EBIO 4500: Plant Biodiversity and Evolution
Course Information & Syllabus (2010)
The goal of this course is to understand plant diversity from an historical and phylogenetic perspective. Both neobotanical and paleobotanical data are brought to bear on the analysis of significant evolutionary events/processes in the history of photosynthetic life. Information from cell biology, morphology, life history theory, and development are all incorporated into the discussion of these most significant evolutionary events.[expand]Topics covered include the origin of photosynthetic life, the origin and diversification of eukaryotes, the colonization of land by plants, the evolution of roots, leaves and arborescence as a cause of the great Paleozoic CO2 drawdown (90%), the origin of the seed habit, and Darwin’s “abominable mystery,” the origin of flowering plants.
Concepts and information from lectures are applied to a hands-on set of laboratory sessions on plant diversity. Labs range from an examination of the diversity of cyanobacteria to the preparation and study of fossils from Carboniferous coal balls. The goal of every lab is to insure that students experience and interact with the actual data that are the basis for the interpretation of evolutionary history and diversification. Through a substantial and sustained investment of student lab fees, each student works with a state-of-the-art digital imaging station throughout the semester to record plant structure through the microscope.[/expand]