Biocomplexity

UTS

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Biocomplexity

  • Host University

    UTS

  • Location

    Sydney, Australia

  • Area of Study

    Biology

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations

    Lower

    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Credit Points

    6
  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
    4
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
    6
  • Overview

    Description
    The existence of humans on earth has arguably been made possible through the evolution of a vast diversity of biota ? to which we are inextricably linked, both directly and indirectly. Earth's biodiversity is not only extraordinary and fascinating but also fundamental to our ongoing survival. An understanding of the biological complexity of life is an important component underpinning a career in science, irrespective of the chosen scientific profession.
    This subject investigates the question: what does it take for life to exist in the range of habitats across the globe? There is considerable variation among living organisms, including humans, in their biology and how they interact with their environment. This subject explores the problems faced by organisms living in different habitats and demonstrates the strategies of plants, animals, fungi, protists, bacteria and archaea that have evolved to cope with the vast array of habitats on earth. The order in which these biota are treated is reflected in the order of the evolution of life, i.e. movement from water to land (and in some cases back again). All major taxa are discussed comparatively to better demonstrate the diversity of evolutionary strategies that have evolved in response to environmental conditions. The subject concludes with considerations of the sustainable use of animals, plants, fungi and bacteria as resources for humans.
    Subject objectives
    Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
    1. Articulate the major processes critical to life
    2. Identify evolutionary processes and the radiation and diversity of groups of organisms
    3. Explain the characteristics and limitations of habitats available for colonisation by biota and the strategies employed by organisms in their adaptation to various habitats
    4. Distinguish among the major groups of organisms within each biological kingdom and rank their evolutionary history according to key adaptations
    5. Appreciate the relevance and role of biological organisms in human society
    6. Summarise experimental findings and write about these using a formal scientific report format
    7. Understand how to exercise academic integrity with respect to paraphrasing, appropriate citation, acknowledgment and honesty in scientific writing
    8. Evaluate and improve upon your own performance in writing
    This subject also contributes specifically to the development of following course intended learning outcomes:
    An understanding of the nature, practice and application of the chosen science discipline. (1.0)
    Encompasses problem solving, critical thinking and analysis attributes and an understanding of the scientific method knowledge acquisition. (2.0)
    The ability to acquire, develop, employ and integrate a range of technical, practical and professional skills, in appropriate and ethical ways within a professional context, autonomously and collaboratively and across a range of disciplinary and professional areas, e.g. time management skills, personal organisation skills, teamwork skills, computing skills, laboratory skills, data handling, quantitative and graphical literacy skills. (3.0)
    The capacity to engage in reflection and learning beyond formal educational contexts that is based on the ability to make effective judgments about one?s own work. The capacity to learn in and from new disciplines to enhance the application of scientific knowledge and skills in professional contexts. (4.0)
    An understanding of the different forms of communication - writing, reading, speaking, listening -, including visual and graphical, within science and beyond and the ability to apply these appropriately and effectively for different audiences. (6.0)
    Contribution to the development of graduate attributes
    The Faculty of Science lists seven graduate attributes that you will develop during your course at UTS. This subject is intended to develop five of those attributes:
    1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application
    Evolutionary and biological processes, food webs and the qualities of the major groups of biological organisms are learned through lectures, practical classes (pracs) and online self-test quizzes available with the subject textbook. These concepts are assessed in the in-prac quizzes, final exam and Ecosystem report.
    2. An enquiry-oriented approach
    Scientific curiosity is developed through laboratory extension questions designed to provoke enquiry and conceptual thinking beyond ?factual? information. You are encouraged to discuss these questions with your peers and teaching associates in practical classes before completing the questions. The in-prac quizzes assess the depth of enquiry undertaken in pracs.
    You will also develop the ability to follow a line of scientific enquiry through generating and addressing a hypothesis about how ecosystem sustainability can be maintained. You will test your hypothesis in the Ecosystem In A Bottle experiment and the depth of scientific enquiry into whether and/or how this hypothesis was met is assessed through the Ecosystem Report.
