Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation Biology

Biol 211, College of Charleston



The first law of ecology [and evolution] is that everything is related to everything else. -Barry Commoner




Biologists study the natural world at many levels of a hierarchy.  This course focuses at the level of the whole organism and above.  What helps to explain the abundance and distribution of different organisms?  How have groups diverged from one another over time, and what evolutionary innovations define major groups?  How do basic scientific principles and research aid our ability to conserve biodiversity?  During the semester, you will be introduced to three areas of focus: (1) population biology, involving the study of population ecology and evolution; (2) interactions among organisms and their environments at the community, ecosystem and biosphere levels, and (3) biodiversity and how organisms are related by common descent.


Professional biologists rely on understanding theoretical concepts and on using practical skills to test the validity of those concepts.  As such, biology is not only a body of knowledge but also a way of gaining that knowledge.  The course therefore involves two critical components:

Lecture will introduce you to key concepts in ecology, biodiversity and conservation biology as well as examples of the research involved in developing and testing these concepts.

Recitation will help you to develop many of the practical skills used in doing science: finding, reading, and understanding primary scientific literature; organizing, visualizing and analyzing data; identifying questions and developing experimental approaches to addressing research problems; and presenting scientific information in a written proposal, a scientific poster, and an oral presentation.  You will complete three projects, working in small groups but ultimately completing your work independently.  For most students, the recitation is the most valuable part of the course to your development as a biologist.


As a hard-working participant in this course, you will come to be able to:

   describe the processes by which genetic alleles increase and decrease in frequency and by which populations of organisms increase and decrease in size

   list and explain the forces that lead to evolutionary change in populations

   explain how interactions with the physical environment and with other organisms are involved in ecological and evolutionary change of populations

   develop a foundation of knowledge about the diversity and relatedness of living organisms

   apply ecological & evolutionary principles to problems in the conservation of biodiversity

   apply to your future work many of the professional skills used by a practicing biologist


General information

Lecture information

Recitation information

Information for article discussions (lecture and recitation)

Grade distributions Fall2007 Fall2008 Fall2009 Fall2010 Fall2013

CofC Biology home

Please contact me (podolskyr'at' with comments or corrections and before using any material.