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Wonderful Life: Genes and Evolution (more info)

Dr. Frank Deis
, http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~deis/ ,
Dr. Frank Deis

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

Course URL: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~deis/honors2.html
Course Type:

Biology Honors

Course Size:
presumably small (30 or less)


This course uses the Ediacaran fauna as a focus to teach about evolution, the nature of science, and how to write well. The students start off reading "Wonderful Life" (Gould, 1989 ), which deals with mysterious Precambrian animals. They not only start studying arthropods, evolution, and geologic time from this point, but also analyze why Gould is such an effective writer.

Course Context:

Dr. Reis makes no assumptions about his student's backgrounds but expects them to read a great deal and to write well. This interdisciplinary course could probably be taught in a number of departments.

Course Goals:

This course will develop students':

Course Content:

Topics include (of course) the Burgess shale, undersea volcanoes, geologic time, Darwin and natural selection, extinction, arthropods, and the evolution of sex.

Teaching Materials:

The course web site contains the syllabus, descriptions of assignments, links to helpful and interesting resources (including annotated lists of relevant books and scientific controversies), and fossil descriptions.


The course grade includes at least five papers and presumably participation in discussion.

References and Notes:

The readings for this class include not only several textbooks but also papers, presumably primary literature.

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