Bard College Catalogue

The Bard College Catalogue contains detailed descriptions of the College's undergraduate programs and courses, curriculum, admission and financial aid procedures, student activities and services, history, campus facilities, affiliated institutions including graduate programs, and faculty and administration.

Bard College Catalogue 2016-17

Bard College Catalogue 2016-17



Brooke Jude (director), Cathy Collins, M. Elias Dueker, Felicia Keesing, Arseny Khakhalin, Gabriel G. Perron, Emily C. Pollina, Bruce Robertson, Amy Savage, Michael Tibbetts


In order to meet the needs and interests of ­students within this diverse field, the biology curriculum at Bard is designed to be flexible. Students are encouraged to consult with their advisers to design a personal curriculum that covers requirements for advanced study and satisfies varied interests (biochemical, molecular, ecological) and approaches (laboratory-based, field-based, computational). Students are also encouraged to gain additional expertise in chemistry, physics, mathematics, or computer science to prepare for the interdisciplinary nature of modern biological research. Bard’s laboratory facilities, field station, and relationship with The Rockefeller University allow students to undertake sophisticated Senior Projects in a wide variety of areas. Funds for summer research are available on a competitive basis.


In addition to the collegewide distribution requirements, First-Year Seminar, and Citizen Science, biology majors must complete a Senior Project of original scientific research; at least one semester of a 100-level course (from among courses numbered above 140); Biology 201, Genetics and Evolution; Biology 202, Ecology and Evolution; Biology 244, Biostatistics; Chemistry 141-142, Basic Principles of Chemistry; and a minimum of three additional 4-credit elective courses in biology, two of which must be laboratory courses.

Recent Senior Projects in Biology 

  • “The antibacterial effects of several plant essential oils on Staphylococcus aureus
  • “The effect of tryptophan metabolism on inflammation in human skin”
  • “Influence of sewage and sewage infrastructure on microbial aerosols above an urban waterway"
  • “Machine learning on images of a microbial mutant library”


In addition to the laboratories and “smart” classrooms in the Gabrielle H. Reem and Herbert J. Kayden Center for Science and Computation, biology equipment includes standard PCR machines, a Real-Time PCR machine, two fluorescence microscopes, and a wide variety of ecology field equipment. Biology students may also use the facilities of the Bard College Field Station, which is located on the Hudson River and ­affords access to freshwater tidal marshes, swamps, and shallows; perennial and intermittent streams; and young and old deciduous and coniferous forests, among other habitats.


Elective courses in biology cover a variety of topics, including ecology, animal physiology, neurobiology, microbiology, cell biology, virology, genomics, and cancer biology, among others. Upper College courses emphasize exposure to experimental techniques, examination of the primary literature, and written and oral presentation of scientific material.

Biology of Noninfectious Disease
Biology 114
Conditions studied include inheri­ted diseases such as sickle-cell anemia and cystic fibrosis, endo­crine disorders, therapeutic drug addiction and toxicities, allergies, and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, among others. Laboratory work introduces ­students to human physiology as it relates to disease. Prerequisites: high school biology and chemistry; Biology 141 and 142 are ­recommended.

Botany for Herbivores: Developing Crop Plants and Agricultural Ecosystems
Biology 117
Wild relatives of many important crop species, including potatoes, tomatoes, and broccoli, contain potent defenses against animals that might eat them. How did these plants become safe for us to eat? How do we deter other organisms from eating them? Designed for nonmajors, the course explores the ways in which humans have modified the plants we use as food, the challenges of ecosystems dominated by crop plants, and ways to evaluate evidence for the safety and efficacy of crop development and food production strategies.

Measuring Nature
Biology 120
How is quackery different from a medical breakthrough? How do we know the world is getting warmer? This course introduces the principles of statistics and experimental design that are used to answer these and other questions in the sciences. Students conduct simple laboratory experiments and learn basic computer skills that will enable them to analyze many kinds of data. Students also learn to identify the use (and misuse) of statistics in the news.

Biology 121
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults, and 17 percent of children and adolescents, are obese. The estimated annual cost of obesity was $147 billion in 2008. This course explores the potential factors (behavior, evolution, genetics/physiology, microbiome) contributing to the obesity epidemic. Laboratory work investigates the influence of genetics on obesity as well as the efficacy of interventions. Prerequisites: passing score on Part I of the Mathematics Diagnostic; high school biology and chemistry.

