Course Information 2006/2007

PDF file of the "official" course syllabus

[ Where to go for help... ]

BIO150: Organisms in their Environment provides an introduction to the diversity of life, how and why it arose, and the interactions of organisms with each other and with their environment. It is a prerequisite for almost all further life science courses at the University of Toronto. Students enrolled in BIO150 must have previously completed senior-level biology in high school or have received permission from the Course Coordinator.

BIO150 has two lectures per week, one tutorial per week, 12 formal laboratory periods in alternate weeks, and four self-study laboratory exercises. In the first week of classes students should determine when and where their laboratories are held and purchase the course materials from the U of T Bookstore.

Course information is available on the following:

1 - Faculty and staff
2 - Course materials
3 - Lectures (lecture topics, dates, and presentation "slides")
4 - Lecture tutorial
5 - Laboratories (lab schedule)
6 - Laboratory
7 - HelpProblems and Enquiries / BIO150 Office
8 - Counselling
9 - Evaluation (marking scheme)
10 - Tests (dates, content, etc.)
11 - Policy on missing a test
12 - Policy on missing a lab
13- Announcements and BIO150 website
14 - Study Groups
15 - Rewarding Students Excellence and Summer Research Experience Scholarship
16 - Course "Use of Email" Policy
17 - Student Feedback
18 - Lockers/Lounge/Lost and Found

Where can I get help?

1 - Faculty and Staff

Prof. Spencer Barrett, Team Leader
Corey Goldman, Course Coordinator
Shelley McCabe , Laboratory Coordinator


Prof. Spencer Barrett
Prof. Locke Rowe
Prof. Robert Jefferies
Prof. Hélène Cyr

Office Staff

Ulla Weimann, Course AdministratorRecords
Mike Serafin, BIO150/BIOME Webmaster
Dominic Fenech, Mary Ann Honig, and Marianna Puszynska, Laboratory Technicians

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2 - Course Materials

Lecture Guides and Laboratory Manual: The BIO150 Lectures in Evolutionary Biology guide (2006/07 edition, Profs. Barrett and Rowe) and the Laboratory Manual (2006/07) can be purchased from the U of T Bookstore (214 College St.) for $49.50. The Lectures in Ecology guide (Profs. Cyr and Jefferies) for the winter term will be on sale in December. These materials contain all of the required reading for the course. Materials from previous years are not suitable.

Background Reading: You are not required to buy a textbook for BIO150. However, since students entering the course have varied backgrounds in biology, some stronger and some weaker, we have selected a book to recommend should you wish to purchase a reference textbook in biology. If you plan to continue in the life sciences, owning a reference textbook in biology is a very good idea. For those students who chose to purchase this textbook, the lectures and labs in BIO150 will refer you to background reading in the textbook. However, no test questions will be derived directly from the textbook. The reference textbook we recommended is BIOLOGY (7th edition) by Peter Raven and colleagues, published by McGraw-Hill. This textbook is available from the U of T Bookstore (214 College St.) for $98.00.
Note: A limited number of copies are also available for short-term loan from the BIO150 Office.

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3 - Lectures (lecture topics, dates, and presentation "slides")

Day lectures: Monday and Wednesday mornings (L0101), beginning at 10:10, ending at 11:00. Evening lectures: Mondays (L5101) from 6:10 to 8:00 p.m. Both day and evening lectures are held in Convocation (Con) Hall. The Monday and Wednesday day lectures are presented together on Monday evening. Taping lectures with a personal cassette recorder is permitted.

The University is closed on Monday, Oct. 9 (for Thanksgiving), and thus there will not be lectures on this day. Note that there will be a special guest lecture on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 10:10-11:00 by Prof. Brian Silliman a renowned community ecologist from the University of Florida who works in marine systems.

Taping lectures with a personal recorder is permitted; however if you choose to place your recorder at the stage, please do so with caution as in the past some recorders have gone missing after class.

Note: Due to fall convocation, the evening lecture (6:10 to 8:00) and tutorial (8:00 to 9:00) on Monday, Nov. 13 will be held in the UTS Auditorium (Faculty of Education, FE 114), 371 Bloor Street West (southwest corner of Huron and Bloor Streets, west of St. George). Go to campus map.

