Teaching overview

I teach a variety of classes: usually a portion of the Graduate Core course (phylogenetics), a mandatory course for all graduate students; a 400-level (upper level undergrads and beginning grad students) course on macroevolution; introductory biology (Biodiversity: Bio150); and a variety of smaller graduate seminars. My usual teaching load is Macroevolution every fall, Core every fall, Biodiversity every other spring, and usually a graduate seminar or two (often phyloseminar) per semester. In 2015-16, I’ll be stepping back from teaching Core to start a new, intensive graduate class on phylogenetic methods.

You can check the links above for updates to the courses, but an even easier way is to subscribe to an RSS feed. This is a way websites can let readers know when a new post is available; a popular free app for receiving these updates (on the web, iOS, or Android) is feedly, but there are many others, and some web browsers (Explorer, the newest Safari, Firefox, but not Chrome) also support this.

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I am always eager to get feedback on teaching: please do that at

Macroevolution 2017: Study guide

Study guide/possible exam questions for EEB464 Macroevolution. This focuses on the essay type questions for the exam.


  1. Why may life have been single celled for a long time?
  2. Describe a major event (such as a mass extinction, colonization of land, etc.) and its subsequent effects.
  3. How do we learn about organisms with no living descendants, such as trilobites? How would living descendants affect how we can learn about them?
  4. Can behavior be fossilized? If so, give two examples.
  5. How can something become a fossil?
  6. How has continental drift affected the location of organisms?
  7. Why don’t barracuda eat cleaner wrasse?
  8. Why bother making phylogenies?
  9. What is a phylogeny?
  10. Are species statistically independent?
  11. How can movement of land lead to speciation?
  12. What was the Great Faunal Interchange?
  13. Describe island biogeography. Why is it relevant to this class?
  14. Contrast pre and postzygotic mating barriers
  15. What are Dobzhansky-Muller Incompatibilities?
  16. Compare allopatric and sympatric speciation.
  17. How might hybrids have greater fitness than their parents?
  18. Explain the importance of Wolbachia.
  19. Describe the cause of a contemporary group of extinctions.
  20. Give an example of a biological trait that may increase extinction risk. Why might it?
  21. How could phylogenetic diversity be useful for conservation?
  22. Describe a simple model for species diversification.
  23. Compare and contrast speciation rate and diversification rate.
  24. How may trait transitions and diversification rates together affect evolution of a group?
  25. Which requirement for natural selection is most important? Why?
  26. What, in the context of this class, is an advantage of sexual reproduction?
  27. Describe Muller’s ratchet
  28. Describe one mechanism of sexual selection.
  29. What is Cope’s rule? Why might it be true?
  30. Contrast a passive and an active trend.
  31. How would you detect evidence of a trend?
  32. Contrast mutualism with parasitism. How can one change into the other?
  33. Give an example of a commensalism.
  34. What is an evolutionarily stable strategy?
  35. Why is “the good of the species” a problematic concept?
  36. Why might a prey item call out to a predator?
  37. What is inclusive fitness?
  38. What is Hamilton’s rule?
  39. Give a behavior the idea of inclusive fitness could explain.
  40. Why can delimiting two species be hard?
  41. Relate Darwin’s work on reefs to his work on evolution.
  42. What are some potential reasons that gliding evolves much more often than flight?
  43. Why does science utilize peer review?
  44. What evidence links humans to some megafaunal extinctions?
  45. How did Gould contribute to macroevolution?
  46. What is the utility of simulation for understanding macroevolution?
  47. Pasteur showed life does not spontaneously appear. Biologists believe life originally spontaneously appeared. Reconcile these views.
  48. Use insects as an example of a macroevolutionary process.
  49. What factors affect evolution of virulence? Why?
  50. What is domestication? How does it happen?
  51. Does flight lead to lower extinction risk? What is your hypothesis, and how would you evaluate this?
  52. Explain how carnivorous plant evolution illustrates aspects of macroevolution.
  53. How can we assess whether (pre-writing) human arrival in an area led to an extinction of macrofauna?
  54. Give an example from class of evolution happening in modern humans.
  55. Compare and contrast a squid, human, and fly eye. Are they homologous?
  56. Draw a phylogeny of 10 species; label three synapomorphies.
  57. Based on information from this class, why is there only evidence for one origin of life on the planet?
  58. How can we reconstruct language evolution?
  59. How has macroevolution helped us understand aggression in humans [hint: relate back to a class lecture on the topic]?