Generating Biodiversity: Hands-On Research Experience in Speciation Biology





Robin Hopkins (Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology)
Freshman Seminar 51R    4 credits (spring term)   Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Note: The goal of this seminar is to provide an authentic research experience to students fascinated by biological diversity. Most classes will be held at The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. Transportation will be provided at no cost to the student.

What is a species and how do they evolve? How do we, as scientists, study the process of speciation and the generation of biodiversity? This is a research experience seminar in which you, as a student, will study how and why species evolve. For decades scientists have been arguing over the definition of “species”. Why does the definition matter? Genetic diversity across genomes has revealed that many species hybridize and exchange genetic material (even humans). How and why does this happen? It has long been assumed that hybridization is bad for an individual or species. But, can hybridization also be good by generating biological diversity? We will discuss these ideas while performing research experiments on plants in the state-of-the-art research labs at the Harvard University Arnold Arboretum. The experiments will involve trying to generate hybrid seeds; quantifying the health of hybrid individuals; and using microscopy to determine the success or failure of hybrid pollen to germinate and grow inside a flower. Students will collect their own data, learn how to analyze it, and present their findings. In the process, we will explore fundamental concepts in evolution and biodiversity.

See also: Spring 2023