    3. Professional skills and their appropriate application
    Critical to scientific practice is the development of logical thought and problem solving skills in experimental work. These skills are learned via laboratory exercises and data collection to answer questions in pracs. This process is assessed via prac notes for the Ecosystem experiment and in-prac quizzes.
    Research skills: gathering, evaluating and using information from sources such as databases, research and review articles, textbooks, catalogues and technical reference books through research for major report. Criteria for marking the report directly assess this attribute.
    Data handling and synthesis will be learned through the Ecosystem In A Bottle experiment and Plant Growth exercise. In the Ecosystem experiment, ongoing laboratory data collection occurs every week and a final practical is dedicated to analysis of data and preparation of write-up. The latter includes an exercise on how to use Microsoft Excel ? a fundamental tool for data handling in science. Data presentation is assessed via report marking criteria. Data collection and collation are assessed via prac notes.
    Self-discipline is also learned through active participation in lectures, which require you to take notes to extend and bed-down your understanding of the subject concepts. The extent to which you attend lectures and take notes is indirectly assessed through the final exam.
    Teamwork is developed as you work in groups through collection, collation and analysis of data for the Ecosystem experiment. Tasks must be delegated among the group each week to enable all students time to complete various practical components. Group discussion of experimental data at the final data collection stage will help to develop group contribution to interpretation of findings. A level of trust and collegiality and the consequences of 'bad data collection' are learned through practiceand also through an initial lecture in week 1 and prac introduction from teaching associates in week 3
    Ethics and professional conduct in science are learned through lectures and the manual. This includes a full discussion on the reasons against and consequences of data fabrication and plagiarism as well as dedicated tutorial tasks and pre-work for the report-writing practical. Assessment of these concepts is made via the formal exam and reports will be tested for originality using plagiarism detection software.
    4. Ability and motivation for continued intellectual development.
    The ability to make effective judgments about your own work will be developed via a benchmarking exercise, where you will mark exemplar reports using the assessment criteria by which your own reports will be graded. The quality of self-evaluation will be assessed through the self-assessment exercise as part of the report submission process.
    6. Communication skills
    Excellence in written scientific communication is developed through the process of writing a comprehensive scientific report. These skills are learned through a dedicated prac class aimed at communication of hypothesis-driven experimental procedure and analysis through scientific writing, including paraphrasing and citing literature. Clear and logical writing that follows standard practice in scientific communication is assessed via detailed report marking criteria.
    Teaching and learning strategies
    You will learn by way of lectures, practical classes and independent learning activities.
    Lectures: Students undertaking this subject generally find that they love the lectures (yes, really!), which take a journey through the evolution of life on Earth. An inquiry-based approach is taken to lectures. As you begin to articulate the processes necessary to life, you will ask: ?what made it possible for that to survive there?? You will compare the major innovative adaptations evolved by different life forms that preceded humans, enabling you to set humanity in an increasingly wider context. The lectures are engaging and lively, involving lots of visual aids, photographs, figures and videos, which enable alternative modes of understanding. While the figures often are linked to your text book, the text book offers only one piece of the picture and you will not be able to learn the breadth, depth and context of this subject by simply reading the text book. In lectures you gain important context through examples, which you will need to draw upon later when recalling or extending these concepts. Because many of the lectures have minimal text, you will need to take notes as we go along, usually by annotating the slide series. All of the lecturers in this subject are enthusiastic and passionate researchers in environmental science, bringing their own research experience to the lectures to make them come alive. In this way, you will be able to set your learning in context of the bigger picture of life as a scientist and of the importance of the living world to humans. The lectures are interactive, with regular pauses for questioning to check-in for understanding. Lectures also are very important for learning other aspects of the subject. For example, in lectures, you will appraise the importance of developing different graduate attributes for your future career. In particular, you will be introduced to a benchmarking activity in lectures to develop your understanding of scientific writing skills several weeks prior to submitting your major report. After carrying out this activity, we will investigate the data in a later lecture, where you can reflect on your performance in this activity to provide early feedback on your comprehension of these skills. Also, the lectures are an important preparation for the practical classes, where you set the lecture concepts in context of real organisms in the laboratory. Attending lectures is crucial to a full understanding of the subject content and to learning key the skills (note that students who do not attend lectures often do not pass this subject). There will be three hours of lectures each week (delivered as one 1-hr lecture and one 2-hr lecture each week).