The Science of Creativity
Biology 122
cross-listed: experimental humanities
What makes someone creative? How do we quantify creativity? Can creative skill be inherited or is it learned? Do factors such as health influence a person’s creative aptitude? Is there an evolutionary advantage to being creative? In this class, students consider artistic expression and creativity through the lens of several core life science concepts, including genetics, inheritance, genotype vs. phenotype, gene expression, and natural selection. Finally, students explore the relationship of the human brain and creative expression. Intended for non majors.

Introduction to Insects
Biology 127
Students use insects and other arthropods to explore biological topics such as how bugs are put together, how they reproduce and grow, and how they interact with their environment to find food, catch prey, avoid predators, and compete for mates. Also discussed is how the study of insects contributes to our understanding of genetics, evolution, and disease. Prerequisites: passing score on Part I of the Mathematics Diagnostic.

Field Study in Natural History
Biology 130
Designed to acquaint the interested nonscience student with the plants and animals that make the Bard campus their home, including trees and shrubs in their winter condition and wildflowers in the spring. Animal tracks and bird migrations are also objects of study. Although the course includes some lab work on preserved specimens, especially during severe weather, most class meetings are field trips. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.

Introductory Biology for Nonmajors
Biology 133
This course, intended for students not planning to major in the sciences, focuses on fundamental concepts in biology. In addition to learning key ideas, students conduct experiments, and analyze and interpret data.

Cancer Fundamentals
Biology 134
Designed for students not planning to major in biology, this course introduces the many diseases and intricacies that comprise cancer. The class examines cancer from a historical perspective to understand its origins and how potential treatments are developed. Laboratory work investigates common mechanisms used by cancer cells as well as techniques used for cancer diagnosis.

Subcellular Biology
Biology 141Beginning with the evolution and complexity of life, including prokaryotes and viruses, the course examines the commonality of life at both the biochemical and cellular levels. One primary focus is energy transfer in living systems (fermentation, respiration, and photosynthesis), followed by attention to information transfer (genetics, nucleic acid replication, transcription, and translation). The course ends with ­dis­cussions of more complex topics (genetic engineering, human genetics, and immunology). Prerequisites: passing score on Part I of the Mathematics Diagnostic.

Organismal Biology
Biology 142
cross-listed: eus, hisAn introduction to organismal biology and ecology, primarily for those who intend to continue in biology. Topics include population genetics; evolution; vertebrate embryology and anatomy; and animal phylogeny, taxonomy, and ecology. Biology 142 may be taken before Biology 141. Students majoring in biology are strongly encouraged to enroll concurrently in Chemistry 142. Prerequisite: passing score on Part I of the Mathematics Diagnostic.

Environmental Microbiology
Biology 145
The course introduces current research in environmental microbiology, and covers such basic biological concepts as DNA, RNA, protein production, cellular replication, metabolism, respiration, and Mendelian genetics. Topics specific to microbial life include ecological life cycles and microbial habitats, the microbiomes of plants and humans, biodegradation and bioremediation, antibiotic resistance, biofilms, and quorum sensing. A laboratory component allows students to culture environmental microbes as well as learn techniques for identification and characterization of phenotypes.

Zoology for Nonmajors 
Biology 148
Students learn the fundamental concepts of biology through the study of animals (including a few that are guaranteed to be new to them) and the evolutionary relationships between the major groups of animals, ranging from the microscopic to humans. Key concepts include macromolecules, cell organization, cellular respiration, mitosis, meiosis, genetics, ecology, evolution, and ecosystem studies.

Evolution of Model Organisms
Biology 150
This introductory course explores the genetics and evolution of a variety of organisms. The class also examines the interplay between genetics and evolution, with topics ranging from ecology and behavior to physiology and biomechanics. The course includes a lab and one or two field trips. Prerequisites: passing score on Part I of the Mathematics Diagnostic and at least one introductory biology course.

From Genes to Traits
Biology 151
An introduction to the relationships between genetics, environment, and biochemistry. The laboratory portion of this course acquaints ­students with some of the methodologies and instrumentation found in a modern biology lab. Prerequisites: passing score on Part I of the Mathematics Diagnostic.

Global Change Biology
Biology 153
cross-listed: eus, gis
This introductory-level course explores the effects of climate change on the ecology of animals, plants, and microbes, and considers how these biologically oriented questions relate to the interconnected issues of human society, politics, and the economy. In the lab, students analyze ice-core data and use a bevy of tools to predict changes in the timing of migration in birds and butterflies, and how climate change will affect the distribution and range of plant and animal species.

On the Shoulders of Green Giants: Introduction to Plant Biology
Biology 154
Plants are an important part of every ecosystem they inhabit, providing carbon and energy to the organisms that feed on them. Plants perform all the tasks we are familiar with from animal studies—acquiring energy, nutrients, and water; growing and reproducing; sensing and responding to their environments—but in different ways. This course examines the ways in which plants perform these tasks. Lab work includes field explorations of local ecosystems.

