a vital role in revising the course.

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

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.

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 13/01/2022 06:33 p.m.