Biology Courses

List of Courses:
  • 050 - BNR Service Learning
    Students volunteer in positions as naturalists, outdoor teachers, land managers, research technicians, and community recyclers. Projects may serve Principia or other communities or outside agencies such as the Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge.
  • 111 - Introductory Botany
    Introduction to basic plant structure and function, with emphasis on the processes of photosynthesis, growth, respiration, and reproduction. Includes a survey of the plant kingdom, from algae to flowering plants, focusing on life cycles and ecology of representative plants. Must be taken concurrently with BNR 112, BNR 191 and BNR 201. Designed primarily for students intending to major in biology or environmental studies.
  • 112 - Introductory Zoology
    Survey of animal kingdom and the animal-like protists, including basic structure, life history, ecology, and classification of major groups. Emphasis is given to invertebrates, although vertebrate groups are covered near the end of the course. Introduction to laboratory techniques and scientific writing are stressed.
  • 120 - Plants and Society
    Explores basic plant biology, plant culture, from house plant care to home gardening to large-scale agriculture. Topics include introductory plant physiology, the impacts of light, temperature, soil, and fertilizer on plant growth, and pest control. Special emphasis is placed on the development and environmental impacts of large-scale agriculture (including the development and use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture).
  • 141 - Intro to Marine Fisheries
    Students examine the broad diversity of life on earth by studying the major plant and marine animal taxa involved in making sushi: rice, kelp, corals and jellies, marine worms, echinoderms, crustaceans, mollusks, and cartilaginous and bony fish. Students unpack the theory of natural selection and consider how forces long ago shape present ecological dynamics of these organisms. They also examine modern day fishing/harvesting practices and consider sustainability as a function of species' evolutionary traits.
  • 161 - Field & Natural History
    Studies of local plants and animals in their natural environment and in their relation to humankind. Emphasis on conservation, nature interpretation, and observation and field research skills.
  • 190 - Global Environmental Issues
    Exploration of major environmental issues that are global in scale. By examining topics such as deforestation, agriculture, climate change, and the worldwide decline of biological diversity, students will learn to think critically about environmental issues. They will also learn to recognize and sort through the many conflicting perspectives that surround most of these issues. Special emphasis is placed on the role of science in helping to identify and solve global environmental problems. Designed primarily for students intending to major in biology or environmental studies.
  • 191 - Introduction to Ecology
    Exploration of fundamental concepts relating to ecosystem structure and function, including the interactions of plant and animal populations within biological communities, and the role of abiotic factors in shaping those populations and communities. Emphasizes basic methods of field research, data analysis, and scientific writing. Must be taken concurrently with BNR 111, BNR 112, and BNR 201. Designed primarily for students intending to major in biology or environmental studies.
  • 201 - Methods in Research & Writing
    Course emphasizes a broad range of skills essential to successful work in biology or environmental studies. Skills include reading and analyzing scientific literature, designing and conducting lab and field research projects, data management and analysis, scientific writing, and presentation techniques. Must be taken concurrently with BNR 111, BNR 112, and BNR 191, as these courses provide the content themes that will serve as case studies for research writing. Designed primarily for students intending to major in biology or environmental studies.
  • 220 - Marine Biology
    This survey course covers a broad range of subject areas in marine biology including basic oceanography, biology of life in the seas, and management/conservation of oceanic biological resources. Also focuses on learning about marine ecosystems (types, locations, and biological structure). Prerequisite: BNR 112.
  • 230 - Ornithology
    Study of birds: their structure, identification, classification, habits, life history, distribution, migration, methods of attraction, economic importance. Field identification and behavioral study of local species.
  • 231 - Herpetology
    A survey of the biology of reptiles and amphibians. Topics covered include evolutionary origins, morphology, life history, ecology, and identification, emphasizing Principia College campus species. Field work, collecting, and identifying the Principia herpetofauna constitute a significant portion of the course. Students undertake a research project on the amphibian or reptile of their choice.
  • 232 - Wildlife Conservation
    This course explores major local and global wildlife issues focusing on the impacts of population growth, land use, tourism, development, and other human activities. This course also examines a range of conservation and planning strategies to protect wildlife species.
  • 236 - Sea Turtle Biology
    This course teaches the biology of sea turtles (evolution, anatomy, physiology, behavior, life history, and population dynamics) and their conservation needs. Basic ecological concepts are integrated with related topics of conservation and management of endangered species, the contributions of technology to the management of migratory marine species, and the role of research in national and international law and policy.
