BIOL 20300
FALL 2007

INSTRUCTOR: Bruce P. Smith  (Office CNS 166, Lab CNS 171,  (607) 274-3971, SMITHB@ITHACA.EDU)
Office Hours: Tues. 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Text: Pechenik, J.A., 2005.  "Biology of the Invertebrates", Fifth Edition.

The invertebrates include 98% of all species in the Animal Kingdom plus more than half of the animal- like members of the Kingdom Protista - an amazing array of approximately 2.4 million described species and many more yet to be discovered.  The diversity of body form and lifestyle represented by this group greatly overshadows the diversity of any other group of organisms.  Part of the challenge is to try and make sense of this diversity, and to try to organize these species based upon their evolutionary history.  Traditional classification schemes have been based largely upon morphology and classical embryology.  There is currently a revolution underway in the phylogenetic hypotheses of invertebrates largely because of new studies in molecular systematics and the genetic revolution in developmental biology.

Beyond phylogenetic studies of the diversity of life, invertebrates are still of major importance.  On the World Health Organization's list of the top 10 causes of human death and suffering, a number are parasites (and almost all parasites are invertebrates).  This includes protozoans such as the species causing malaria as well as nematode worms and flukes causing severe disfigurement or death.  A wide array of invertebrates are agricultural pests and are responsible for an estimated loss of 2/3 of all crops grown, whereas a diversity of others are used as biological controls of pest species.  Ecologically, invertebrates are predominant in the environment in numbers, species diversity, and biomass, and Marine Biology is largely a study of  Invertebrate Zoology.  Many species used as experimental models in other biological disciplines are invertebrates - for example, fruitflies, nematode worms, and sea urchins are used extensively in Developmental Biology.

Tentative Lecture Schedule  (PDF)

Tentative Laboratory Schedule  (PDF)


  1. Learning about the morphological and ecological diversity of invertebrate life, becoming familiar with the various phyla and classes within major phyla.
  2. Understanding the logic behind the grouping of organisms into currently-accepted phyla and classes.
  3. Understanding the logic behind various phylogenetic hypotheses that have been proposed, based on the available evidence, and how these hypotheses have been tested and supported/rejected/refined when new information was gathered.
  4. Learning about various alternative solutions to the same physiological and ecological demands experienced by various organisms.
  5. Developing your ability to find, collect, and identify terrestrial and freshwater invertebrates of the region, and to properly document scientific specimens.
1. Grading:
Lecture Tests (2 X 15%) =  30%
Written Assignments (2 X 10%) = 20%
Final Exam 20%
Collection 15%
Lab Tests (2 X 7.5%) = 15%

Letter grades correspond to the following percentages:

A   = 93.3 – 100% A- = 90 – 93.2% B+ = 86.6 – 89.5%  B   = 83.3 – 86.5% B- = 80 – 83.2%
C+ = 76.6 – 79.5% C  = 73.3 – 76.5% C-  = 70 – 73.2% D+ = 66.6 – 69.5%     D = 63.3 – 66.5%
D- = 60 – 63.2%        F = below 60%

2. Lecture:  Lectures are traditional in format, with a strong emphasis on audiovisual presentation.  The main goal is to establish fundamental knowledge in the field, and to develop the ‘big picture’, integrating across the phyla.  Tests will be based on lecture material, and are not cumulative.  Questions will be essays of varying length, and there will be choice in most sections of the test.  The final exam includes all material in the course, weighted more heavily on new material, and will be a longer version in the same format.  It will include a longer essay for which the question is given to you two weeks before the exam.   These tests and the final exam focus on assessing course goals 1 through 4; some questions will be factual, others are designed to test your ability to see connections or to integrate information.  The longer essay on the final exam involves summarizing and organizing information into a cohesive synthesis.

3. Written Assignments: The two written assignments are based upon questions and suggested references either given in class or from the “further discussion” section of chapters in the textbook.  Students will be given a choice from several questions on different topics, relating to course goals 1 through 4.  The assignments require a well-written response to the question, supported by evidence obtained from primary research articles.

