College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences2021-2022

Department of Biological Sciences

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

Purpose Statement

This degree is for students who are fascinated by questions of how life has evolved and how organisms function in the nature. Students will have the opportunity to apply knowledge of ecology and evolution to environmental and societal problems and to experience fieldwork among the diverse habitats of the Colorado Plateau. Opportunities to specialize include any of the diverse areas of expertise of our faculty from wildlife to plants to microbes and from evolutionary genetics to population ecology to ecosystem ecology.

This degree is offered by the Department of Biological Sciences, ensuring a well-rounded foundation in the understanding life of earth. In the course of this major, students will identify, describe, and apply the major concepts, theoretical perspectives, and empirical findings in ecology and evolution. Students will master the theory of evolution; examine the genetic and environmental bases of variation in organisms; and describe how populations are regulated, species interact in communities, and the major nutrients cycle in natural ecosystems. These objectives are supported by a comprehensive set of courses addressing ecology, evolution, and genetics in the sophomore year and by research investments in faculty and facilities made by NAU.

In their upper division coursework, students will apply this knowledge to scientific and societal problems by using quantitative reasoning, synthesizing, and effectively communicating theory and empirical findings in ecology and evolutionary biology. Students will connect this body of knowledge to specific organisms and how they function in nature though examining a group of organisms in depth and conducting field studies on the Colorado Plateau. Students will be poised to contribute to managing the increasing environmental impact of humans on the Colorado Plateau and beyond. The Ecology and Evolutionary Biology degree will assist students in preparing for research and internship experiences to help make them competitive for positions in graduate and professional schools and for jobs in natural resources, public, non-profit, and educational sectors.

This major is a great foundation for many careers across diverse fields where expertise is required in genetics, evolution, natural history, ecology, organismal biology, natural history, agriculture, or environmental impacts and their mitigation. Career options with the BS degree include technicians in everything from molecular genetics laboratories to field survey for universities, non-profits, consulting firms, and government agencies. Positions in informal science education and interpretation are also available at a range of institutions from zoos to arboreta to parks. Environmental compliance professionals are in demand for environmental consulting firms and agencies.

Many students in this major will also go on to complete master’s degrees which open a range of higher-level job classifications with the further development of technical skills. This pathway is particularly applicable for skilled technical positions at agencies and consulting firms. An EEB degree at NAU also provides a strong background for continuing to professional school in veterinary, law, and public health arenas or to PhD programs in ecology, evolution, and related fields.

Student Learning Outcomes

1. Identify, describe, and apply the major concepts, theoretical perspectives, and empirical findings in ecology and evolution with a strong basis in the natural sciences including:

  • The basic molecular and cellular units of structure that define the function of all living things.
  • The limits and functions of biological systems as they operate through chemical transformations and are governed by the laws of thermodynamics.
  • Mastery of the theory of evolution; and how the diversity of life evolved and is evolving via population genetic mechanisms.
  • Examine the molecular genetic and environmental bases of variation and how the phenotype of an organism is controlled by its genotype and the environment.
  • Describe how populations are regulated, species interact in communities, and the major elements cycle in natural ecosystems.

2. Apply quantitative reasoning, mathematical, statistical and/or informatics tools in data analysis and interpretation.
  • Apply quantitative reasoning to chemistry, physics, population genetic and demographic models, and energy fluxes.
  • Interpret and apply basic statistical methods and graphical presentation of data.
  • Develop quantitative skills within the students’ area of interest, including mathematical modeling, statistics, computing and/or informatics, as appropriate.

3. Examine, synthesize, effectively communicate, and apply to other fields theory and empirical findings in ecology and evolutionary biology.
  • Interpret scientific data and papers in ecology and evolutionary biology, evaluate primary sources, the quality of information, and determine a source’s credibility.
  • Synthesize empirical findings related to ecology and evolutionary biology, and communicate the results of scientific research to a range of audiences from the public to managers to scientists.
  • Apply empirical findings in ecology and evolutionary biology to issues in conservation, climate change, natural resource management, forestry, agriculture, and/or human health (as determine by the interest of the student).

4.  Apply depth of ecological and evolutionary knowledge through application of concepts to a group (or groups) of organisms and how they function in nature, with an emphasis on the Colorado Plateau.

 


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