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91123 Biocomplexity

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2020 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Science: Life Sciences
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

Description

The existence of humans on earth has arguably been made possible through the evolution of a vast diversity of biota – to which we are inextricably linked, both directly and indirectly. Earth's biodiversity is not only extraordinary and fascinating but also fundamental to our ongoing survival. An understanding of the biological complexity of life is an important component underpinning a career in science, irrespective of the chosen scientific profession.

This subject investigates the question: what does it take for life to exist in the range of habitats across the globe? There is considerable variation among living organisms, including humans, in their biology and how they interact with their environment. This subject explores the problems faced by organisms living in different habitats and demonstrates the strategies of plants, animals, fungi, protists, bacteria and archaea that have evolved to cope with the vast array of habitats on earth. The order in which these biota are treated is reflected in the order of the evolution of life, i.e. movement from water to land (and in some cases back again). All major taxa are discussed comparatively to better demonstrate the diversity of evolutionary strategies that have evolved in response to environmental conditions. The subject concludes with considerations of the sustainable use of animals, plants, fungi and bacteria as resources for humans.

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

The Faculty of Science lists seven graduate attributes that you will develop during your course at UTS. This subject is intended to develop five of those attributes:

1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application

  1. Evolutionary and biological processes, food webs and the qualities of the major groups of biological organisms are learned through lectures, practical classes (pracs) and online self-test quizzes available with the subject textbook. These concepts are assessed in the in-prac quizzes, final exam and Ecosystem report.

2. An Inquiry-oriented approach

  1. Scientific curiosity is developed through laboratory extension questions designed to provoke inquiry and conceptual thinking beyond ‘factual’ information. You are encouraged to discuss these questions with your peers and teaching associates in practical classes before completing the questions. The in-prac quizzes assess the depth of inquiry undertaken in pracs.
  2. You will also develop the ability to follow a line of scientific inquiry through generating and addressing a hypothesis about how ecosystem sustainability can be maintained. You will test your hypothesis in the Ecosystem In A Bottle experiment and the depth of scientific inquiry into whether and/or how this hypothesis was met is assessed through the Ecosystem Report.

3. Professional skills and their appropriate application

  1. Critical to scientific practice is the development of logical thought and problem solving skills in experimental work. These skills are learned via laboratory exercises and data collection to answer questions in pracs. This process is assessed via prac notes for the Ecosystem experiment and in-prac quizzes.
  2. Research skills: gathering, evaluating and using information from sources such as databases, research and review articles, textbooks, catalogues and technical reference books through research for major report. Criteria for marking the report directly assess this attribute.
  3. Data handling and synthesis will be learned through the Ecosystem In A Bottle experiment. In the Ecosystem experiment, ongoing laboratory data collection occurs every week and a final practical is dedicated to analysis of data and preparation of write-up. The latter includes an exercise on how to use Microsoft Excel – a fundamental tool for data handling in science. Data presentation is assessed via report marking criteria. Data collection and collation are assessed via prac notes.
  4. Self-discipline is also learned through completion of pre-lecture activites and active participation in lectures, which require you to take notes to extend and bed-down your understanding of the subject concepts. The extent to which you complete pre-lecture activities, attend lectures and take notes is indirectly assessed through the final exam.
  5. Teamwork is developed as you work in groups through collection, collation and analysis of data for the Ecosystem experiment. Tasks must be delegated among the group each week to enable all students time to complete various practical components. Group discussion of experimental data at the final data collection stage will help to develop group contribution to interpretation of findings. A level of trust and collegiality and the consequences of 'bad data collection' are learned through practice and also through an initial lecture in week 1 and prac introduction from teaching associates in week 3.
  6. Ethics and professional conduct in science are learned through lectures and the manual. This includes a full discussion on the reasons against and consequences of data fabrication and plagiarism as well as dedicated tutorial tasks and pre-work for the report-writing practical. Assessment of these concepts is made via the formal exam and reports will be tested for originality using plagiarism detection software.