Biology 155
Imagine a super toxin that killed every living plant on earth. How long do you think we would have before we felt the impact? Could human civilization survive forever without plants? This course, for students considering biology as a major, introduces the essential components of botany, including morphology and basic plant identification, photosynthesis, respiration, cellular function, reproduction, and the use of plants in human society. Labs are used to familiarize students with plant form and function, with a special emphasis on campus plants.

From Shrimps to Chimps: Introduction to Neurobiology
Biology 162
cross-listed: mbb
Many neuroscience textbooks begin with descriptions of the brain’s nuts and bolts (neurons, synapses, ion channels) while fun topics, such as behavior, cognition, and memory, are lumped at the end. This is because the majority of what we know about the human brain we learned from rats, flies, sea slugs, and other model organisms. This course gradually climbs the ladder of complexity—from single neurons in invertebrates to large-scale networks in primates—to show how simple elements can combine and interact to produce meaningful behaviors.

Practicum in Neuroethology
Biology 164
Students conduct a series of behavioral experiments in Xenopus tadpoles, studying their locomotory responses to visual and acoustic stimulation, learning and troubleshooting techniques, and analyzing results. This laboratory course provides an experience in authentic scientific research, as some of the questions asked about the logic of multisensory integration in the tadpole brain have never been asked before.

Microbial Techniques Workshop
Biology 165
Students in this introductory laboratory course, designed for intended biology majors, learn standard culturing techniques, biochemical and molecular identification tests, and various bioassays. Texts include Angelika Hofmann’s Writing in Biological Sciences: A Comprehensive Resource for Scientific Communication. Priority is given to first-year students.

Genetics and Evolution
Biology 201
cross-listed: gis, mbb
The course takes a modern approach to the study of genetics in which classical ideas about genotype, phenotype, and inheritance are integrated into the modern molecular and genomic understanding of the processes involved in the generation of diversity. The laboratory consists of a semester-long project involving the genetic manipulation of a model organism’s genome to address one or more topics in the course. Prerequisite: one year of college biology.

Ecology and Evolution
Biology 202
In addition to studying foundational ideas in both ecology and evolution, the class explores how genetic variation among individual organisms can influence ecological interactions and how these interactions can influence fitness. Students use model building to inform a mechanistic understanding of processes. Prerequisite: successful completion of Biology 201.

Visiting Speakers Seminar
Biology 208
This one-credit course provides students with broad exposure to biology through visiting speakers. Students hear about the wide-ranging research interests of invited biologists and have opportunities to interact informally with them. The course is graded pass/fail. Recommended for sophomore and junior biology majors.

Epidemiology: A Human Rights Perspective
Biology 223 / Human Rights 223
See Human Rights 223 for a full course description.

Biology 244
cross-listed: eus, gis, mathematics
This course provides a general idea of the statistical methods commonly used in biology, the methods appropriate for various types of data, and an in-depth examination of how the methods work. Topics covered include elementary probability and statistics, hypothesis testing, characteristics of frequency dis­­tributions, regression analysis, and some multivariate-based methods. Prerequisite: eligibility for Q courses.

Molecular Biology
This course explores molecular aspects of gene expression in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems. Topics include DNA structure, replication, and repair; DNA transcription; RNA structure and processing; and polypeptide synthesis. The course also covers various mechanisms involved in the regulation of gene expression. Emphasis is placed on a review of the current literature and the experimental approaches used in modern molecular biological research. The laboratory provides practical experience in techniques such as molecular cloning, restriction enzyme mapping, DNA sequencing, and nucleic acid hybridization. Prerequisites: Biology 201 and Chemistry 201-202.

Biology 303
This course investigates the principles of microbiology that make microbes unique, taking a systems-based approach to such topics as microbial cell structure and function, bacterial motility and chemotaxis, secretion systems, biofilm formation, quorum sensing, and antibiotic resistance. The course focuses on bacterial species, but some time is devoted to the biology of eukaryotic microbes. The lab portion is a semester-long team project that involves examination of local microbial populations using culture, molecular, and biochemical approaches. 

Cell Biology
Biology 304
Students in the course examine the molecular and biochemical mechanisms involved in processes relating to eukaryotic cellular organization, communication, movement, reproduction, and death. These topics are considered through close reading of the primary and secondary literature. The laboratory portion consists of a semester-long project. Prerequisites: Biology 201 and 202 and Chemistry 201-202.

