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Bard College Catalogue, 2019–20
Felicia Keesing (director), Heather Bennett, Cathy Collins, M. Elias Dueker, Brooke Jude, Craig Jude, Arseny Khakhalin, Gabriel G. Perron, Bruce Robertson, 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 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 college-wide distribution requirements, First-Year Seminar, and Citizen Science, biology majors must complete a Senior Project of original scientific research; at least 6 credits of 100-level coursework (from among courses numbered above 140); Biology 201, Genetics and Evolution; Biology 202, Ecology and Evolution; Biology 244, Biostatistics; two courses outside of the Biology Program within the Division of Science, Mathematics, and Computing; at least two 300-level biology courses with labs; and 4 credits of 400-level biology seminar courses.
Recent Senior Projects in Biology
- “Aerosolization of bacteria and toxins from harmful cyanobacteria blooms”
- “Determining the thermal niche of soil-borne seed fungi”
- “LA metagenomic study of apple and cider microbiomes to reveal Hudson Valley terroir”
- “Multitrophic effects of migratory birds on herbivorous insects in a shrub community”
FacilitiesBiology equipment includes standard and real-time PCR machines, tissue culture facilities, growth chambers, fluorescence microscopes, a confocal microscope, 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.
CoursesElective courses in biology cover a variety of topics, including ecology, animal physiology, neurobiology, microbiology, conservation biology, cell biology, animal behavior, virology, metagenomics, and cancer biology. Upper College courses emphasize exposure to experimental techniques, examination of the primary literature, and written and oral presentation of scientific material.
Microbes in the Environment
Bacteria, viruses, and other microbial species are present and persist in all environments (aquatic, soil, skin, gut) and climates (temperate to extreme). Some microbes can be pathogenic and cause disease while others are essential for maintaining the health of an individual or ecosystem. Case studies include Ebola, influenza, Bacillus anthracis, and Vibrio cholerae. Prerequisite: passing score on Part 1 of the Mathematics Diagnostic.
Biology of Noninfectious Disease
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 and Alzheimer’s, among others. Laboratory work introduces students to human physiology as it relates to disease. Prerequisites: high school biology and chemistry.
Genetics and Identity
This course explores the biological bases of three aspects of the human condition, which are, to varying degrees, also social constructs: race, gender, and sexuality. A particular focus is on human evolution and our current understanding of how genetics and the environment interact to generate the variation we observe in these human characteristics.
Botany for Herbivores
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
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.
In this course, students investigate ways in which fundamental principles of ecology, evolution, and genetics can be applied to conserving biodiversity. After looking at global patterns of biodiversity, focusing on current threats to diversity and the ecosystem consequences of species extinctions, the class examines the importance of maintaining genetic diversity within and among populations, population dynamics and species interactions, and potential solutions for meeting conservation challenges. Prerequisites: passing score on the Mathematics Diagnostic and experience in high school biology.
Often Awesome: The Science and Humanity of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
A look at the science behind Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, with a focus on the journey of one man from diagnosis through death, as told through his own words and those of his loved ones. Topics discussed include genetic testing and opportunistic infections. In the lab, students examine the causes and complications of ALS, including respiratory function, nerve conduction, and physiological response to stress.
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.
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. This course explores the potential factors contributing to the obesity epidemic, including behavior, evolution, genetics/physiology, and microbiome. Lab work investigates the influence of genetics on obesity as well as the efficacy of interventions. Prerequisite: passing score on Part I of the Mathematics Diagnostic.
From Genes to Traits
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. Prerequisite: passing score on Part I of the Mathematics Diagnostic.
Mammals have two notable features: they produce milk to feed their offspring and they maintain a constant internal body temperature, though doing so requires them to eat with near comical frequency. Some of our mammalian relatives lay eggs, others produce venomous saliva, and yet others live in ant-like colonies with a single queen surrounded by a worker caste. This course explores the ecology, behavior, physiology, diversity, and evolution of mammals, as well as what they can teach us about life on Earth in the 21st century.
Global Change Biology
CROSS-LISTED: EUS, GPH
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
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.
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
Designed for intended biology majors, the course looks at the microorganisms that inhabit, create, or contaminate food. The first half introduces topics in food safety such as food spoilage, foodborne infections, and antibiotic resistance. In the second half, students learn how to harness the capabilities of the many microbes present in our environment to turn rotting vegetables or spoiling milk into delicious food. They also learn how to design, conduct, and analyze simple experiments while working with microbiology techniques, including DNA sequencing.
Case Studies in Medical Biology
To fully understand the major systems of the human body, in the context of both healthy and diseased states, one must examine aspects of the biological, chemical, and physical properties contributing to their function. This course utilizes MCAT-style questions and case studies as a platform to learn scientific theories and principles in basic biology, genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, and other sub disciplines. In laboratories, students gain hands-on experience in testing these principles. They also practice evaluating evidence and interpreting and presenting data.
Developmental biology seeks to understand how complex organisms go from a single cell to highly developed and specialized entities. The course explores how organisms used in scientific research, often referred to as model organisms, develop from fertilization, including the early cellular divisions, to the formation of tissue layers and then to specialized organs. Select topics highlight fundamental concepts in this broad and rapidly evolving field.
Introduction to Neurobiology
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.
Microbial Techniques Workshop
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.
Methods in Field Ecology
This 2-credit course provides students with essential skills for future course work or research in ecology. Skills are learned through a series of individual and collaborative field studies that test core hypotheses in the science of ecology, with a special focus on Hudson Valley ecosystems. Field techniques include time budgets, point counts and transects of wild birds, line-transects of amphibians and plants, sweep netting and pitfall trapping of insects, seine netting of fish, and acoustic sampling of insects and birds.