4. Ability and motivation for continued intellectual development.

  1. The ability to make effective judgments about your own work will be developed via a benchmarking exercise, where you will mark exemplar reports using the assessment criteria by which your own reports will be graded. The quality of self-evaluation will be assessed through the self-assessment exercise as part of the report submission process.

6. Communication skills

  1. Excellence in written scientific communication is developed through the process of writing a comprehensive scientific report. These skills are learned through a dedicated prac class aimed at communication of hypothesis-driven experimental procedure and analysis through scientific writing, including paraphrasing and citing literature. Clear and logical writing that follows standard practice in scientific communication is assessed via detailed report marking criteria.

Teaching and learning strategies

Biocomplexity is taught during both Spring and Summer (block mode) sessions, and the Teaching and Learning stratergies differ the two.

Spring Session Delivery

During the Spring session, you will learn by way of and independent learning activities, lectures and practical classes.

Independent learning activities: Scientific writing is arguably one of the most important skills for your scientific career and is very different to most other forms of writing you may have done before. In this subject, learning of this skill is scaffolded from early in the session, beginning with the benchmarking activity in week 4 using SPARKplus software introduced in lectures and completed outside class. This task requires you to grade sections of reports of anonymous students from previous years (with permission) using the assessment criteria against which your own report will be graded. Results are then reviewed in a follow-up lecture, allowing you to reflect on where your comprehension sits relative to the benchmark and, in your own time, consolidate your learning through exploring comments from your peers in SPARKplus. You then will complete an online module on academic integrity, finding relevant scientific literature for your report, referencing and paraphrasing in Biocomplexity. These online activities are to be completed prior to prac 4 where you will apply what you have learned through these activities in class by practicing paraphrasing for your report and receiving formative feedback from your peers and Teaching Associates. When you submit your report, you also must grade your own performance according to the report assessment criteria using the REVIEW program. After your report is graded by teaching staff, you will be given a grade for how closely your self-grades match those of the grader.

To assist your learning and understanding of topics to be covered in lectures you will complete on-line pre-lecture activities each week. These activities will introduce you to key concepts and definitions and help prepare you for lectures. Lectures will build upon these activities so completing them will ensure you get the most out of your lectures each week. Information and links to all these pre-lecture activities can be accessed via UTSOnline. You will need to check the announcements at least once a week.

The other independent learning activities in this subject are the optional – but extremely valuable – online self-quizzes in Mastering Biology (a program associated with your text book), which help to test your understanding and embed concepts learned in class – you can repeat any or all of these as often as you like. As well as the subject manual, information and links to all these learning activities can be accessed via UTSOnline. You will need to check the announcements at least once a week.

Lectures: Students undertaking this subject generally find that they love the lectures (yes, really!). All of the lecturers in this subject are enthusiastic and passionate researchers in environmental science, bringing their own research experience to the lectures to set your learning in context of the bigger picture of life as a scientist and of the importance of the living world to humans. An inquiry-based approach is taken in lectures, which journey through the evolution of life on Earth, asking along the way: ‘what made it possible for that organism to survive there?’ The lectures are engaging, interactive and lively, involving visual aids and videos, which support alternative modes of learning. While linked to your text book, you will not be able to learn the breadth, depth and context of this subject by simply reading the text book. Because many of the lectures have minimal text, you will need to take notes as we go along, usually by annotating the slide series. Lectures also are very important for learning other aspects of the subject, such as how to develop different graduate attributes for your future career, as well as preparing you for the practical classes. Attending lectures is crucial to a full understanding of the subject content and to learning key the skills. There will be two hours of lectures each week (delivered as two one 1-hr lectures each week). Lecture notes corresponding with each lecture, including any associated electronic material or links, are uploaded to UTSOnline.

