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Module titleEvolution
Module codeBIO1429
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Professor Tom Tregenza (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. In this module we will learn why. The incredible biodiversity of our planet can only be understood through understanding the processes that have shaped it: chiefly the process of evolution by natural selection. This is a concept that can be understood by a small child and yet which also hides the power to predict complex and extraordinary patterns in the diversity of life. We will examine the overwhelming evidence for evolution, and how it has shaped every facet of life on our planet.

Module aims - intentions of the module

Evolution by natural selection is among the most profound discoveries in Science. You will be introduced to the basic principles and significance of Evolution. This module will complement Conservation and Ecology, Zoology, and Genetics modules by introducing you to the processes that result in the wealth of biodiversity evident in the patterns of life on Earth. The module will focus on introducing topics such as selection, variation, speciation, sex and co-evolution.

This module is designed to be a primer on which more detailed second year modules build. The module draws on the research interests of Professor of Evolutionary Ecology Tom Tregenza, whose current research is on understanding natural and sexual selection in the wild and formerly on speciation and laboratory studies of sexual selection. The module includes examples of current research throughout the lectures; how understanding evolution is important to topics such as HIV treatment and includes guest lectures by leading researchers who will discuss topics that are the focus of their current research.

The module contributes to employability through training in problem solving, a skill important in many work environments, and in thinking about how to ask questions to understand the world – do we want to know the mechanism or the underlying cause? Skills will be developed through problem solving in practical sessions and interactive lectures; collaboration in group practical work; reviewing evidence and considering the implications of results. Skills in report writing will be developed through the practical assessment and feedback.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Outline the basic mechanisms by which populations change over time
  • 2. Evaluate the evidence for evolutionary change
  • 3. Analyse the implications of evolutionary principles across disciplines
  • 4. Illustrate knowledge and understanding in evolutionary biology and behavioural ecology

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Describe essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of the biosciences
  • 6. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples into written work
  • 7. Identify and implement, with some guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing a specific research problem in biosciences
  • 8. With guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 9. Describe and begin to evaluate approaches to our understanding of biosciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Develop, with guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound conclusions
  • 11. Communicate ideas, principles and theories using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 12. Collect and interpret appropriate data and undertake straightforward research tasks with guidance
  • 13. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills identified by others
  • 14. Reflect on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Lectures will critically examine the formal evidence for the explanation for evolutionary change, including natural and sexual selection, variation, mechanisms of speciation, co-evolution, life history strategies and life in groups. Practical sessions will reinforce concepts covered in lectures, emphasising the nature of scientific enquiry, including how to read scientific papers.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled teaching and learning22Lectures – covering topics including natural selection, sex and sexual selection, the history of life, coevolution, life history and speciation
Scheduled teaching and learning9Practicals in 3 broad areas, totalling 9 hours
Scheduled teaching and learning9Q&A sessions online and in person
Guided independent study110Additional reading and research in preparation for laboratory reports and examination


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Practical report500 words1-6, 8-14Comments on report
Open book MCQ test5-10 questions1-12Explanation of why answers are right/not
Short answer questions during lectures and practical sessionsOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination601 hour1-12Answer provision and discussion as needed
Open book MCQ tests x 33010 questions per test1-12Explanation of why answers are correct/incorrect
Practical report10500 words1-6, 8-14Feedback sheet


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExamination1-12August assessment period
Open book MCQ tests x 3MCQ tests1-12August assessment period
Practical reportPractical report from different lab class or with alternate dataset1-6, 8-14August assessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss the examination for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will be deferred in the examination. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Freeman, S. and J.C. Herron. 2007. Evolutionary Analysis, 4th Ed. Pearson Educational Ltd
  • Ridley, M. 2004. Evolution, 3rd Ed. Blackwell Science Ltd.
  • Evolution. 2016. Bergstrom and Dugatkin, W.W. Norton and Company.
  • Dawkins, R. 1976. The Selfish Gene, Oxford University Press
  • Campbell NA, Reece JB (2008) Biology, 8th Ed. Pearson. ISBN 0-321-53616-7/0-321-53616-9

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Evolution, natural selection, animal behaviour, mating systems, life histories, sexual selection, adaptation, variation

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date