Biology

1201  Molecular and Cell Biology
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Nova Scotia Grade 12 Biology or equivalent.

This course is an introduction to the principles of life at the cellular and molecular level.  Major topics include the molecules that encode biological information, prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, cell membranes and compartments, cell respiration, photosynthesis, transcription and translation, DNA replication and cell division, mutation, variation and inheritance.


1202  Organismal and Ecological Biology
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Nova Scotia Grade 12 Biology or equivalent.

This course is an introduction to the study of the principles and organization of life, including anatomy, form and function, physiology, life history and ecology. Topics include the origins of eukaryotic and multicellular life, plant structure and function, plant growth and reproduction, diversity of plants, and animals, themes of animal physiology, evolution, and population ecology.


2303 Plant Biology (formerly BIOL 3303)
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 1201 and BIOL 1202.

This course is an introduction to plant biology, with emphasis on angiosperm plant structure, reproduction and development, basic mechanisms of photosynthesis and respiration, plant nutrition, and growth regulation. Land plants will also be studied from an evolutionary perspective, spanning from the first appearance of plants on land to the major groups present today.


2304 Animal Biology (formerly BIOL 3304)
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 1201 and BIOL 1202.

This course will introduce students to the taxonomic treatment of major animal phyla with reference to anatomy, function and ecological significance.


2307 Genetics
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 1201 and BIOL 1202.

This course is an introduction to the major topics in genetics. Emphasis is placed on how genes are passed from generation to generation and how genes interact with one another. Topics include the environment that determines phenotype, the creation of genetic variation, mapping genes on chromosomes, and the practical application of this knowledge.


2321  Cell Biology
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 1201 and BIOL 1202.

An introduction to the eukaryotic cell with emphasis on the chemical and genetic basis of cellular activities and the division of the cell into membrane-bound and biochemically specialized compartments.  The plasma membrane, cytosol, nucleus, cytoskeleton, Golgi apparatus, mitochondrion, chloroplasts and endoplasmic reticulum will be considered.


2324  Ecology
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 1201 and BIOL 1202.

Ecology is the study of interactions and relationships among organisms and their environment such as adaptations, competition and predation. Topics include the density, diversity and distribution of organisms, population dynamics, community relationships and structure, succession, and the flow of energy and matter through ecosystems.


 

3002  Entomology 
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 2304

This course is an introduction to the fascinating world of insects. The anatomy, physiology and taxonomy of this group will be examined. Examination of insect specimens and recognition of the key features for identification will be a focus.


3004  Principles of Physiology (formerly BIOL 2004)
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 2321

Students will examine basic definitions and principles of physiology at the molecular, cellular and tissue levels.  Topics include the fundamentals of membrane structure and function, enzymes and enzyme kinetics, bioenergetics, signal transduction, feedback regulation, cell structure, function, and integration of neurons and skeletal muscles.


3007 Forensic DNA Typing [FRSC 3007] (formerly BIOL 4001 [FRSC 4001])
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 2307.

Students study all aspects of forensic DNA typing protocols and interpretation. Lectures focus on theory and laboratory sessions will involve actual DNA typing, where students will work with their own DNA. These skills are highly transferrable, and are applicable to the genetic analysis of populations in general.


3020 Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 2304

Students examine vertebrates, with consideration of structural modifications for particular life styles. A comparative and evolutionary approach will be taken in lectures. Laboratory instruction involves dissection of representative animals.


3021 Integrative Vertebrate Physiology
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 2304 and BIOL 3004.

Students study vertebrate physiology and physiological adaptations. Topics include the integration of the eleven organ systems and how they interact to maintain homeostasis. The physiology of vertebrates will be compared as it pertains to their specific environment or success of the individual.


3308 Biostatistics (formerly BIOL 2308)
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Nine (9) credit hours in 2000-level BIOL

Students are introduced to the methods of graphing and analyzing quantitative data in the biological sciences with emphasis on practical applications of statistics in biology. Topics include descriptive statistics, normal and non-normal distributions, probability, correlation, regression, tests of significance such as analysis of variance, and sampling methods.

NOTE: Students will not receive credit for both BIOL 3308 (formerly BIOL 2308) and any of MATH 1216, PSYC 2350, GEOG 3326, MGSC 2207, SOCI 3102, or CRIM 3102.


3328 Plant Taxonomy and Identification
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 2303.

This is a hands-on course on the identification of plants in important vegetation types in Nova Scotia. Students examine the principles of plant taxonomy, prepare plant specimens and differentiate habitat types.  Topics include the ecology of plant adaptations to the local environment, and applied ecology and conservation biology of key habitat types.


3329  Systematics
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 2324.

Contemporary systematics includes the study of the diversity of species and their relationships through time. Students will examine species characters and character analyses, International Codes of Nomenclature, protocols for describing new species, cladistics-based phylogenetics and molecular sequence analyses, biological classification, and the importance of assessing evolutionary relationships between taxa.


