GS 201H: The Search for Order: Evolution & Extinction


A study of major themes from the natural sciences selected to develop understanding of historical perspectives, current interactions and future potentials of earth, physical and biological sciences. Our focus in GS 201 will be on key biological concepts related to evolution and extinction. We will We will examine the biological interactions (including those with humans) and how various factors can increase and decrease biodiveristy.

Learning Outcomes:
Upon completion of GS 201H, students will:
1. Demonstrate understanding of essential biological concepts of evolution and extinciton
2. Examine factors that influence extinction by developing a case study of an endangered or extinct organism
3. Demonstrate understanding of the nature of scientific thought
4. Demonstrate independent and self-directed learning

Frequently Asked Questions about GS 201H:
What is the textbook?
How can I find out my grade?
What do I need to do to pass the course?
What's the course project?
How can I get help?
What if I miss a class?
What's the schedule for this term?

What is the textbook?

There is no textbook for the course; you will be asked to download a series of readings from the Moodle Course site.

How can I find out my grade?

Your grade is calculated based on the percentage of points you've earned out of the total possible. You can keep up with both the number of points you have earned, and the number of possible points by adding together your assignments as you receive them back or by visiting the grade update site. Federal Law requires that you give your permission for me to post your grades (associated with a code number), so if you choose not to have your grades posted, you can come to office hours to check on your grade.

GS 201 Grades Update Fall 201H

What do I need to do to pass this course?

First, you need to be aware of the Course Learning Outcomes. These are the expectations that you must meet to earn a passing grade.

Demonstration of these outcomes at an average level (you can identify concepts) will earn you an average grade (C). A higher grade demands that you be able to synthesize information and apply it to different real-world situations.

You will want to make sure you prepare yourself to demonstrate your mastery of our learning outcomes by visiting the course website (on Moodle) on a regular basis, downloading (and using) the available resources including discussion questions, reading the assigned text (before class), and studying. I recommend that you study every day, reviewing what we've covered in class that day, making note of any questions you still have and identifying connections to ideas we've previously covered. There is a definite correlation between attendance rate and exam score, not to mention that if you miss class, you may miss assignments or quizzes along with important discussion, so regularly attending class is essential! The course project is a major part of your grade. Keep up with your project work and don't put it off until the last minute.

What's this course project?

You will develop a case study that examines the life history, ecology, and factors contributing to the extinction (or potential extinction) of an extinct or endangered organism. You will be responsible for preparing a written case study and for presenting a short oral presentation to the class during our extinction symposium during the last week of the term. For more information on the course project (including grading rubrics) download the project outline.

How can I get help if I need it?

If you are feeling challenged by material, or you'd like to discuss your project, visit office hours. These are posted on my home page and are on your syllabus. I strongly recommend you see me as early as possible if you feel you are struggling.

I wasn't in class- Did I miss anything?

Yup. We've got something going on every day and that doesn't stop if you're not here. You cannot make up work that you missed for credit, but your lowest score on class work will be dropped. Your lowest quiz score will be replaced by your score on the comprehensive final quiz, provided your final score is higher. You will have access to weekly resources via our course site on Moodle, but if you are not in class you won't have the opportunity to engage in the activities and discussion to help you make sense of the information. It is your responsibility to catch up on information you may have missed by contacting a classmate and reviewing the notes with them.

Make sure you do not miss laboratory! If you have three or more lab absences, this constitutes an automatic failure of the course. Makeup labs are only permitted in the event of excused absence.

What is the schedule for this term?

Week 1 Discusion Topics Reading Lab

Understanding extinction:
The nature of scientific thought


Observations, questions, and experiments

2 Patterns of extinction: The history of life Benton
Relative and absolute aging of fossils
Mechanisms of extinction: Natural selection Darwin & Wallace
Natural selection simulation
4 Evaluating extinction: Life history characteristics


Invasive species

Factors leading to extinction:
Habitat disruptions

Wilson Abiotic influences:
plants and pollution
Monitoring extinction: Populations and communities

Lam & Sadovy de Mitcheson


Mass extinction: Biogeochemistry

Gosling et al Water quality


Impacts of extinction: Community connections Wilson
Field trip
9 Avoiding extinction: Conservaiton biology Leopold
Cox & Portocerrero
10 Voices of extinction: Case study presentations Quammen

Extinction symposium

Finals Week      

Return to Erin Baumgartner's home page