Weekly Assessment (25%)
Your progress will be tracked on a weekly basis by means of a 20-question online quiz. Content from the discussions and pracs will be covered. To accommodate infrequent attendance students, quizzes will only reference material in the practicals during the second half of the term (after the break). Because the unit is rich on information, if you do not study on a regular basis your grades will be impacted.
The slides for each discussion in this unit are based on primary scientific literature. You will be expected to learn fundamental concepts in organismal biology such as the intellectual basis of phylogenetics and taxonomy, the causes and consequences of adaptive radiations and mass extinctions, and the functional roles of anatomical structures. You will also learn a considerable amount of specific detail concerning the names, relationships, evolutionary histories, and key anatomical adaptations of major taxonomic groups.
Practical work constitutes a large proportion of the unit, and the weekly three-hour prac sessions are intended to lead on from the group discussion where possible (although some pracs relate to material covered the next week). Students are expected to attend every single prac, and you must attend at least six pracs to pass the unit. If you attend fewer, you will automatically be failed.
Note that there are no pracs for weekday students during weeks 1, 7, 12, and 13.
Phylogenetic Illustration (5%)
The Phylogenetic Illustration involves preparing a slideshow document that depicts the relationships of one family of plants, invertebrates, or vertebrates (a family is a group of genera, and a genus is a group of species). You must select a family from one of several lists that will be provided. The document should be prepared in PowerPoint, Keynote, or another presentation application but submitted in PDF format. The presentation should start with a title slide; a slide giving the full scientific reference for the phylogeny; a slide with a sentence identifying and explaining a physical characteristic unique to the family (a synapomorphy); and an illustration of the phylogeny itself. Following this, there should be at least 15 slides each showing a photo of a species, its scientific name, its English name or country or origin, and a URL linking to the source of the image. At least 10 different websites should be used to provide the images.
A Turnitin link for the assignment will be made available on iLearn early during the semester. Copies may not be submitted directly to the staff. An announcement will be made once the detailed instructions have been released, including the list of families that can be chosen.
Marks will be allotted for the title and reference slides (10%), presentation and selection of the phylogeny (10%), explanation of the synapomorphy (10%), species images and names (60%), and URLs (10%). Points will be deducted if the main source is not a primary scientific research paper, meaning that literature reviews and websites per se cannot be used to obtain a phylogeny.
There will be a 10% per day penalty for handing the assignment in late: for example, if your mark would have been 80% but it was submitted five days late, the final mark will be 80% x 50% = 40%.
Literature Review (20%)
The 1500 word Literature Review will provide an opportunity to read and evaluate recently published scientific papers that will be assigned to you. You will have to first summarise them and then discuss their strengths and weaknesses in a short and succinct manner. This task will allow you to become familiar with the primary way scientists communicate their ideas.
As with all the assignments, a Turnitin link for the assignment will be made available on iLearn. Hard copies may not be submitted. The announcement with detailed instructions will include the list of papers to be analysed.
The assignment will begin by presenting a 225 to 275 word abstract of each paper. Each abstract should be preceded by a full reference to the paper, giving all the authors, the publication year, paper title, journal title, volume number, and page numbers. The structure of each abstract should follow the guidelines used by Nature magazine, which can be viewed on the iLearn site. The only differences are that you must stick to the 225 to 275 word limit and you must refer to "the authors" and "they" instead of "we".
After the abstracts you will present a 500 word analysis of all the papers together, identifying common themes, explaining conflicts, and weighing the pros and cons of the different data sets, methods, results, and interpretations. Finally, you will conclude with a statement of your own view of the facts and provide directions for future research. Brief subheadings should be provided throughout the assignment.
The abstracts and everything else in the assignment must be entirely in your own words. Any copied words, no matter how few, must be placed in quotation marks. If you copy anything without attribution or without using quotation marks you will not receive credit for the relevant parts of the assignment. If you have copied without attribution, then depending on the severity of the case you may be reported to the Faculty Student Administration Manager, in accord with the Academic Honesty Procedure (see the Policies and procedures section).
You may want to consult the short, simple volume by W. Strunk and E.B. White called The Elements of Style.
Marks will be allotted for the following:
• Quality of the abstracts (20%): Adherence to the abstract word limit, use of the required structure, organisation and coherence of the text, and factual correctness. You must use your own words.
• Scientific evaluation (30%): Organisation and coherence of the text, factual correctness, in-depth analysis of the citations, and clarity and justification of the overall assessment. You must present your own arguments in your own words and they must be grounded in the references.
• Adherence to the overall 1500 word limit (10%): Marks will be deducted for going either under or over the limit by 10%, meaning below 1350 words or above 1650 words.
• Presentation (30%): Spelling, grammar, conciseness, and sensible use of subheadings. Use 12 point font and double space the text.
• References (10%): Matching of citations to the text and the formatting and completeness of the references. You must use the Harvard Referencing Style. Numbering of references in the text and use of footnotes is not allowed.
As with the other assignments, there will be a 10% per-day penalty for late submission.
Practical Report (15%)
The 1000 word Practical Report will be based on data collected during the Skull Allometry exercise during Week 11 (weekday attendees) or the second On Campus Session (infrequent attendees). The report will be due at the end of Week 13.
The report will be in the format of a real-world scientific research journal article, except that references are not required. As with the Literature Review, further details will be announced via iLearn during the semester and a Turnitin link will be provided (no hard copies).
The report will focus on two issues: how shape changes with size (allometry), and how body mass can be predicted by skull measurements. Importantly, the Report will include data on additional species not measured in the Skull Allometry practical. These data will be extracted by you from primary literature sources, and the text will discuss how well the equations developed in the prac predicted the body mass of the newly included species.
Marks will be allotted for scientific evaluation (50%), adherence to the word limit (10%), and presentation (30%), as discussed in the preceding section. The assignment must also include a graph on the last page showing a scatter plot with a fitted regression line, accompanied by an accurate and informative caption (10%).
The scientific evaluation marks will consider whether you included enough details regarding data collection and data analysis procedures to allow replicating your analysis. The presentation marks will additionally assess the use of proper, standardised subheadings (Introduction, Data, Methods, Results, Discussion, and References if they are included). An abstract should not be included.
The same lateness penalties discussed in the preceding section apply to this assignment.
Final Exam (35%)
The highly challenging Final Exam will cover all the major concepts introduced in the unit. It will include some combination of multiple choice questions, short answer questions, and long answer questions. Details will be given during the semester.
Importantly, the Final Exam will focus on material explained in the Discussions. This material is drawn from primary scientific literature, so studying the Discussion recordings and PDFs is essential. A study guide will be provided to help with preparation, and the last Discussion of the semester will give detailed guidance about major topics to be addressed in the Final Exam.