Vertebrate Zoology
Biology 306
A survey of the natural history, evolution, and ecology of the vertebrates native to the Hudson Valley region. Lab sessions are used for identification, taxonomy, and study techniques, with as much work as possible done in the field. Prerequisites: Biology 141 and 142, Upper College status, and permission of the instructor.

Invertebrate Zoology
Biology 309
The course takes a comparative approach to studying zoology, with a special focus on marine and aquatic invertebrates native to the Hudson Valley. Students learn how to use phylogenetic tools to study ecology, evolution, comparative morphology, biogeography, and speciation of different invertebrate groups. Laboratories include comparative anatomy of different invertebrate phyla, DNA extraction and sequencing, and working with phylogenetic analysis software. Prerequisites: Biology 201 and 202, or permission of the instructor.

Field Ornithology
Biology 311
cross-listed: eus
Birds are presented as a unique group and as representative of vertebrates, with emphasis on adaptation, ecology, behavior, bird conservation, the physical basis of flight, and laboratory and field methods used in modern ornithology. Students also consider current views of the systematic relationships among living birds and the evolutionary history of birds, including the debate regarding their relation to dinosaurs and the origin of flight. Field trips to local habitats and biological reserves, as well as study of museum specimens.

Animal Behavior
Biology 313
cross-listed: mbb
An examination of animal behavior from a biological and evolutionary point of view. The class explores the causes and consequences of behaviors such as foraging and predation, migration, antipredator behavior, mating behavior, cooperation, and altruism. Students design and carry out their own research over the course of the semester. Prerequisites: Biology 201 and 202; Biology 144 and 315 are useful but not required.

Advanced Evolution
Biology 315
Various forces of evolution are examined, using population and quantitative genetics to address fundamental questions in biology. Also explored: patterns of evolution within and among populations, across species, and through time; what evolution can reveal about other disciplines, such as medicine; and how modern genomic and bioinformatic techniques rely on evolutionary principles.

Advanced Ecology: Ecology and Behavior of Plants
Biology 317
Plants are crucial producers in nearly every terrestrial ecosystem, and understanding their physiology, ecology, and behavior can help us to conserve them, and in turn, the ecosystems of which they are a part. Topics explored include ecophysiology and stress adaptations, reproduction and dispersal mechanisms, plant defenses, plant sensory and response systems, and phytoremediation. In the lab, students have the opportunity to design, carry out, and communicate results of a study related to one of these topics. Prerequisite: Upper College standing in biology.

Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Biology 318
cross-listed: mbb
Since nervous systems are built of individual cells, all aspects of neural function, development, and pathology can be linked to interactions of proteins: channels, receptors, transcription factors, and other molecular machines. The course begins with an introduction to electrophysiology (the study of electrical properties of neural cells) and moves on to cover synaptic plasticity, neural development (axon guidance, projection refinement), and molecular mechanisms of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism. Labs are built around projects in crustacean electrophysiology.

Animal Physiology
Biology 324
How do animals work? How do the veins, membranes, and tissues make it possible for animals to move, feel, and reproduce? Why are all those things there, and how are they different in different animals? Why do you have a spleen, and how can a crane breathe through a neck that long? Do fishes need to drink, and do they urinate? The course tackles these kinds of questions and compares human physiology to that of other animals. Prerequisite: Upper College standing in biology.

Freshwater Biology
Biology 330
This course addresses the physical, chemical, and biological properties of lakes and streams, and the effects watersheds and wetlands have on freshwater systems. Anthropogenic impacts such as climate change, pollutants, and invasive species on freshwater systems are examined, as are methods for restoring lakes and streams and paleolimnological methodologies for identifying past water quality. Research articles introduce key concepts in aquatic ecology; these topics are reinforced through hands-on experience in the field and laboratory. Prerequisites: Biology 201 and 202; Chemistry 141-142.

Plant Signaling and Physiology
Biology 334
This course explores physiological, developmental, morphological, and anatomical adaptations of flowering plants to diverse environments. Concepts considered include drought adaptation, seed dormancy, plant hormone signaling, phytoremediation, and biorobotics. Labs provide an opportunity to design experiments to address some of these concepts in more detail. Prerequisite: Upper College standing in biology.

Experimental Plant Biology
Biology 335
Plants are the primary producers of energy in the biosphere. All other organisms on Earth interact with plants either directly or indirectly: via pollination, predation, herbivory, mutualism, competition, facilitation, or indirect effects in food webs. This course explores how plants interact with other organisms, and how this feeds back on plant behavior and function. Readings are drawn mostly from the primary literature; lab work involves designing and conducting experiments. Prerequisite: Upper College standing in biology.