Practical classes: In this subject, the pracs extend and deepen your learning from the lectures through hands-on contact with many different amazing organisms; they also develop important laboratory and experimental skills, and are an opportunity to work collaboratively with your peers. Plus, they are fun! In the first week, you and a small team will design and build an ‘Ecosystem in a Bottle’ and formulate a hypothesis about what will happen to that ecosystem by the end of a five week experimental period. Each week, you will review the progress and collect data in your lab book – a process essential to being a scientist – and at the end you will deconstruct it, graph and evaluate your data in light of your initial hypothesis. Alongside this major experiment, you will be conducting a range of other activities in the pracs, including working with CSIRO scientists and conducting real measurements on their experimental material. In the practical classes you will work collaboratively with your peers.

Given the fundamental importance of laboratory work in this subject to your future career as a scientist, you are expected to attend all eight practical classes. Pracs run for eight weeks during the middle of session and each runs for a full three hours. Of these pracs, seven will be held in the SuperLab in building 7 and one will be held at the Sydney Aquarium. Your subject manual outlines all prac material and activities; you are expected to read the section relating to a given prac prior to coming to that prac every week. In class you will need to write notes, respond to questions and sometimes draw diagrams in your manual.

An aim of this subject is to help you develop academic and professional language and communication skills to succeed at university and in the workplace. During the course of this subject, you will complete a milestone assessment task that will, in addition to assessing your subject-specific learning objectives, assess your English language proficiency.

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Summer Session Delivery (Block Mode)

During the Summer session, you will learn by way of and independent learning activities, workshops and practical classes.

Independent learning activities: Scientific writing is arguably one of the most important skills for your scientific career and is very different to most other forms of writing you may have done before. In this subject, learning of this skill is scaffolded from early in the session, beginning with the benchmarking activity (conducted prior to face-to-face classes) using SPARKplus software introduced on UTSOnline. This task requires you to grade sections of reports of anonymous students from previous years (with permission) using the assessment criteria against which your own report will be graded. Results are then reviewed in a follow-up lecture, allowing you to reflect on where your comprehension sits relative to the benchmark and, in your own time, consolidate your learning through exploring comments from your peers in SPARKplus. You then will complete an online module on academic integrity, finding relevant scientific literature for your report, referencing and paraphrasing in Biocomplexity. These online activities are to be completed prior to the “data and ecosystem conclusion” prac where you will apply what you have learned through these activities in class by practicing paraphrasing for your report and receiving formative feedback from your peers and Teaching Associates. When you submit your report, you also must grade your own performance according to the report assessment criteria using the REVIEW program. After your report is graded by teaching staff, you will be given a grade for how closely your self-grades match those of the grader.

To assist your learning and understanding of topics to be covered in workshops you will complete on-line pre-workshop activities each week. These activities will introduce you to key concepts and definitions and help prepare you for workshops. Workshops will build upon these activities so completing them will ensure you get the most out of your workshops each week. Information and links to all these pre-workshop activities can be accessed via UTSOnline. You will need to check the announcements at least once a week.

The other independent learning activities in this subject are the optional – but extremely valuable – online self-quizzes in Mastering Biology (a program associated with your text book), which help to test your understanding and embed concepts learned in class – you can repeat any or all of these as often as you like. As well as the subject manual, information and links to all these learning activities can be accessed via UTSOnline. You will need to check the announcements at least three times a week.

Workshops: What are workshops? In addition to the pracs (see below) Biocomplexity will be delivered in blocks three hours of workshops (timetabled as “lectures”), three times a week (over the 4 weeks). Within each of these blocks, there will be structured 3 key activities: a 1 hour of interactive lecture-like activities, followed by a 1 hour workshop, with a final 1 hour concluding interactive discussion.

Students undertaking this subject generally find that they love the workshops (yes, really!). All of the lecturers in this subject are enthusiastic and passionate researchers in environmental science, bringing their own research experience to the workshops to set your learning in context of the bigger picture of life as a scientist and of the importance of the living world to humans. An inquiry-based approach is taken in workshops, which journey through the evolution of life on Earth, asking along the way: ‘what made it possible for that organism to survive there?’ The workshops are engaging, interactive and lively, involving visual aids and videos, which support alternative modes of learning. The activities, which are conducted within workshops, also use an “inquiry based learning” approach, and give you the opportunity to apply the concepts you have just learned about, and explore case studies and examples. During these workshops, you may be given worksheets or activities to complete, all while collaborating and working with your peers. Using collaborative software, you will collate and synthesise your ideas and share them with your classmates.