3332 Ecosystems (formerly BIOL 4331)
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 2324.

Students are introduced to ecosystem ecology by examining ecosystem patterns and processes. Topics include biological hierarchy, energy and material flow through systems, ecosystem structure and food web analysis, ecosystem assembly/succession, stability and resiliency, and successional reversal and ecosystem responses to stress. “Ecosystem Health”, “New Ecology” and the ecosystem-based “UN Millennium Assessment” will be examined.


3398  Microbiology
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 2321

This course is an introduction to the world of microorganisms, the means by which they are studied, and their role in human disease. Topics may include: the origin and discovery of microbial life, structure and function of prokaryotic cells, cell growth and development, and the role of bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa with respect to the development of human disease.


3402  Population Genetics
3 credit hours
Prerequisite:  BIOL 2307

Population genetics is the integration of mathematics with population biology, genetics, and evolution and allows researchers to quantitatively infer what is going on within and among populations based on genetic data. Students will focus on developing a basic understanding of the main principles of population genetics and their application to real-word problems.


3419  Molecular Biology (formerly BIOL 4419)
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 2307, BIOL 2321, and either CHEM 2345 or CHEM 2346

Students are introduced to the chemistry of genes, DNA, RNA, and protein structure. Topics include transcription, translation, the replication of DNA and RNA, and the organization of genes and genomes.  Students will also learn basic molecular techniques.


3421 Plants and People
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 2303.

This course is an introduction to the study of plants used by people, their origin, domestication, botany, cultivation, harvesting, uses, diseases, breeding, and their role in the modern world economy.  Plants and plant products of industrial importance, medicinal plants, food plants, psychoactive plants, and food additives will be examined. 


3423 Evolution (formerly BIOL 2423)
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 2324.

Students are exposed to evolution and the importance of evolutionary thinking in biology. Topics include evolutionary theory, how evolutionary processes have resulted in the diversity of life today, and how evolutionary thinking can inform their daily lives.


3434 Communication and Defense in Biological Systems (formerly BIOL 4434)
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 2303 and BIOL 2304.

This course explores the ecological interrelationships between plants and animals and the ways in which they use chemicals to communicate, attract mates, and protect themselves from predators.  Topics include the chemical and morphological adaptations of insect defense, plant toxins and their effects on animals, insect and animal venoms, plant and fungal hallucinogens, hormonal and chemical interactions between plants and animals, animal pheromones, and plant allelopathy and its ecological importance.


4003  Molecular Ecology
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 3402 and BIOL 3419.

Molecular ecology is the use of molecular techniques to provide insight into genetics, ecology, behaviour, and evolution. Students are provided with a broad overview of molecular biology and will also focus on advanced topics and theory, building on topics from population genetics.


4004 Advanced Biostatistics
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 3308 or PSYC 2350.

This course will provide students with the basic tools to design and conduct biological experiments. Topics will include analysis of variance, regression, multivariate analysis, nonparametric methods, and model selection.


4006 Plant-microbe Interactions        
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 3398

Students examine a variety of important plant microbial relationships that exist between plants and microbes such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and protists. These relationships include mutualistic, symbiotic and pathogenic interactions.


4007  Bioinformatics and Genomics
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 3402 and BIOL 3419.

Students are introduced to the fields of bioinformatics and genomics, including genomics technologies, bioinformatics technologies and their use in analysis and interpretation of genomics data. The focus of this course is to provide practical descriptions of the topics, tools and current trends instead of the theoretical and computational aspects of the field. 


4010 Biology of Cancer
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 3004 and BIOL 3419.

Students study current models of the nature of cancer and how cancer arises in a multicellular body.  Topics include the molecular mechanisms that control normal growth and development, including oncogenes, tumor suppressors, the cell cycle, cell death, and cell communication.  Students explore how molecular mechanisms act inappropriately in cancer cells, and how this knowledge influences anti-cancer therapies.  


4404  Behavioural Ecology
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 3423 and one of BIOL 3308 or PSYC 2350 or MATH 1216.

Behavioural Ecology is the examination of how animals interact in their environment with emphasis on the adaptive value of behaviour.  Topics include the life-history trade-offs, foraging theory, predation, competition, game theory, natural and sexual selection, mating systems, parental care, and communicaiton. Independent research is conducted in labs.

Note: Students cannot receive credit for both BIOL 4404 and PSYC 4407.


4408  Animal Developmental Biology
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 3004 and BIOL 3419.

The fundamental question of development is how differences arise between cells and tissues in the embryo. Students explore the major events leading to the formation of the embryo, and examine how various experimental manipulations help to define the mechanisms involved in generating different cell types and embryonic structures.


4409 Mammalogy
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 3020.

The focus of this course is on the classification, anatomy, physiology, ecology, conservation biology and evolutionary relationships of mammals. Emphasis will be given to mammals of Nova Scotia.


4410  Plant Ecology
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 3328.

Students focus on plant populations and communities by exploring species composition, diversity, and interactions in field or laboratory projects.


