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Introduction to Genetics and Evolution is a college-level class being offered simultaneously to new students at Duke University. The course gives interested people a very basic overview of some principles behind these very fundamental areas of biology. We often hear about new "genome sequences," commercial kits that can tell you about your ancestry (including pre-human) from your DNA or disease predispositions, debates about the truth of evolution, why animals behave the way they do, and how people found "genetic evidence for natural selection." This course provides the basic biology you need to understand all of these issues better, tries to clarify some misconceptions, and tries to prepare students for future, more advanced coursework in Biology (and especially evolutionary genetics). No prior coursework is assumed.
Welcome to Genetics and Evolution
-General introduction to this MOOC, including coverage and expectations.
Evidence for Evolution
-This module discusses the definition of the word "evolution" in a biological context, evidence for the truth of evolution and common ancestry of species, and public thoughts and misconceptions about biological evolution. This module is optional and will not be included in the course assessments. There are not class discussion forums for this section, as we feel such discussion can happen on other, non-course-related, sites on this topic (of which there are a great many on the internet).
-An introduction to basic transmission genetics and inheritance. This module reflects what is often covered in high school biology courses in the USA.
-This module delves somewhat more deeply into genetics and specifically the concept of "recombination." It begins to discuss how recombination is leveraged in classic genetic works as well as mapping simple genetic traits using crosses or data from natural populations.
-This module delves even more deeply into the complexities of the genetics underlying traits,the origin of genetic variation, and how "complex" traits (ones controlled by multiple genes) are studied genetically.
Heritability and Population Growth
-This module begins the transition to evolutionary genetics by looking at the relative contributions of genetics and environment to traits, and also introduces how population growth is studied.
Population Genetics I
-Rather than looking at individuals, this module discusses how multiple individuals from natural populations can be studied genetically to begin to understand the evolutionary forces acting upon the populations.
Population Genetics II
-This module extends the previous one to specifically examine the effects of natural selection and genetic drift on genetic variation in natural populations.
-This advanced module explains why sexual reproduction (involving recombination) is evolutionarily advantageous, and discusses how the analysis of DNA sequences can be used to understand the evolutionary forces acting on populations or species, either in general or at specific genes.
Adaptive Behaviors and Sexual Selection
-This module changes gears a bit to look at the exciting field of animal behavior-- specifically, how particular behaviors are or may be adaptive, and why individuals choose particular others as mates.
Speciation and Phylogenetics
-This module gets into the nitty gritty of what causes the formation of new species, and how evolutionary relationships between species are inferred.
-This final module talks about applications and misapplications of many of the concepts discussed in the course to human health, understanding, and well-being. This module is optional and not included in the assessments.