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An introduction to the genetics and evolution of biological invasions, including the use of molecular tools to answer applied questions regarding the source, spread, and effects of introduced organisms within an ecological context.
Goals of the course• To introduce students to the use of molecular tools to answer applied questions regarding the source, spread, and ecological impacts of introduced organisms.• To develop understanding of the genetics and evolution of invasive species, and the genetic impacts of invasive species on native species.• To develop skills in evaluating and understanding the scientific literature related to invasion ecology.• To develop skills in writing and evaluating scientific proposals, including addressing Vision Mātauranga.
1. Able to interpret and evaluate primary literature using molecular tools in invasion biology (assessment: quizzes, research proposal; GP1).2. Able to formulate hypotheses based on available knowledge, and propose scientifically robust tests of those hypotheses (research proposal; GP2)3. Understand the application of molecular tools to identify species, source populations, impacts on ecological communities, and invasion routes from genetic data, and the use of genetic modification in invasive species management (test/quizzes/exam, research proposal; GP1)4. Appreciate the role of genetic variation, genetic variance, plasticity, and hybridisation in biological invasions (test/quizzes/exam; GP1)5. Understand the evolutionary consequences and impact of invasive species on the genetics and evolution of species, including native species (test/quizzes/exam; GP1)6. Able to discuss and respond to Vision Mātauranga in the context of research design and implementation (research proposal; GP3: K7). 7. Able to discuss colonial history and attitudes contributing to species introductions and their long-term consequences for ecosystems and Māori (Lectures and discussion of introduction of species to NZ and interpretation of phylogenetic patterns; GP3: K5)Pūkenga Ngaio | Transferable Skills As a student in this course, I will develop the following skills:Developing complex ideas in writing, including formulating testable scientific hypotheses, through writing a research proposal. (GP2)Critically reading scientific methods and findings to assess their validity and application to real world problems (GP2)
Students must attend one activity from each section.
, Sarah Flanagan
and Pieter Pelser
Research proposal: The in-course assessment will be writing a research proposal, including a pre-proposal followed by a full proposal. This counts for 45% of the final grade (15% for the pre-proposal and 30% for final proposal).The research proposal will address questions relating to a biological invasion in New Zealand. This means you will need to identify an introduced species or species group in New Zealand that has or seems likely to become invasive, explain clearly what the issues are surrounding this biological invasion (i.e. critically review the literature – what is known about this system, what needs to be determined for the invasion to be understood / controlled / eradicated), and explain how you could use evolutionary theory and/or genetics to address those issues (i.e. explain design of experiments, which molecular tools you will use, and how those tools may need to be adapted). Finally, you need to clearly explain how your research would add to the current knowledge about this particular invasion, and add to the field of invasion biology generally (i.e. you need to put your research into context). An important part of research proposals is addressing Vision Mātauranga, which recognises the bicultural context of scientific research in New Zealand.The four tutorial sessions are designed to help you succeed with your research proposal. These tutorial sessions are designed to require minimal preparation, so that you can focus on your proposal development during out of class time. Good proposals take time to develop – do not leave yours until the last minute!Quizzes: Each week there will be a quiz announced during lecture and via LEARN. You will have 24 hours to answer the quiz question(s) online. Quizzes will be designed to encourage doing the readings, attending lectures whenever possible, and participating in discussions. No special considerations will be given for quizzes, but your lowest quiz score will be dropped. There will be around 10 to 12 quizzes in total.Tutorial sessions: The tutorial sessions will focus on the research proposal. This will include discussing the assignment expectations and helping you develop the skills needed to write a strong proposal. Please note that tutorial sessions are held in different locations over the term, so check timetable! Tutorial sessions will not be recorded.Mid-term and final exam: There will be a mid-term and final exam. The mid-term exam will cover material presented by Ian Dickie and Sarah Flanagan in lecture. The final exam will cover material presented by Pieter Pelser and Hazel Chapman in lecture. Tutorial material is not included in examinations.
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Feedback from 2019 Course Surveys:Score (scale 1 – 5)1. The material provided helped me to understand what was required to succeed in the course. 4.232. The organization of the course helped me learn. 4.193. I found the workload was appropriate to the level of the course. 4.14. I found the assessments throughout the semester appropriate for the course. 4.235. Where I sought feedback on my assessments, I found it helpful . 4.326. The tutorial sessions were helpful in understanding the course material and completing the assessment. 3.777. The course gave me a good understanding of genetic tools and approaches in invasive species. 4.238. The course gave me a good understanding of evolution and invasive species. 4.41The following issues were raised in written feedback by students at the end of the course. The responses were collated by the course coordinator and common responses scored. Action taken in response to feedback is indicated in italics.Tutorials:• I think the tutorials at the start were well organised and useful however the last couple of tutorials using R studio were not that useful. I think this is partly due to having to use codes that we had never really used before - even in BIOL309. I understand that using things like R studio is useful for us to know but I was focusing most of the time on the code and not what I was actually doing or what results I was achieving. However, both the lecturer and the demonstrator were really helpful. Maybe some question hand outs to fill out so we know what we should focus on in the tutorial / for the exam.• I think it could have been better if there were more tutorials on how to write the full proposal. Writing the full proposal without being told a lot of how to do it, even with a list of instructions, was a bit confusing and difficult.Response: We have changed the tutorial structure in 2020, removing the R studio based component and focusing more on proposal writing. We have added quizzes to help students help know what to focus on and prepare for the exam.Assesssment:• The open book test was good to have as part of coursework, but there were too many questions within the allocated time and so was hard to give our best in each question as we were pushed for time.Reply: We agree. 2019 was the first year we tried this method of assessment, and the test was slightly too long. We took this into account during grading for 2019 but will definitely make the in class test shorter in the future!• The assignments seemed more like a 30 point coarse but rewarding• As expected, the proposal was hard. However, the assessment itself was very useful and therefore it was worth it.• I haven't really done a lot of genetics before so this course was a bit of a struggle for me, but I really enjoyed learning about it and especially enjoyed the grant proposals. I think it is actually a great course for anyone going into post grad as it gives you a bit of a taste of what you need to do for a grant proposal/thesis• The research proposal was really challenging but I really appreciated it as I believe it’s very practical and close to what many of us may do in future (either it be jobs or post-graduation).Reply: The research proposal is a very large part of this course, and many of the comments reflect the value that students see in doing this exercise. We have adjusted the tutorial sessions to provide additional support to students and to manage the overall workload of the course.Feedback:• Very quick replies and great feedback given, helped enhance my learning.• I thought the thorough feedback given on the pre-proposal was extremely valuable.• Ian was great at giving feedback on what to improve for the grant proposals. It is obvious he wants his students to do wellReply: We put a ton of work into providing detailed feedback on the proposal, and it is great to see that this is appreciated. We definitely want every student to succeed, and will try to do our best to support you!
Domestic fee $910.00
International fee $4,438.00
* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.
For further information see
School of Biological Sciences.