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Biology Courses

Program | Courses

All courses carry 3 credits unless otherwise specified.

504 Plant Morphology
With lab. Origin, early evolution, classification of plant life. General introduction to plant kingdom, major features of plant morphology. Survey of major groups of fossil and living plants. Dissection of living plants. Study of microscope slides and plant fossils. Prerequisite: introductory course in biology. Credit, 4.

510 Plant Physiology
Presentation of principles needed to appreciate the physiological mechanisms unique to plants. General areas include components and functions of cell structures and mechanisms of development. Examples from recent literature consider genetic engineering, sensory processes, and protection from biotic and abiotic stresses. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 100-101 or BIOLOGY 103.

511 Experimental Plant Physiology
Optional laboratory to accompany BIOLOGY 510. Credit, 1.

514 Population Genetics
Focus on evolutionary processes affecting the distribution of genetic variation through space and time: gene flow, genetic drift, recombination, mating system, mutation, and natural selection. Includes overview of molecular population genetics and the neutral theory of evolution. Prerequisites: BIOLOGY 280 or 283 or equivalent: MATH 127 or 128 or STATISTC 111 or equivalent. Ms. Caicedo

521 Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy
With lab. Detailed approach to the structure and evolutionary relationships of vertebrates. Evolutionary and functional significance of structures in different groups. Lab involves evolutionary trends and specializations, experience in dissection. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 102, or BIOLOGY 100-101. Credit, 4. Ms. Coombs

522 Vertebrate Fossils and Evolution
Introduction to vertebrate history emphasizing fossil forms. Topics include: skeletal morphology and evolution, modes of life of extinct animals such as dinosaurs, faunal change over time, and relationships among the various groups of vertebrates. Lectures and lab at Amherst College Pratt Museum, with study of display and other fossil specimens. Prerequisite: introductory course in a biological science, geology, or physical anthropology. Credit, 4. Ms. Coombs

523 Histology
With lab. The relation of cell, tissue, and organ microscopic structure to function. Discussion of major tissue types: epithelia, nerve, muscle and connective tissue. Lab includes light microscopic identification of various tissues and organ systems (primarily mammalian) and related electron micrographs. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 102 or BIOLOGY 100-101. Ms. Connor, Ms. Wadsworth

528 Principles of Evolution
Advanced course for students who have already taken an introductory course in evolution. Evolutionary mechanisms and evolutionary history, including evolutionary genetics, the role of chance in evolution, speciation and species concepts, the origin of life, the tempo of evolution, extinction, the evolution of behavior, evolutionary history of selected groups, research methods in evolution. Mr. Byers.

530 Biology of Invertebrates
With labs, field trips. Survey of biological relationships, structure, ecology, and distribution. Emphasis on aquatic (freshwater) and terrestrial non-insect groups. Use of keys for identification. Mandatory collection. Prerequisites: BIOLOGY 101, 102 or equivalent. Credit, 4.

540 Herpetology
Synopsis of the anatomy, evolution, systematics, and behavior of major living lineages of amphibians and reptiles; special attention to the New England herpeto-fauna. Lab: diversity, morphology and behavior; some dissecting required. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 521 or consent of instructor. Credit 4. Mr. Richmond

542 Ichthyology
With lab. The biology and evolution of fishes with a focus on the structure and function of major living groups. Topics include an overview of evolution, systematics, and biogeography of recent and fossil fishes, functional anatomy of feeding and locomotory systems, reproduction and reproductive behavior, physiological adaptations to aquatic habits, etc. Lab: anatomy, diversity, systematics and functional morphology of major lineages. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 521 or consent of instructor. Credit, 4.

544 Ornithology
With lab. Avian systematics, phylogeny, behavior, ecology, etc. Lab includes bird identification, anatomy, censusing, field studies. Prerequisite: upper-level biology course or consent of instructor. Credit, 4. Mr. Byers

548 Mammalogy
With lab. Lectures and readings on comparative biology and evolutionary relationships of mammalian groups. Lab involves detailed introduction to the New England mammalian fauna and study of selected representatives of other groups, emphasizing adaptation. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 100-101 or 102 and any life science course beyond the introductory level. Recommended: BIOLOGY 512. Credit, 4. Ms. Dumont

550 Animal Behavior
For majors in biology, psychology, animal science, wildlife, fisheries, and related fields. Survey of recent developments emphasizing current research and its interpretations. Review of “classical” ethological approach. More recent developmental, physiological, ecological, and evolutionary approaches. Topics include behavior genetics, imprinting, migration and orientation, predatory-prey interactions, communication, and social behavior. Recent experimental and theoretical developments in sociobiology. Implications of these with respect to the analysis and interpretation of human behavior. Prerequisite: any introductory biology or psychology course, or consent of instructor. Mr. Podos, Ms. Novak

559/560 Cell and Molecular Biology II
Selected aspects of cellular structure and function including regulation of the cell cycle, chromosome structure, and experimental methods. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 285 or equivalent. Credit, 3 (559, lecture only). Credit, 4 (560, with lab). Ms. Wadsworth.

564/565 Human Physiology
With lab. Mechanisms underlying organ system function in vertebrates; nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, muscular, digestive, excretory, reproductive systems. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 285 or consent of instructor. Credit 3 (564). Credit 4, (565), with lab.

566/567 Comparative Physiology
With lab. Physiological principles involved in adaptations of animals to their environments. Credit, 3 (566). Credit, 4 (567, with lab).

