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BOT 2011C – Plant Diversity

Credits: 4; Prereq: introductory college biology/botany course or the equivalent.

The earth today contains a tremendous diversity of photosynthetic organisms – what processes explain how they evolved and why they persist? In this class we survey the biological diversity of modern algae and land plants, with an eye toward understanding why studying plant diversity is important in our modern society. We consider first the traditional classification of plants, and how this system has been revolutionized  by phylogenetic analyses of genetic and now genomic data. We then turn to study the evolutionary processes that generate biodiversity and the ecological processes that shape this diversity. Finally, we turn to critically evaluating perceived threats to biodiversity, including invasive species, nitrogen deposition, global warming, and transgenic crops. Throughout the semester we read a mix of journal articles from the primary literature and as well as popular science pieces. In the laboratory students will see examples of the species we discuss in class and learn to identify key traits and species. After completing the course students will develop a timeline of the main events in the history of photosynthetic organisms, an overview of their diversity, and a conceptual understanding of the processes that generate and maintain this diversity.