Biology 340
How does the genetic diversity of microbes affect human health? How do anthropogenic actions such as pollution affect microbial populations around us? This research-intensive course uses genomics and metagenomics to study the ecology and evolution of antibiotic resistance in environmental microbes. For one week prior to the start of the semester, students meet daily with the instructor to design and conduct their own metagenomic survey of microbial populations found in the Saw Kill and surrounding lands. Prerequisite: Upper College standing in biology or permission of the instructor.

Advanced Cell and Molecular Biology
Biology 389
Students who have completed Biology 302, Molecular Biology, continue working with the gene they chose at the beginning of that course. They use cellular techniques to ask questions about the role of the gene product in zebrafish hair-cell function, and perform knockdown experiments in which they examine the cellular and physiological effects of limiting the production of the gene product in zebrafish larvae.

Biology 405
cross-listed: gis
Basic concepts are taught from a historical perspective, with special attention paid to current unanswered questions in the field and their implications. The course also looks at uses of immunology concepts from perspectives other than medical and basic research applications. Appropriate for students who have a biology background and want to gain a basic understanding of the field and its applications.

Cholera: Pandemics, Pathology, and Molecular Mechanisms
Biology 406
This upper-level seminar examines a microbe that has caused seven worldwide pandemics and continues to plague human populations, Vibrio cholerae. Students examine the historical significance of cholera, environmental and socioeconomic factors that influence outbreaks, and the complex molecular genetics that allow this microbe to be so effectively pathogenic. Readings drawn from topically relevant primary, secondary, and historical literature. Prerequisite: Biology 201; Chemistry 201-202 is helpful, but not essential.

Advanced Seminar on Cancer
Biology 411
Cancer is a genetic disease that cannot be inherited; a disease in which one’s own cells disrupt normal physiological functions; a disease for which some therapies result in the loss of the body’s ability to fight disease. This advanced course looks at the complex reasons for these paradoxes by examining a particular cancer from several perspectives: epidemiological, physiological, genetic, molecular, and cellular.

Advanced Seminar on Urban Ecology 
Biology 415
Urban development is among the most pervasive and ubiquitous forms of land cover change. Thus, urbanization poses significant challenges to many organisms, including humans. This seminar focuses on the processes determining patterns of abundance and distribution of organisms in urban ecosystems, interactions among organisms in the urban environment, behavioral and evolutionary responses that facilitate adaptation to urban environments, and interactions between humans and nature in urban environments. Prerequisite: Biology 202 or consent of the instructor.

Behavior Genomics 
Biology 423
Social behavior is one of the most complex biological phenomena to have evolved on Earth, and has contributed to the huge ecological success of those organisms showing the highest levels of social organization—ants, bees, and termites. This seminar looks at the ecology, genetics, and evolution of social behavior. Using the current literature and a problem-based learning approach, the course spans neurogenetics, genetic imprinting, collective decision making, cooperation and cheating, and division of labor.

Neuroscience Revolutions
Biology 425
New scientific ideas often inspire hot debates. Some of these ideas eventually make it into textbooks, becoming a new dogma, while others are marginalized and forgotten. This seminar examines various controversies in neurobiology, including those that transformed the field in the past and those that are being debated now. Discussion is based on current primary research. Prerequisite: Upper College standing in biology or permission of the instructor.

Vector Biology
Biology 426
Viral, parasitic, and bacterial diseases transmitted by insect vectors cause significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. This seminar focuses on a variety of insect vectors responsible for transmitting some of the most significant diseases of our global society. Emphasis is placed on the biology of the insects, including factors that contribute to disease transmission, such as behavior, immune defenses, and life cycle. Understanding these features allows students to appreciate the complexities associated with disease control. Prerequisite: Upper College standing in biology or permission of the instructor.

Topics in Virology: Ebola 
Biology 427
This course, designed to examine the field of virology through one particular virus, is focused on the outbreak of Ebola in 2014. Using primary literature as texts, the class investigates the molecular biology and genetics of the Ebola virus and related filoviruses, as well as the host response to and defense of viral infections. Specific topics include viral structure and assembly, host specificity, and molecular/genetic mechanisms of viral cellular entry, mRNA production, and genome replication. Prerequisite: Biology 201.

Biology 431
Not all vectors or hosts are equally susceptible to parasite challenge, a factor that influences disease transmission dynamics. This seminar focuses on a variety of eukaryotic parasitic diseases relevant to human health, with emphasis on the invasion and establishment processes used by these organisms as they are transmitted to their definitive or intermediate hosts.