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Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2017-18

BIOL 52.01 Niche Construction: Organisms That Change Their World

Organisms are not merely passive pawns of natural selection; their behavior can also fundamentally shape the surrounding physical and social world through a process known as ‘niche construction’. Niche construction can have important evolutionary consequences, transforming the natural selection pressures that organisms are exposed to and hence creating novel evolutionary trajectories. This course will highlight the active role that behavior plays in the evolutionary process by examining key examples of niche construction in behavioral ecology, spanning from termite mound building to human cultural inheritance. Topics covered will include non-genetic inheritance; ecosystem engineering; animal architecture and remodeling; tool use; signal evolution and gossip; cooperation and collective behavior; and gene-culture co-evolution, all unified under the theoretical umbrella of niche construction. This course will expose students not only to empirical studies of niche construction but also to computational, mathematical, and conceptual models that formalize niche construction and its dynamic interplay with natural selection. Also, one field trip and one in-class laboratory demonstration will give students direct empirical exposure to the concepts covered in class.




One from the following: BIOL 21, BIOL 22, BIOL 24, BIOL 27, BIOL 31 or BIOL 32

Distributive and/or World Culture


The Timetable of Class Meetings contains the most up-to-date information about a course. It includes not only the meeting time and instructor, but also its official distributive and/or world culture designation. This information supersedes any information you may see elsewhere, to include what may appear in this ORC/Catalog or on a department/program website. Note that course attributes may change term to term therefore those in effect are those (only) during the term in which you enroll in the course.