    Practical classes: In this subject, the pracs not only extend and deepen your learning from the lectures through hands-on contact with many different amazing organisms, they also develop important laboratory and experimental skills. Plus, they are fun! In the first week, you and a small team will design and build an ?Ecosystem in a Bottle? and formulate a hypothesis about what will happen to that ecosystem by the end of a five week experimental period. Each week, you will review the progress and collect data in your lab book ? a process essential to being a scientist ? and at the end you will deconstruct it, graph and evaluate your data in light of your initial hypothesis. Alongside this major experiment, you will be conducting a range of other activities in the pracs. You will develop your skills in scientific inquiry by asking and addressing questions that will require careful attention to the activities and live material in class. One prac is part of the CSIRO-UTS Inspiring Science program, where you will be addressing questions about feeding the world with hybrid crops by working with CSIRO scientists and conducting real measurements on their experimental material. Another prac involves a trip to the Sydney Aquarium, where you will be constructing a bigger picture by piecing together learning from the lectures and pracs thus far by delving into more conceptual questions on the evolution of life. Given the fundamental importance of laboratory work in this subject to your future career as a scientist, you are expected to attend all eight practical classes. Practicals will be run for eight weeks during the middle of semester and will each run for a full three hours. Of these practicals, seven will be held in the SuperLab in building 7 and one will be held at the Sydney Aquarium.
    Independent learning activities: Scientific writing is arguably one of the most important skills for your scientific career. Writing up a scientific experiment in the form of a formal scientific report is very different to writing an essay or most other forms of writing you may have done before. In this subject, learning of this skill is scaffolded from early in the semester, beginning with the benchmarking activity in week 4 using SPARKPLUS software introduced in lectures and completed outside class. This task requires you to grade sections of reports of anonymous students from previous years (with permission) using the assessment criteria against which your own report will be graded. Results are then reviewed in a follow-up lecture, allowing you to reflect on where your comprehension sits relative to the benchmark and, in your own time, consolidate your learning through exploring comments from your peers in SPARKPLUS. The next independent activity to prepare you for writing is an online module with resources on academic integrity, finding relevant scientific literature for your report, referencing and paraphrasing in Biocomplexity. These online activities are to be completed prior to prac 5 where you will apply what you have learned through these online activities in class to practice paraphrasing for your report and receive formative feedback from your peers and Teaching Associates. The final independent activity occurs when you log in to REVIEW and grade your own performance according to the report assessment criteria. After your report is graded by teaching staff, you will then be given a grade for how closely your self-grades match those of the grader. The other independent learning activities in this subject are the optional online self-quizzes in Mastering Biology (a program associated with your text book), which help to test your understanding and embed concepts learned in class ? you can repeat any or all of these as often as you like.
    Content
    You will learn about organisms in an evolutionary and ecological context. We begin by defining living systems and examine the relationships among organisms and their living and non-living environment. We learn about organisms as part of ecosystems, including a brief background of trophic structure and ecosystem cycles. We then revisit the concept of evolution by natural selection by way of introducing the very first life on Earth. Through an evolutionary sequence, the major domains and kingdoms are explored, including Archaea, Bacteria, Protists, Algae, Fungi, Plants and Animals. At each stage, the ecological context for the evolution of different groups is discussed to encourage an appreciation for similarities and differences among them. For example, a key theme running through this subject is the dependence on water for life and the ways different organisms have evolved to colonise regions where water is not abundant. Throughout the subject, you will learn about life in context ? not only where and how organisms live today but also the relevance of these organisms to humans and why we should care to understand them.
    Assessment
    Assessment task 1: Practical Quizzes
