BIOL215-21S2 (C) Semester Two 2021

Origins and Classification of Life

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 19 July 2021
End Date: Sunday, 14 November 2021
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 1 August 2021
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 1 October 2021


This course takes a broad view of the ways biological diversity can be described and classified, and its origins understood. Systematics is the scientific discipline that encompasses the description, identification, nomenclature, and classification of organisms (Taxonomy) and the reconstruction of their macro-evolutionary history (Phylogenetics). Knowing the identity and evolutionary relationships of organisms is crucial to any biological study, but functional classifications are also important. This course is an introduction to the methodology and principles of systematics across all forms of biodiversity (bacteria, plants, fungi, protists, and animals), from morphological to next-generation DNA-based approaches and including functional methods.

BIOL215 is targeted at students with a broad interest in the evolution, ecology, and
biodiversity of a wide range of taxonomic groups. It is developed to be a core element of the
‘Molecular/Micro Biology & Systematics’ and ‘Ecology, Evolution & Behaviour’ themes of
the Biological Sciences Major. It is a prerequisite course for BIOL305 Practical Field Botany,
BIOL332 Genetics, Evolution and Ecology of Invasive Species and BIOL334 Evolutionary
Genetics and Genomics and also provides skills relevant to microbiology and conservation.

Learning Outcomes

  • As a student in this course, I will develop the ability to:
  • Explain the relevance to biological sciences and society of 1) discovering and
    documenting biodiversity, 2) taxonomic classifications, and 3) knowledge about
    evolutionary history and relationships (assessment tasks: quizzes, final exam; Biculturally
    competent and confident; Globally aware)
  • Understand key methods and principles of biological classification and nomenclature
    (assessment tasks: quizzes, final exam; Critically competent)
  • Collect, document, and describe biological specimens (assessment tasks: lab reports,
    project presentation; Critically competent; Employable, innovative and enterprising)
  • Be familiar with a wide range of morphological and genetic taxonomic identification
    tools (assessment tasks: quizzes, lab reports, project presentation, final exam;
    Employable, innovative and enterprising)
  • Generate DNA sequence data from soil, plant, and fungal specimens (assessment tasks:
    lab reports; Critically competent; Employable, innovative and enterprising)
  • Perform phylogenetic analyses using DNA sequence data (assessment tasks: lab reports,
    project presentation; Critically competent; Employable, innovative and enterprising)
  • Use a metabarcoding approach to study communities (assessment tasks: quizzes, lab
    reports, project presentation, final exam; Critically competent; Employable, innovative
    and enterprising)

    Transferable skills

    As a student in this course, I will develop the following skills:
  • Morphological and genetic identification skills used for plants, fungi, and bacteria.
    Essential in organismal biology, microbiology, ecology, conservation, taxonomy, and
  • Work safely in a molecular lab and comply with PC2 containment regulations. Important
    for careers that include lab work.
  • Molecular genetic laboratory skills. Important for careers that include lab work.
  • Interpretation of phylogenetic trees and reconstructing evolutionary relationships.
    Important in fields of evolutionary biology such as genetics, bioinformatics, systematics,
    molecular ecology, microbiology.
  • Use of biological classifications and scientific names. Essential skill in any field in
    biology and conservation.
  • Independent and self-motivated learning. A life-skill that is important in any career.
  • Finding, understanding, and using information in literature and on the internet. These are
    very general skills that are essential in many careers.
  • Written and oral communication. Many employers require employees to have good
    communication skills.


Recommended Preparation

Course Coordinator

Pieter Pelser


Ian Dickie and Matthew Stott


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Final Exam 35%
Lab Report 1 20%
Lab report 2 20%
Project Presentation 5%
Learn Quizzes 15%
Pre-requisite Knowledge test 5%

Course links

Course Outline


• You will be expected to have access to:
o Campbell, N.A. et al. (2017) Biology. A Global Approach, 11th Global
• Please note that attendance of all laboratories and tutorials is compulsory. Because of
practical constraints, labs cannot be made up for when missed. Lecture attendance is
also expected.
• Be advised that you will need to bring the following to labs 2-5:
o Safety glasses
o Lab coat
To purchase approved safety glasses, lab or coats go to
The collection point for purchases is inside the southern entry to the Ernest Rutherford Building, Monday to Friday between the hours 8.30 – 10.00 am and 1.30 – 3.00 pm for the first two weeks of the semester.
• You will also need to bring a notebook with you to the labs and tutorials
• Students should note that the average student is responsible for approx. 4.5 hours of
additional study for each hour of lecture at the 200-level.

Indicative Fees

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 .

All BIOL215 Occurrences

  • BIOL215-21S2 (C) Semester Two 2021