Genetics and Evolution
CROSS-LISTED: GPH, 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
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
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.
This 1-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.
CROSS-LISTED: EUS, GPH, MATHEMATICS
An introduction to the statistical methods biologists use to describe and compare data. Topics covered include elementary probability and statistics, characteristics of frequency distributions, hypothesis testing, contingency tests, correlation and regression analysis, different ways to compare means, nonparametric tests, and multivariate tests. Biology students should take this course before their senior year, if possible. Prerequisites: passing score on Part I of the Mathematics Diagnostic and one introductory biology course.
Students are introduced to protein structure, enzyme mechanisms and kinetics, coenzymes, thermodynamics, central metabolic pathways, biological membranes, DNA structure and replication, and ribosomal translation. An emphasis is placed on integrating knowledge of fundamental organic chemistry into a biological context. Laboratory work provides practical experience in the topics covered.
An exploration of the 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. Also covered are the various mechanisms involved in the regulation of gene expression. Lab work 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.
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.
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.
A study of plant populations and communities through the lens of key species interactions, such as herbivory, completion, pollination, plant-fungal mutualisms, and plant-pathogen interactions. The class also explores the ways species diversity is generated and maintained at local and landscape spatial scales, and how plant community ecology theory can be applied to habitat restoration. Prerequisite: Upper College standing in biology.
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.
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.
Have you ever asked yourself, why did that animal do that? There are many levels at which we could seek answers, running from proximal mechanisms (firing neurons and hormonal stimuli) through ultimate mechanisms (evolutionary selective pressures, which produce adaptive behaviors through natural selection). This course is primarily about the latter. Students seek answers as to why organisms evolve various mating strategies and how organisms use signals, among other questions. For moderated biology students or with permission of the instructor.
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.
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.
Advanced Cell and Molecular Biology
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.
Cholera: Pandemics, Pathology, and Molecular Mechanisms
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 Conservation Biology
The once entirely scientific field of conservation biology has found itself becoming highly interdisciplinary. Successful conservation ventures still require notable expertise in ecological, evolutionary, and behavioral sciences but they also need to integrate economic, psychological, sociological, and political considerations in order to be successful. This course focuses on case studies in the conservation of plant and animal species, as it explores the interplay and relative importance of these different disciplines in the success or failure of conservation ventures.
Advanced Seminar in Urban Ecology
Urban development, among the most pervasive forms of land cover change, poses significant challenges to many organisms, including humans. This seminar focuses on determining patterns of abundance and distribution of organisms in urban ecosystems, behavioral and evolutionary responses that facilitate adaptation to urban environments, and interactions between organisms and between humans and nature in urban environments. As a capstone project, students identify a gap in our understanding of basic or applied urban ecology, and design a research proposal targeting a funding agency to carry out the work.
Topics in Computational Neuroscience: Analysis of Biological Neural Networks
The brain consists of multiple functional regions that each host multiple neural networks, which in turn are built of anything from dozens to millions of neural cells. To understand how brains work we need to know how individual neurons within these networks are connected and how their properties are tuned to make the network function as it should. In this seminar, students read and present primary papers that use imaging, electrophysiology, advanced statistical analysis, and modeling to study how neural networks are tuned and shaped in various biological systems.
Plant-fungal interactions play a major role in maintaining diversity in natural systems and are central to modern agricultural practices. Some plant-fungal interactions are context dependent, shifting on a continuum between mutualism and parasitism depending on environmental conditions. As a consequence, anthropogenic changes in climate and land use may alter the very nature of plant-fungal interactions and their effect on ecosystem function. In this seminar, students explore the evolutionary and ecological importance of these interactions.
Biotechnology and Infectious Disease
As world populations rise, so do pathogens capable of causing human disease. To manage this increase in infectious disease cases, current biotechnological advances can be used to design more effective methods for detecting, treating, and preventing infectious diseases. Readings address all angles of disease management, including the development of assays for low-level detection, application of nanosized agents for drug delivery, and design of novel vaccines for emerging infectious diseases. Prerequisite: Biology 201 or permission of the instructor.
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.
Topics in Virology: Ebola
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.
Global Change and Health
Rapid environmental changes, including temperature, atmospheric gas, moisture, and land use changes, have had serious impacts on human, animal, and plant health. This upper-level seminar uses primary scientific literature to explore the impacts of these changes on the health of animals (including humans) and plants, including direct effects on physiology and the transmission of disease. Students lead discussions of recent primary literature, participate in group work, and write analyses and proposals.
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.
Tissue and organ generation, CRISPR genome editing, the creation of synthetic genomes and the use of modified viruses to cure deadly disease are all biotechnological advances that a few decades ago would have read as science fiction. The course examines these 21st-century realities while also addressing ethical concerns. Prerequisites: junior or senior standing and Moderation in biology, or permission of the instructor.
Advanced Community Ecology: Diversity
Biodiversity is widely used in science media, but what is biodiversity, really, and is it beneficial to society? This course relies on student-led discussions of the primary literature to explore definitions and metrics of diversity, focusing on leading theories that guide our current understanding of the mechanisms that maintain diversity. Students also become familiar with computational tools for quantifying and comparing diversity across systems and spatial scales.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Past, Present,and Future
Alzheimer’s disease affects millions worldwide and costs billions of dollars to treat, making it an enormous public health issue. This course looks at the molecular underpinnings and genetic basis of Alzheimer’s, and the public health effects of the disease. Prerequisite: Moderation in biology or permission of the instructor.