About BIOL 255 ZRA

Physiology at the organ, systems, and organismal levels. Capstone course to consolidate biological concepts. Pre/co-requisites: BCOR 101, BCOR 102, BCOR 103.


Prereqs: BCOR 101, 102 and 103; Total combined enrollment = 72 PHYS 012 recommended; Must register for a BIOL 255 lab; Continuing Education and Post Bac Pre Med students only even after level restrictions removed; Degree students register for BIOL 255 A;

Section Description

Course Objectives: • To examine the basic principles of how organisms work, focusing on evolutionary influences on physiological function, and how physiology constrains or facilitates adaptation to the environment • To develop the skills needed to interpret and critically evaluate papers from the 
primary scientific literature • To promote good laboratory skills and learn aspects of physiological experimentation • To refine data analysis, scientific writing and presentation skills Learning Outcomes: Upon completion of this course, you should be able to: • understand basic physiological principles • apply physiological principles to interpret scientific data • apply physiological principles to perform laboratory experiments in comparative physiology • attain a holistic perspective on biology that integrates across multiple fields (i.e., biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, genetics, evolutionary biology, and ecology) Prerequisites: BCOR 101,102, & 103

Section Expectation

Textbook and Readings: • Biochemical Adaptation: Response to Environmental Challenges from Life’s Origins to the Anthropocene by Somero, Lockwood, and Tomanek, 2017. Sinauer Associates. • Note: The textbook is available at the UVM Bookstore, and it is also On Reserve at the front desk of the Bailey Howe Library. In addition, there is an electronic version of the textbook available for purchase or rent at Redshelf and VitalSource. • Selected articles will be assigned from the scientific literature and will be available on Blackboard. Lectures meet twice per week. You are expected to complete readings before class and to participate in class discussions and activities. Please silence your cell phones and mobile devices during lecture. Labs meet once per week for three hours. Attendance is mandatory. The focus of the labs will be to discover and manipulate physiological responses to environmental stimuli. Thus, the lab exercises will give you hands-on experience with the scientific method and a chance to witness many physiological phenomena. You will be working with live organisms; therefore, be prepared to get good at troubleshooting your experiments because sometimes the organisms and experimental techniques do not behave as planned. Labs during weeks 3 - 9 will be structured labs, while weeks 10 - 14 will be devoted to independent research, data analysis, and preparation of oral presentations. Structure of the Laboratories: Lab sections will start with a short introduction by the instructor followed by your active experimentation. You will be working in groups of 2 to 4, depending on the experiment. You are expected to be self-directed during lab. The instructors will not do the experiments for you, but rather offer help along the way. Therefore, you must read the lab materials before coming to the lab section. Lab exercises will be available on Blackboard. Lab Reports: You are responsible for writing 4 lab reports during the semester, one for each lab exercise. Lab reports should be short descriptions (no more than 2 single-spaced pages) of the experiments that you conducted. You will be given more detailed instructions on lab reports in your laboratory sections. But, in general, lab reports should have the following: • Abstract (Summary) • Materials and Methods • Results, including figures, tables and relevant statistics • Discussion • Conclusion. Beware of false lab reports and/or plagiarism (i.e. copying or paraphrasing the work of others or from online sources). These are serious academic offenses and may result in an “F” in the course. Independent Projects and Oral Presentations: You will design and execute an independent research project with a partner, so please find a partner as soon as possible. This is a chance for you to take what you learn in lecture and lab and use it to pursue your own research interests. You are encouraged to be creative, but your experiments must be feasible and within the scope of the topics covered in the course. Your experiments must be conducted on invertebrates only. You are encouraged to collect your own invertebrates from nature. If you would like to rely on study organisms that we provide, you will have a choice of crayfish, mussels, crickets, and/or Paramecium. I. Project Proposal: You must receive approval for your independent project by submitting a project proposal to your lab instructor. In your proposal: • Write a brief paragraph that describes (1) your research question, (2) why your question is important, (3) the organisms you will be studying, and (4) your experimental plan. • List the equipment you will be using and the materials you will need. • List references to at least 3 scientific papers in your topic area that you used to develop your proposal. Please Note: You may only conduct experiments on invertebrates (see above). Also note that you are restricted to the use of the laboratory equipment available in Discovery 209. II. Oral Presentation: On the last day of lab, you will present your project and findings — together with your partner — in a 15-minute oral presentation (via Keynote, Powerpoint, etc.). Divide the tasks evenly with your partner to prepare and deliver the presentation. Oral presentations will take place during the last week of classes. Each presentation should include the following: • Background • Materials and Methods • Results, including a visual presentation of your data (i.e. figures, tables etc.) • Conclusions and Broader Implications.


Grades: • Three midterm exams [45%] • Lab participation [5%] • Four lab reports [20%] • Final project oral presentation [15%] • Final exam [15%]

Course Dates



Aiken Center 102 (View Campus Map)


to on Tuesday and Thursday

Important Dates

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