  • 237 - Sea Turtle Biology: Trinidad
    This course teaches the biology of sea turtles (see description for BNR 236) and their conservation needs. During spring break students travel to Trinidad in the Caribbean to study marine turtles. They assist in ongoing research, as well as interact with local resource managers in a "real world" context where the complexities of biodiversity convservation can be learned. (A student may receive credit for only one of the courses BNR 236 or BNR 237.)
  • 245 - Natural History
    This course focuses on the study of the natural history of flora and fauna in a specific country or region. Ecosystems studied may include: marine, alpine, forest, grasslands, riverine. Offered on Principia abroads only, with a star (*) grade until following midterm. May be offered for variable credit from two to four semester hours. The title will be extended to describe the current topic. May be taken more than once provided the topics differ.
  • 255 - Natural Resources Management
    This course focuses on the biological and physical science aspects of natural resource management at local, national, and global scales. Topics covered include management of soil, water, forest, and watershed resources. In the laboratory component, students will learn field measurement techniques and computer skills commonly used in managing natural resources as well as develop and write scientific lab reports.
  • 256 - Conservation Genetics
    Classical and modern genetic theory and technique, with an emphasis on the role of genetic variability in the development of species, and in the conservation of biodiversity. Prerequisite: BNR 111 or BNR 112.
  • 264 - Sugarbush Management
    Course exposes students to historical, scientific, business, and conservation aspects of managing a maple-dominated woodland for syrup production. Central to this course is the planning and implementation of a small-scale "sugarbush" on the college campus, complete with tapping, evaporating, and marketing the final product.
  • 280 - Plant Taxonomy
    Study of plant families illustrated by their morphology and reproductive structures. Emphasis is on the development of skills used to identify and classify plants in the field. Prerequisite: BNR 111.
  • 290 - Environmental Policy
    This course includes the formulation and implementation of environmental policy, with special reference to the impact of political and economic factors. Specific consideration will be given to major environmental regulations.
  • 291 - Sustainable Development
    This course is a study of the global issues of sustainability. Through the readings, students develop a conceptual model of sustainable development, and apply that model to case studies in the west and in developing countries. Working through the Principia Center for Sustainability, the class takes on a special campus sustainability project.
  • 312 - Grassland Ecology
    Exploration of the structure and function of grassland ecosystems. Topics include the evolutionary history of the grassland biome, interactions between plants and animals in grasslands, and the effects of fire, grazing, and climate on grasslands. Introduces students to key papers on grassland ecology, as well as current field research methods. Prerequisites: BNR 111 and BNR 191.
  • 313 - Forest Ecology
    An exploration of the structure and function of forested ecosystems, with an emphasis on field research and scientific writing. Topics include succession, disturbance, landscape variation, nutrient cycling, tree identification, and ecosystem stability. This course builds on the fundamentals learned in Introduction to Ecology and introduces students to contemporary ecological thinking. Prerequisites: BNR 111 and BNR 191.
  • 315 - Freshwater Ecology
    A survey course in the ecological functioning of lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands. The course has a special focus on the great rivers of the Midwest, including their ecological and environmental problems. Students learn field skills needed to conduct ecological research and write scientific lab reports and a final research paper on freshwater ecosystem topics. Prerequisites: BNR 111 and BNR 191.
  • 317 - Wetland Ecology
    The study of bogs, fens, swamps, bottomland hardwood forests, salt marshes and mangroves with an emphasis on the formation, hydrology, biogeochemistry, and community dynamics of these systems. Management, policy, and restoration strategies will also be discussed. Students will learn field skills needed to conduct wetland research and write lab reports and a final research paper on wetland ecosystem topics. Prerequisites: BNR 111 and BNR 191.
  • 325 - Wildlife Management
    This course is designed to give students an understanding of wildlife and conservation management methods. Covers techniques in population estimation, radio and satellite telemetry and other electronic data gathering methods as well as studying when and how to apply such methods. The course combines lecture and field work, with a heavy emphasis on the field work. Prerequisite: BNR 112.
  • 340 - Adv Natural History
    An advanced course that focuses on natural history of flora and fauna in a specific country or region. It also focuses on the ecological dynamics of populations, communities, and ecosystems in the region. Case studies are drawn from a variety of systems including marine, freshwater, forest, grassland, alpine and other ecosystems. May be offered for variable credit from two to four semester hours. The title will be extended to describe the current country or region. May be taken more than once provided the regions differ.
