Biodiversity and Evolution

Biologists who specialize in studying the diversity of life uncover the histories of organisms and their characteristics through the lens of underlying evolutionary mechanisms. They develop a strong understanding of genetics, physiology, morphology, behavior, taxonomy, and systematics. Specialists may pursue a variety of careers in field or laboratory research in both the public and private sector while focusing on a group of organisms they are passionate about. Some biodiversity and evolution specialists may also work in education or in natural resource management.

Menelaus blue morpho (Morpho menelaus)

Recommended Courses

The core courses of the Biology Program and appropriate advanced courses provide solid foundation for students wishing to emphasize evolution and biodiversity in their program of study.

When planning advanced coursework, we recommend students take at least one course in each of these three areas (lab courses are denoted by • ): 

Evolutionary Processes
Course # Course Name Credits
BIOL 462 Evolutionary Genetics 3
BIOL 465 Macroevolution 3
EEOB 563 Molecular Phylogenetics 3
EEOB 566 Molecular Evolution 3
EEOB 567 Empirical Population Genetics 3
EEOB 569 Biogeography 3
Systematics, Phylogenetics, and Biodiversity
Course # Course Name Credits
A ECL 321 • Fish Biology 3
ANTHR 307 • Biological Anthropology 3
BBMB 430  Procaryotic Diversity and Ecology 3
BIOL 364 Invertebrate Biology 3 to 4
BIOL 365 • Vertebrate Biology 4
BIOL 366 • Plant Systematics 4
BIOL 451 Plant Evolution & Phylogeny 4
BIOL 457 & L • Herpetology & Lab 3
EEOB 568 • Advanced Systematics 3
ENT 576 • Systematic Entomology 5
Natural History and Comparative Biology
Course # Course Name Credits
A ECL 366 • Natural History of Iowa Vertebrates 3
ANTHR 438 Primate Evolutionary Ecology and Behavior 3
B M S 329 Anatomy and Physiology of Domestic Animals 3
BIOL 336 Ecolgical and Evolutionary Animal Physiology 3
BIOL 351 • Comparative Chordate Anatomy 5
BIOL 354 & L • Animal Behavior & Lab 4
BIOL 356 • Dendrology 4
BIOL 357 Biology of Plants 3
BIOL 414 Life History and Reproductive Strategies 3
BIOL 434 Endocrinology 3
BIOL 454 • Plant Anatomy 4
BIOL 455 • Bryophyte and Lichen Diversity 3
BIOL 456 • Principles of Mycology 3
BIOL 458 & L • Ornithology & Lab 3
BIOL 458 & L • Mammalogy & Lab 3
EEOB 507 Advanced Animal Behavior 3
ENT 370 • Insect Biology 3
ENT 471 • Insect Ecology 3
NREM 357 • Midwestern Prairie Plants 1
NREM 358 • Forest Herbaceous Layer 1

Participating in experiential learning, such as an independent study course, related internship experience, and especially lab/field research is also advised. Many students specializing in this area pursue further education with a Masters or Ph.D.

Suggested Supporting Science Courses

Taking a single semester of general chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and physics is suitable for most students interested in biodiversity and evolution.  Students interested in molecular phylogenetics should take a full year of general chemistry, a full year of organic chemistry, and a more advanced biochemistry course.  In addition to these courses, students should take at least one semester of statistics.

Opportunities at ISU

Biological Sciences Club (BSC)

The departmental club for Biology majors and anyone else interested in life science, the Biological Sciences Club features regular faculty speakers on a diverse range of life science topics.  

Undergraduate Research Experience

Students in the Biology Program can engage in life science research and earn academic credit for the experience.  Students will learn how to seek out these opportunities during orientation and they are also welcome to discuss this with their academic advisor.  

Amphibian and Reptile Club

Students interested in herpetology can participate in the Amphibian and Reptile Club to meet, talk, and become involved in herpetology related activities.

Birding Club

A student organization for casual enjoyment of birds, the Birding Club makes a handful of field trips each year to observe birds in their habitats around the state.

Zoo, Exotics, and Wildlife Club

The Zoo, Exotics, and Wildlife (ZEW) Club is dedicated to providing students with an opportunity to learn about the care of zoo animals, exotic pets, and wildlife.