While linked to your text book, you will not be able to learn the breadth, depth and context of this subject by simply reading the text book. Because many of the presentations have minimal text, you will need to take notes as we go along, usually by annotating the slide series. Workshops also are very important for learning other aspects of the subject, such as how to develop different graduate attributes for your future career, as well as preparing you for the practical classes. Class notes corresponding with each workshop, including any associated electronic material or links, are uploaded to UTSOnline.

Attending workshops is crucial to a full understanding of the subject content and to learning key the skills.

Practical classes: In this subject, the pracs extend and deepen your learning from the workshops through hands-on contact with many different amazing organisms; they also develop important laboratory and experimental skills, and are an opportunity to work collaboratively with your peers. Plus, they are fun! In the first week, you and a small team will design and build an ‘Ecosystem in a Bottle’ and formulate a hypothesis about what will happen to that ecosystem by the end of a five week experimental period. Each week, you will review the progress and collect data in your lab book – a process essential to being a scientist – and at the end you will deconstruct it, graph and evaluate your data in light of your initial hypothesis. Alongside this major experiment, you will be conducting a range of other activities in the pracs, including working with scientists and conducting real measurements on their experimental material. In the practical classes you will work collaboratively with your peers.

Given the fundamental importance of laboratory work in this subject to your future career as a scientist, you are expected to attend all eight practical classes. There are a total of 8 pracs, 2 pracs for each week of the 4 week summer session, each runs for a full three hours. Of these pracs, seven will be held in the science labs in Building 4 and one will be held at the Sydney Aquarium. Your subject manual outlines all prac material and activities; you are expected to read the section relating to a given prac prior to coming to that prac. In class you will need to write notes, respond to questions and sometimes draw diagrams in your manual

Content (topics)

You will learn about organisms in an evolutionary and ecological context. We begin by defining living systems and examine the relationships among organisms and their living and non-living environment. We learn about organisms as part of ecosystems, including a brief background of trophic structure and ecosystem cycles. We then revisit the concept of evolution by natural selection by way of introducing the very first life on Earth. Through an evolutionary sequence, the major domains and kingdoms are explored, including Archaea, Bacteria, Protists, Algae, Fungi, Plants and Animals. At each stage, the ecological context for the evolution of different groups is discussed to encourage an appreciation for similarities and differences among them. For example, a key theme running through this subject is the dependence on water for life and the ways different organisms have evolved to colonise regions where water is not abundant. Throughout the subject, you will learn about life in context – not only where and how organisms live today but also the relevance of these organisms to humans and why we should care to understand them.

Assessment

Assessment task 1: Practical Quizzes

Intent:

This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:

1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application
2. An inquiry oriented approach
3. Professional skills and their appropriate application

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

1, 2, 3 and 4

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

.0, .0 and .0

Weight: 25%
Criteria:

These quizzes evaluate knowledge comprehension and conceptual understanding, including synthesising different components from both lectures and pracs, and assessing skills learned in prac classes. You will be assessed on:

  • Conceptual understanding and comprehension of the diversity, evolution and adaptations of biological organisms
  • Ability to discern key attributes that distinguish major groups using laboratory notes and drawings
  • Accuracy of recording information and data collection in relation to practical material
  • Synthesis and interpretation of these data and results

Assessment task 2: Practical Worksheets

Intent:

This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:
1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application
2. An inquiry oriented approach
3. Professional skills and their appropriate application

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

.0, .0 and .0

Weight: Mandatory task that does not contribute to subject mark
Criteria:

You will be assessed on:

  • Conceptual understanding and comprehension of the diversity, evolution and adaptations of biological organisms
  • Ability to discern key attributes that distinguish major groups using laboratory notes and drawings
  • Accuracy of recording information and data collection in relation to practical material
  • Synthesis and interpretation of these data and results

