“Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” was the title of a 1973 essay by the evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky. The module links fundamental understanding of molecular processes in the cell to principles of genetics and inheritance to a broader appreciation of evolution and how it shapes the natural world around us.
Molecular ecology is an emerging field that takes advantage of the latest advances in molecular genetics to answer a varied range of theoretical and practical questions in ecology including conservation genetics, behavioural ecology, phylogeography, adaptation, hybridization and speciation. Through a combination of theoretical lectures, laboratory practicals and class discussions we will consider the application of a range of molecular and statistical tools to problems such as species conservation, biological invasions, wildlife forensics or fisheries. Lectures include a basic introduction to the field of Molecular Ecology and its connections to Conservation Biology and Population Genetics. This will be followed by lectures on population diversity focused on: molecular markers and genetic variation in natural populations, phylogeography and barcoding, population structuring and differentiation, mating systems, behavioural ecology and inbreeding. A more applied part of the programme will include lectures on microbial ecology, forensic science and conservation applications. Two practical lectures will cover the use of barcoding for species identification, including DNA extraction, amplification and sequencing (laboratory based) and the identification of there sequences using databases such as Genbank (computer based).
The module will identify major issues in the conservation of aquatic organisms and develop the knowledge base of students in aquatic conservation, including those related to captive breeding programmes and the potential effects of climate change and other stressors. Some of the lectures/seminars are given by invited experts in the field. The module is assessed by a combination of continuous assessment (50%) and written examination (50%).
Students in this course will learn to (1) identify scientific papers of relevance to their program of study using literature databases, (2) appraise the results of primary research and effectively extract and summarise scientific information, and (3) present the results of a literature search in a clear and logical manner within a correctly structured review format Assessment for this module is 100% through continuous assessment. This module requires the submission of two pieces of work of appropriate standard and according to the format of a peer-review publication. The topic of the first review will be given by the instructor and will be submitted before the end of term 1 (worth 40% of the mark), while the second term review (topic chosen by the student) will be submitted at the end of the term (worth 60% of the mark). There are no examinations for this module
Kate Ciborowski "Patterns of genetic variability during the decline of Iberian Atlantic salmon populations”, completed 2007
Delphine Vanhaecke “Landscape genetics of salmonid invasions in the southern hemisphere”, completed 2012
Amy Ellison “The role of parasites on the evolution of mixed mating in fish” completed 2012