  • 356 - Global Change Biology
    This course examines changes in Earth's atmosphere, soils, and waters, the distribution of heat and precipitation, the continuity of landscapes, and exotic species invasions. Responses are examined at multiple levels of biological organization. Special attention is paid to positive and negative feedback loops. The course relies on current scientific literature and requires synthesis of diverse physical and biological sciences. Prerequisites: BNR 111, BNR 112, BNR 191, BNR 201, and any 300-level BNR course.
  • 360 - Vertebrate Zoology
    Studies include the evolutionary development of vertebrates, from their origins to the divergence of groups. It focuses on comparative anatomy to understand common ancestral linkages. Students study the broad diversity of modern vertebrates, including life histories, physiology, and ecological adaptations. Laboratory work focuses on anatomy as well as key features of the major vertebrate groups. Prerequisite: BNR 112.
  • 362 - Conservation
    This course focuses on how natural resources of a given country are managed. Students study conservation management strategies of representative ecosystems as well as species management and the interface of native culture and resource conservation. Offered on Principia abroads only, with a star (*) grade until following midterm. The title will be extended to describe the current country. May be offered for variable credit from two to four semester hours.
  • 380 - Advanced Ecology Seminar
    Offered when regular or visiting faculty are available to work with students on selected topics in ecology. Recent topics have included ecological modeling and soils ecology. The title will be extended to describe the current topic. May be offered for variable credit from one to three semester hours. May be taken more than once provided the topics differ.
  • 381 - Adv Natural Resources Seminar
    Offered when regular or visiting faculty are available to work with students on selected topics in natural resources conservation. The title will be extended to describe the current topic. May be offered for variable credit from one to three semester hours. May be taken more than once provided the topics differ.
  • 390 - Forest Resource Management
    A course in the ways we manage forest lands to provide an array of goods and services to mankind. This course teaches the concepts of sustainable forestry and the field techniques that allow the manager to evaluate, plan, and implement forest management activities. Students learn specific skills in forest measurements, applied silviculture, and the use of management decision support tools. Prerequisite: BNR 313.
  • 391 - Soil and Water Conservation
    Past and present issues in soil and water conservation will be examined. Principles of erosion, conservation tillage, irrigation, and drainage will be discussed. Current issues such as water conflicts, integrated watershed management, and green roofs will also be covered. Prerequisite: BNR 191.
  • 400 - Senior Thesis Seminar
    This course is designed to assist senior biology and environmental studies majors as they design, conduct, and plan for the presentation of a capstone project. Weekly class activities may include presentations from the research librarian, discussions with BNR faculty about project design and methodology, preparation of an annotated bibliography and coaching on presentation skills and technology. Students develop a formal research proposal and a plan for the project. Open only to biology or environmental studies majors.
  • 401 - Senior Thesis
    Project selected in accordance with student's qualifications, interests, and needs. May be taken for variable credit from one to six semester hours. May be taken more than once with BNR department chair approval. May be repeated up to a total of 12 semester hours. Prerequisite: five or more BNR courses numbered above 150 including BNR 400.
  • 402 - Internship
    An opportunity to gain practical experience in biology, natural resource conservation, environmental policy, consulting, and many other related environmental fields. Recent student internships have included waterfowl research for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, amphibian research in Puerto Rico, coyote behavior studies in Yellowstone, and aquarium management at the New England Aquarium. May be taken for variable credit from one to six semester hours. May be taken more than once if topics differ. Offered on an independent contract basis.
  • 403 - Biology Research Experience
    This course is designed to give the student the opportunity to conduct guided research as a research assistant in biology, natural resource conservation, or other environmental fields. The student will undertake original research while gaining practical experience as a research biologist. Depending on the project the student may spend some of, or the whole semester, off campus. May be taken for variable credit from three to six semester hours. May be repeated up to a total of nine semester hours. Open only to biology majors. Prerequisites: BNR 111, 191, and 201, and at least one of the following: BNR 312, 313, 315.
  • 410 - Senior Readings
    This course introduces students to seminal pieces of environmental literature and to cutting edge thinking on environmental problems. Students are responsible for reading assigned materials and participating in seminar discussions. The course challenges students to define and defend their personal values regarding environment and to become active citizens in the environmental issues facing society. Prerequisite: five BNR courses. Also listed as GEOL 410.

Sustainable Development 

Concepts of sustainability are key to ushering in the “Green Economy” of the future.