Assessment task 3: Practical Report

Intent:

This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:
1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application
2. An inquiry oriented approach
3. Professional skills and their appropriate application
4. Ability and motivation for continued intellectual development
6. Communication skills

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

3, 5, 6, 7 and 8

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

.0, .0, .0, .0 and .0

Weight: 40%
Criteria:

Thorough guidelines on writing the report are laid out in the practical manual. The detailed assessment criteria are also available in your practical manual and on UTSOnline, which will be used for marking the reports and provides details on how each contributes to graduate attribute development. This means that you have access to the criteria required to complete a high quality Ecosystem report before you even begin the Ecosystem experiment. Also, by using these criteria to mark exemplar reports, you understand what is required for a high quality Ecosystem report before you begin writing your own. If these criteria are met to sufficient standard according to the demonstrator marking the report, it will be possible to obtain full marks for the report.

NOTE that a student who submits a report that is detected to contain fabricated or plagiarised work (copied from another student, re-submission of previously submitted work in any form, the internet or other source) or who has clearly allowed another student to copy their work will be penalized according to university rules. Such action may result in a zero mark for the report, which would ultimately result in a fail for the subject.

The total report is worth 40% (or 35% if self-assessment task is not completed)

The task includes a milestone assessment component that evaluates English language proficiency. You may be guided to further language support after the completion of this subject if your results in this milestone task indicate you need more help with your language skills.

Assessment task 4: Final Examination

Intent:

This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:
1. Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application
3. Professional skills and their appropriate application

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

1, 2, 3 and 4

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

.0 and .0

Weight: 35%
Criteria:

Accuracy of information provided by you with respect to the content covered in lectures and/or workshops and practical classes.

Minimum requirements

In Spring Session:

You are expected to attend all lectures during the session.

You are expected to attend each of the eight practical classes during the session. There is no opportunity to catch up if a practical class is missed.

Failure to attend a practical class will result in a mark of zero for the Ecosystem report unless an acceptable reason for your absence, supported by relevant evidence, is provided to your teaching associate.

In addition, in order to pass this subject, you MUST achieve 40 % in your ecosystem report. If 40% is not reached, an X grade fail may be awarded for the subject, irrespective of an overall mark greater than 50.

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In Summer Session:

Workshops:

You are expected to attend all workshops during the session so that you are able to experience both the expertise of guest lecturers, and the collaborative environment within the workshops. Non-attendance (i.e. less than 80%) will result in the failure of the assessment associated with that component of the subject.

Practicals

You are expected to attend each of the eight practical classes during the session. There is no opportunity to catch up if a practical class is missed.

Failure to attend a practical class will result in a mark of zero for the Ecosystem report unless an acceptable reason for your absence, supported by relevant evidence, is provided to your teaching associate.

In addition, in order to pass this subject, you MUST achieve 40 % in your ecosystem report. If 40% is not reached, an X grade fail may be awarded for the subject, irrespective of an overall mark greater than 50.

Required texts

The text book required for this subject is:

Urry, LA, Meyers, N, Cain, ML, Wasserman, SA, Minorsky, and JB Reece (2018). Campbell Biology: Australian Version, 11th edition, Pearson Australia Group, Australia (on open reserve and 7 day loan)

Recommended texts

The following books are held at the UTS library, city campus and/or are available at the Co-op Bookshop:

Adey, WH and K Loveland (1998). Dynamic aquaria: building living ecosystems. San Diego Academic Press (on open reserve)

Garrett, LK (2007). Get Ready for Biology, Pearson Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco

Knox, B, P Ladiges, B Evans, and R Saint (2005). Biology, 3rd edition, McGraw-Hill Custom Publishing, Australia (for loan)

Pechenik, JA (2007). A Short Guide to Writing About Biology, 6th edition, Pearson Longman, New York

Raven, PH, GB Johnson, JB Losos, KA Mason, and SR Singer (2008). Biology, 8th edition, McGraw-Hill, USA