4411 Medical and Veterinary Parasitology
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 3398.

Students will study animal parasites of humans and domesticated animals. The taxonomy, life cycle and epidemiology of protists and helminthes are emphasized. Laboratory work involves microscopic diagnostics of the important parasite species.


4416 Fungal Biology (formerly BIOL 3416)
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 2324 and BIOL 3398.

This course is an introduction to the fungi and related microorganisms. Students will study the morphology of representatives from each of the major taxonomic groups.


4417 Fungal Morphology and Ecology
Prerequisite: BIOL 4416.

The uniqueness of fungal ultrastructure, physiology and genetics will be examined. The many important ecological roles that fungi fill and their impact on humans will be explored.


4422  Conservation Biology
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 3308 and BIOL 3423

This course introduces how the principles of evolutionary-ecology can be applied to help us understand how human exploitation of natural resources affects biodiversity.  The course will characterize biodiversity and explore topics such as the biology of small populations, conservation genetics, ecological economics, and landscape ecology.  In the lab students explore current topics in conservation biology through critiques, population modeling and independent research.


4424 Diversity and Ecology of Fishes (formerly BIOL 3424)
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 3020

This course is a study of the ecology of fishes, their classification, life history and global distribution. The laboratory portion of the course emphasizes study of representatives of world taxa and the fishes of Nova Scotia.


4428 Applied Entomology
Prerequisite: BIOL 3002

Insect ecology and the relationship of insects to humans are explored. Topics may include the identification of insect pest species and their impact on human activities, morphological and behavioural modifications for specific ecological roles, population dynamics, the history and use of chemical insecticides, the use of insects as natural and biological control agents and integrated pest management.


4430  Ornithology
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 3020

Ornithology is the study of birds. Students examine the evolutionary history of birds, adaptations they have made for flight and for their particular niche, their behaviour, breeding systems and conservation. Nova Scotian species will be identified through sight and song.


4431  Herpetology
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 3020

Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles.  Topics include ecology, natural history, form and function of amphibians and reptiles with emphasis on Nova Scotia herpetofauna.


4432  Medical and Veterinary Entomology
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 3002

This course presents an introduction to the biology of insects and arthropods that cause disease in humans and domestic animals.  Topics include the biology and behaviour of disease vectors and external parasites, the role of vectors in the transmission of disease organisms, life cycles of vector borne pathogens, and the mechanisms of vector and disease control.


4433  Ecotoxicology
3 credit hours
Prerequisites:  BIOL 3332 and CHEM 1212.

Ecotoxicology is the study of anthropogenic contaminants in the natural environment.  This course will provide an introduction to the study of the fate and effects of toxic chemicals on the structure and function of ecological systems.


4448  Biology Field Course
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 3329 and one of BIOL 3308, PSYC 2350 or MATH 1216.

The design and practice of biological study of communities under field conditions at selected sites in Nova Scotia. The main emphasis is on how ecologists document the abundance of organisms and quantify the structure of a community.

Note: Enrolment in this course is limited. Normally this course is held over 10-12 consecutive days and nights at an off-campus site. 


4451 Ecology in the Tropics
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: BIOL 3329, and one of BIOL 3308, PSYC 2350 or MATH 1216 and application to the department.

This course will provide students with an opportunity to study ecology of a tropical environment, the highlight of which will be a field trip to a tropical location where students will be able to immerse themselves into a tropical environment.  Prior to departure students will present and attend seminars on subjects pertinent to the ecology of the tropical field site to be visited.  Students will design a research project on some aspect of tropical ecology prior to departure to the tropical site, collect data for the project while in the tropics and write a report on the research upon return to Saint Mary's University. 

Note: Students are responsible for travel and living costs associated with the course, as well as tuition. Enrolment is limited and admission is by application to the Biology Department.  Contact the  Biology Chairperson for details. This course occurs over a period of 10-12 days and nights at an off-campus location. 


4500 Research Thesis
6 credit hours
Prerequisite: BIOL 3308 and honours standing.

Students complete a research project carried out by the student under the supervision of a member of the Department. The student will submit a thesis and present it orally.


4549 Honours Seminar
6 credit hours
Prerequisite: honours standing.

Seminars followed by discussions based on recent advances in biology. In consultation with the honours advisor, the honours students will select and prepare the topics for presentation to biology faculty and students.


4876 - 4899  Directed Study in Biology
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor on a directed studies form available from the Biology Chairperson.

These courses are intended to supplement the course offerings in biology and allow students to delve deeper into a subject of particular interest to them. Students must show some initiative and be willing to work independently.


Course Descriptions

All of the following courses have a 3 hour per week lab component unless otherwise noted.  Students must pass both the laboratory and the lecture components of a course to pass the course. A minimum grade of C is required in all biology courses applied to the student’s Biology Program. 

A minimum grade of C is required for all BIOL prerequisites for 2000, 3000 and 4000-level BIOL courses.