568/569 Experimental Endocrinology
With optional lab. The role of hormones in the growth, metabolism, and reproduction of mammals. Molecular mechanisms of hormone action, environmental and feedback control of secretion. Current issues in endocrine physiology. Prerequisite: physiology (e.g., BIOLOGY 297A or 564/5), or consent of instructor. Credit, 3 (568). Credit, 4 (569, with lab). Mr. Zoeller

571 Biological Rhythms
The formal, molecular, genetic, cell biological, and physiological analysis of endogenous oscillations in plants and animals, including their entrainment by light and use in photoperiodism and navigation. Circadian, cicatidal, and circannual rhythms emphasized. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 285 or equivalent. Mr. Bittman

572 Neurobiology
Biology of nerve cells and cellular interactions in nervous systems. Structural, functional, developmental, and biochemical approaches. Topics include neuronal anatomy and physiology, membrane potentials, synapses, development of neuronal connections, visual system, control of movement, and neural plasticity. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 285 or equivalent; or BIOLOGY 100 or 102 and PSYCH 330; or consent of instructor. Mr. Wyse

574 Cell Motility and the Cytoskeleton
The molecular and cellular basis for motion of whole cells and cell organelles. Topics include muscle motility, ciliary motion, amoeboid movement, cytoplasmic streaming, nuclear migration, mitosis, and membrane-cytoskeletal interactions. The assembly and regulation of mic-rofilaments and microtubules examined. Prior completion of biochemistry recommended.

580 Developmental Biology
Physiological and biochemical aspects of development. Labs include discussions, demonstrations, computer modeling and experimental work. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 560 or equivalent. Mr. Kunkel, Mr. Nambu, Mr. J. Karlstrom

597 Special Topics

Advanced Physiology (2nd sem)

Hormone actions in males and females from birth through old age. Steroid and thyroid hormone biochemistry, and molecular mechanisms of action. Endocrinology in the news. Current issues in endocrinology, including environmental contaminants that act as endocrine disrupters; physiological basis of sexual differences in heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease; mechanism by which estrogen prevents osteoporosis, and antiestrogen administration to prevent breast cancer. Ms. Petersen

Lecture, lab. Methods in data capture and analysis with emphasis on biological problems. The “R” computing environment used with traditional and novel approaches, including time series, morphometrics, sequence data, and experimental design. Prerequisite: MATH 127, 128, or equivalent. Mr. Kunkel

Genetics II
Current topics and advanced concepts in genetics with techniques for answering fundamental biological questions. Theoretical and experimental approaches to gene and genome structure, functional and genetic analyses, recombination, mapping, developmental and quantitative genetics. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 283 with grade of C or higher. Mr. Hazen

Information Technology in Biology Education (1st sem)
Examines three topics in the specific context of biology education: 1) what principles underlie how people learn; 2) how these principles of learning can guide technology implementation; and 3) what the real-world practicalities are of using these technologies for teaching. Student projects include evaluating a technology product being used for biology education and developing a lesson for students that employs information technology to teach biology. Mr. Brewer

Plant Evolution
Basic concepts and theories in micro- and macro-evolution of plants. Brief review of diversity of photosynthetic organisms and the methodologies employed to investigate plant evolution. All recent developments in evolutionary genomics, evolutionary developmental biology, and evolutionary ecology of plants. Prerequisites: BIOLOGY 100, 101, 280 and 283.

Molecular Evolution
Advanced course focused on the evolution of macromolecules and the reconstruction of evolutionary history of genes, proteins, and organisms. Lectures, computer demonstrations, and laboratory exercises. The laboratory section (BIOLOGY 597M) required. Ms. Riley

Plant Genomes and Genetic Systems
Emphasis on model genetic systems, Arabidopsis and maize. Genomics, gene and sequence databases, plant genome structure, transposable elements, mapping using molecular markers, strategies for gene cloning, quantitative trait loci, and epigenetic control of gene expression. Open to any student with the necessary background in genetics and molecular biology. Ms. E. Walker

621 Topics in Plant Ecology: The Biological Basis of Wildlands Policy (alt 2nd sem)
The ecological and social consequences of the disappearance of wildlands. How to judge whether conservation policies are biologically sound, how to design ecological research to improve them. Focus on current research and controversy. Participants present seminars and collaborate on a joint review paper. Consent of instructor required. Mr. Alpert

641 Advanced Cellular Biology (Cross-listed with MCB 641)
Structure and function of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Properties of membranes and cellular transport systems, energy transduction, assembly and morphogenesis of organelles, organization of nucle-us and cytoskeleton. Experimental approaches emphasized. Credit, 4.

696 Special Problems
Directed research project on some problem in biology. Credit, 1-6.

698A Practicum
Credit, 1-12.

699 Master’s Thesis
Credit, 10.

722 Vertebrate Paleontology
A rigorous analysis of the vertebrate fossil record. Topics include: vertebrate systematics, morphological trends, transitions, functional anatomy, and faunal evolution. Additional 1-credit lab available. Offered alternate years. Four class hours. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 521 or 522 or equivalent. Credit, 4. Ms. Coombs

750 Advanced Animal Behavior
Topics from active areas of current research (e.g., communication, development, behavioral ecology, sociobiology); emphasis on critical analyses of theory and methodology. Prerequisite: BIOLOGY 550, or consent of instructor.

789 Writing for the Life Sciences
Principles and techniques of producing written papers (abstracts, figures, tables, etc.) and oral presentations (slides, delivery, etc.); curriculum vitae; job interviews; professional ethics. Prequisite: consent of instructor. Credit, 1-3. 

791D Vertebrate Paleontology Lab
Hands-on study of fossil and modern vertebrate skeletal material using museum collections at the University and Amherst College. One 3-hour lab per week and some independent study. Prerequisite: current (or previous) registration in BIOLOGY 722. Credit, 1. Ms. Coombs

796 Special Problems
Directed research project on some problem in biology. Credit, 1-6.

896 Special Problems
Directed research project on some problem in biology. Credit, 1-6.

899 Doctoral Dissertation
Credit, 10