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Courses currently taught by Scott Steppan at Florida State University

Undergraduate Courses 

PCB 4674EvolutionRequired for Biology majors, capstone course in the departmentMore
BSC 4821C BiogeographyElective course with a laboratory component that satisfies the department lab requirementMore
BSC 4933Biogeography in LondonTaught exclusively in London during Summer (through International Programs).
Lacks the lab component of BSC 4821C but includes multiple excursions to museums and collections.

Graduate Courses 

PCB 5682Macroevolution SeminarOne of the core classes for Ecology and Evolution gradsMore
BSC 5932Macroevolution Reading GroupWeekly discussion group meeting throughout the year
PCB 4674Natural History, Biodiversity,
and the Growth of Evolutionary Thought
Taught exclusively in London during Summer
(through International Programs), satisfying the Liberal Studies Natural Science requirement for non-majors

Current Course Details

PCB 4674: Evolution

Evolution, the common descent of species with modification, is one of the most important and influential concepts in all of modern science and one of the few to permeate broader society. This course shows how two primary aspects of evolution, shared phylogenetic history and the modification of populations and species (though adaptation, genetic drift, or other means) interact to produce the similarities and differences among all organisms. Students should gain a fundamental appreciation for evolution's central role in biology and the diversity of life.

Students are expected to master three principal concepts:
(1) natural selection, (2) what a species is and how new species evolve, and (3) what a phylogeny is and what information a phylogenetic tree conveys.

BSC 4821C: Biogeography

Biogeography is the study of the distributions of animals and plants (all organisms) in space and time and the processes that determine those distributions. As the name implies, this field combines elements of biology (especially ecology and evolution) and geography. The distributions are determined by the physical characteristics of organisms, how these characteristics interact with the physical and biotic environment, and by history. The field can be explored by looking at entire ecosystems, physiology of individual species, or evolutionary history of groups of species, among other approaches. This course covers the full range of biogeography with an emphasis on ecological and evolutionary biogeography, the processes that help determine distributions, and the analytical methods used to describe distributions and test processes. Topics include the physical environment (geology, meteorology), the distribution of ecosystems and biomes across the globe, speciation, common geographic patterns, diversity gradients, island biogeography, and historical (evolutionary) biogeography. There is a laboratory section as part of this course in which students working in groups analyze geographic data sets to search for patterns and test hypotheses with the scientific method.

This class satisfies the departmental lab requirement. Prerequisites: BSC 2011/2011L. Familiarity with basic statistics and general ecological and evolutionary principles is helpful.

BSC 4933: Biogeography in London

This course is offered through the Biology in London Program, administered by International Programs, and covers all the principal concepts from BSC 4821C, but does not include the labs or some of the secondary material. Instead, this course takes advantage of the unique resources of the London area by including excursions for behind-the-scenes guided tours at major natural history museums, collections, and related sites. Most of the tours or visits are led by scientists at each institution. The sites include the Natural History Museum, Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, University College, London, and the home of Charles Darwin.

The class qualifies for one of the departmental electives requirement for graduation. 

PCB 5682: Macroevolution Seminar

Evolutionary biology and ecology are increasingly being integrated across process scales. In particular macroevolutionary approaches like phylogenetics are applied to questions about organisms, adaptations, and microevolutionary phenomena whereas microevolutionary approaches are providing greater insight into macroevolutionary patterns. This class provides a foundation in macroevolution (evolution at the species-level and above) applicable to the research and conversability of graduate students in E&E and related fields.

The focus is two-fold: (1) survey the primary concepts of modern macroevolution with a focus on phylogenetic inference and historical perspectives on extant variation, (2) facilitate competency in many of the common tools and applications of macroevolution, including phylogenetics (using morphological and molecular data), the comparative method, biogeography, testing adaptation, quantifying trends in and modeling diversification, and molecular clock dating.

Together, students should leave the class being able to look at their own work in new ways, ask sophisticated questions that use — at least in part — macroevolutionary or phylogenetic approaches, the ability to understand and evaluate macroevolutionary approaches in the literature, and the ability to apply such tools to any project of their interest. Students should also be conversant in macroevolutionary concepts as would be expected of a faculty member in ecology and evolution

BSC 5932: Macroevolution Reading Group

This is a reading group where we discuss a selected paper that falls loosely into the field of macroevolution, essentially evolution at the species level and above, including phylogenetic studies, comparative analyses, biogeography, speciation, phylogenetic or comparative methods, and virtually anything else that is comparative.

Past Course Details

BSC 1100: Natural History, Biodiversity, and the Growth of Evolutionary Thought

“There is grandeur in this view of life, … [that] from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful, have been, and are being, evolved” is how Darwin concluded the Origin of Species. This class traces the development of natural history and natural history museums, their role in evolutionary thought, explore the core concepts of modern evolutionary biology, and introduce students to the “endless” variety of life on Earth through its major groups. Students evaluate how our understanding of evolution and biodiversity has changed over time, as has the philosophy of science. Finally, students explore several of the great museums in the London area that were pivotal to these developments.

The great transformations in science are more often due to new ways of seeing nature than due to new data, but both were key to the growth of natural history and evolutionary thought. Therefore students evaluate how the new data from exploration and collecting expeditions showing the vastness of biological diversity stimulated a fundamentally new and transformative model for understanding the history of life on Earth. We discuss how the models have changed over time as has the philosophy of science. Finally, students get to explore several of the great museums in the London area that have been pivotal to these developments.

PCB 4613: Systematics

BSC 5936: Speciation 


Florida State University
Department of Biological Science
King Life Science, Room 4066
Tallahassee, FL 32306-4295


Office: (850) 644-6536
Lab: (850) 644-6045
Fax: (850) 645-8447
Email: steppan @ bio.fsu.edu