4. Laboratory: The laboratory tests will be based upon material covered during laboratory periods.  This may entail identification of organisms, or of internal and external anatomy.  Also, any information presented in the laboratory handouts or in demonstrations is testable material.  These tests focus on assessing course goals 1 and 2.  The student's collection consists of 15 preserved specimens collected by the student during the semester, primarily during field trips.  Methods of collecting, and preparing specimens will be explained during laboratory sessions, and part of each laboratory period is allocated for work on your collection.  For the collections we will be concentrating on freshwater invertebrates plus terrestrial insects, which best reflects the diversity of organisms in the Ithaca region.  The collection primarily reflects course goal 5.  Grading will be based upon three criteria:

1) diversity; ideally, specimens should represent a wide variety among phyla and classes within the Arthropoda, a variety of habitats and lifestyles, and demonstrate a variety of collection techniques.

2) identification; more points will be awarded for correctly identifying a specimen to genus or species level than for family determination (expected level of identification will be based upon the identification keys available).

3) presentation; appropriate documentation on labels, properly relaxed and mounted specimens, undamaged specimens.

1. Attendance:  The Undergraduate Announcements state the general policy that students are expected to attend classes and that they are responsible for all material even when absent.  Conspicuous unexplained absence (i.e., more than 10% of the classes) may result in lower grade, or dismissal from class.  Acceptable reasons for absence include 1) student illness, requiring the student to be bed-ridden; 2) death or serious illness in the immediate family; 3) appearance in court; 4) religious holidays.  Note that you MUST have written documentation for your reason for absence (e.g., note from doctor, religious leader, etc.).

An exam missed during an unexcused absence (i.e. oversleeping or not being prepared) will result in a zero grade for that exam.  If you miss a exam, you MUST inform me before the test if at all possible, but if not physically capable, then notify me as soon as possible afterwards.  You can send me e-mail, phone my number (above) or the Biology Department (607-274-3161) to leave a message, and if you do not have the number with you, phone directory assistance and get the number for the main switchboard of the College (they will either transfer your call, or provide the correct number).  Such notification does not guarantee my accepting your reason for absence, but failing to notify me guarantees that you will not be excused.

2. Readings: You are expected to read the assigned readings BEFORE coming to class, as a background to that day's lecture.  If you have any questions regarding material in the reading, please ask during class.

3. Questions: Please feel free to ask questions in class.  Chances are that if there is something you don't understand, then others in the class are also confused - don’t hesitate to ask your question.

4. Accommodation for Students with Disabilities:   I will make reasonable accommodations for any students with disabilities.  The student must inform me of their need for accommodation, and be registered with the Office of Academic Support Services for Students with Disabilities.  If tests or exams are to be written under supervision of Academic Support Services, appointments have to be made with their office at least 1 week prior to the test, and I also need to be notified at that time.

5. Personal Conduct:  "A student's behavior must not interfere with the activities of the College or with other student's pursuit of educational objectives" (see General Information, Undergraduate Announcements).  Talking during lecture (except for questions or participating in class discussions) is disruptive and is disrespectful to other students and the instructor.  Cell phones, pagers, etc. must be kept turned off during classes.  Disruptions may result in the student being asked to leave the class and the student will be considered absent without excuse.  If asked to leave class on more than one occasion, the student will be withdrawn from the course.

6. Plagiarism:  Please be aware of plagiarism: if you take a sentence from someone else’s work and only change one or a couple of words, its still plagiarism even if you cite the source.  You must rewrite it in your own words.  Plagiarism is a serious case of academic misconduct: check the student handbook and the library website for details, but it can lead to judicial proceedings and even expulsion from the college.  I check carefully for plagiarism and will take appropriate action in any cases I encounter.  I will give you further guidance on how to properly reference sources when written work is assigned.

Field Trip Photographs

Laboratory Photographs

Visit Dr. Smith's home page

Visit the Ithaca CollegeBiology home page.

Page maintained and updated by Nancy Pierce and Bruce Smith.
Last updated 8/2007