    Intent:
    This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:
    1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application
    2. An enquiry oriented approach
    3. Professional skills and their appropriate application
    Objective(s):
    This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):
    1, 2, 3 and 4
    This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):
    1.0, 2.0 and 3.0
    Weight: 25%
    Criteria:
    You will be assessed on:
    ? Accuracy of recording information
    ? Accuracy of data collection
    ? Thoroughness
    ? Conceptual understanding and comprehension
    ? Synthesis and interpretation of results
    Assessment task 2: Practical Worksheets
    Intent:
    This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:
    1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application
    2. An enquiry oriented approach
    3. Professional skills and their appropriate application
    Objective(s):
    This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):
    1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
    This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):
    1.0, 2.0 and 3.0
    Weight: Mandatory task that does not contribute to subject mark
    Criteria:
    You will be assessed on:
    Accuracy of recording information
    Accuracy of data collection
    Thoroughness
    Conceptual understanding and comprehension
    Synthesis and interpretation of results
    Assessment task 3: Practical Report
    Intent:
    This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:
    1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application
    2. An enquiry oriented approach
    3. Professional skills and their appropriate application
    4. Ability and motivation for continued intellectual development
    6. Communication skills
    Objective(s):
    This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):
    3, 5, 6, 7 and 8
    This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):
    1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 6.0
    Weight: 40%
    Criteria:
    Thorough guidelines on writing the report are laid out in the practical manual, along with the assessment criteria that will be used for marking the reports and how each contributes to graduate attribute development. This means that you have access to the criteria required to complete a high quality Ecosystem report before you even begin the Ecosystem experiment. Also, by using these criteria to mark exemplar reports, you understand what is required for a high quality Ecosystem report before you begin writing your own. If these criteria are met to sufficient standard according to the demonstrator marking the report, it will be possible to obtain full marks for the report.
    NOTE that a student who submits a report that is detected to contain fabricated or plagiarised work (copied from another student, the internet or other source) or who has clearly allowed another student to copy their work will be penalized according to university rules. Such action may result in a zero mark for the report, which would ultimately result in a fail for the subject.
    The total report is worth 40% (or 35% if self-assessment task is not completed)
    Assessment task 4: Final Examination
    Intent:
    This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:
    1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application
    3. Professional skills and their appropriate application
    Objective(s):
    This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):
    1, 2, 3 and 4
    This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):
    1.0 and 3.0
    Weight: 35%
    Criteria:
    Accuracy of information provided by you with respect to the content covered by lecturers in lectures and practical classes.
    Minimum requirements
    You are expected to attend all lectures during the semester.
    You are expected to attend each of the eight practical classes during the semester. There is no opportunity to catch up if a practical class is missed.
    Failure to attend a practical class will result in a mark of zero for the Ecosystem report unless an acceptable reason for your absence, supported by relevant evidence, is provided to your teaching associate.
    In addition, in order to pass this subject, you MUST achieve 40 % in your ecosystem report. If 40% is not reached, an X grade fail may be awarded for the subject, irrespective of an overall mark greater than 50.
    Required texts
    The text book required for this subject is:
    Campbell, NA, Reece, JB, Meyers, N, Urry, LA, Cain, ML, Wasserman, SA, Minorsky, PV, Jackson, RB, and BN Cooke (2015). Biology: Australian Version, 10th edition, Pearson Australia Group, Australia (on open reserve and 7 day loan)
    Recommended texts
    The following books are held at the UTS library, city campus and/or are available at the Co-op Bookshop:
    Adey, WH and K Loveland (1998). Dynamic aquaria: building living ecosystems. San Diego Academic Press (on open reserve)
    Garrett, LK (2007). Get Ready for Biology, Pearson Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco
    Knox, B, P Ladiges, B Evans, and R Saint (2005). Biology, 3rd edition, McGraw-Hill Custom Publishing, Australia (for loan)
    Pechenik, JA (2007). A Short Guide to Writing About Biology, 6th edition, Pearson Longman, New York
    Raven, PH, GB Johnson, JB Losos, KA Mason, and SR Singer (2008). Biology, 8th edition, McGraw-Hill, USA

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.