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4 - Lecture Tutorials

You have the opportunity to ask your professors questions in weekly tutorials every Monday 8:10 to 9:00 p.m. and Wednesday 5:10 to 6:00 p.m. Both sessions are in Con Hall. We consider it essential that you keep either the Monday or Wednesday tutorial time available, as these may be the only opportunity you have to ask the lecturers questions. Attendance at tutorials is optional. You can attend either the Monday or Wednesday tutorial, or both. There will be a lecture tutorial on Wednesday, Sept. 13 (the first week of classes).

Note: (1) There will be no tutorial on Wednesday, Oct. 11. (2) The tutorial on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 5:10 to 6:00 p.m. will not be in Con Hall, but will move (for this day only) to the Medical Sciences Building (MS) room 3154 (1 King's College Circle). Go to campus map.

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5 - Laboratories
Lab schedule: Week 1 | Week 2

Your labs in BIO150 are given in alternate weeks and are held on the first floor (street level) of the Ramsay Wright Zoological Laboratories (RW), on the s.w. corner of Harbord and St. George (25 Harbord St.). A lab schedule is provided on pages ix and x in your Laboratory Manual.

Week 1 labs (P--01) begin the weeks of Sept. 18 (fall) and Jan. 8 (spring)

Week 2 labs (P--02) begin the weeks of Sept. 25 (fall) and Jan. 15 (spring)

Note: If your lab section is P0101 (= Week 1 Monday) your lab on Monday, Oct. 9 (Thanksgiving), from 1:30-4:30 p.m., will be rescheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 10, from 6:00–9:00 p.m. (same lab room, same TA).

Beginning Saturday, Sept. 16, check this website to determine what time, day, week, and lab room you have been assigned to; a printed list will also be posted next to RW 013 in the basement of Ramsay Wright.

Lab Section Additions/Changes: Lab changes: All lab sections are full. If it is imperative that you change your lab section you can make a request to BIO150’s Ulla Weimann; a change will only be possible if another student requests to move out of the lab section you requested. Please make your “permanent lab change request” via this website, click here.

Preparation for Lab 1: Read pages v to xii and Chapters 1 in the BIO150 Laboratory Manual. (A lab notebook, such as that required for chemistry and physics, is not required for BIO150. Do not purchase a lab coat specifically for BIO150.)

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6 - Laboratory Help

Academic help on lab material is available: (1) from your laboratory instructor during regularly scheduled labs, (2) from Shelley McCabe during her office hours, or (3) via email, or (4) from your fellow students, via the course Message Board.

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7 - Problems and Enquiries / BIO150 Office
For all course administrative matters, for example if you miss a test or lab, please contact Ulla Weimann in the BIO150 Office. The office is located in the basement of the Ramsay Wright Zoological Laboratories (room 019), on the s.w. corner of Harbord and St. George (25 Harbord St.). The office is open Monday and Wednesday 11:00–12:00 noon and Monday to Thursday 1:00–2:00 p.m. Email:

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8 - Counselling

The Course Coordinator is available for personal counselling on matters relating to BIO150 (e.g., academic performance in BIO150, or requests for special consideration due to illness or other exceptional circumstances). Call 416-978-7163 or email to make an appointment. For help with lecture content, attend the weekly lecture tutorials/help sessions, or speak with the lecturer immediately before or after class. For general counselling, see your college registrar.

The Counselling and Learning Skills Service (in the Koffler Centre, 214 College St.) provides professional counselling services and workshops for U of T students (e.g., learning skills, stress management, exam preparation, personal counselling, sexual assault counselling) and operates the Learning Skills Drop-In Centre and Resource Library, which gives students immediate access to counsellors who can help develop reading and writing strategies, design better time management systems, and write more effective class notes, among other skills. For more information: 978-7970 or

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9 - Evaluation

Students will be evaluated on their understanding of course content by way of tests and lab work. Approximately 70% of the final grade will be based on lecture material and 30% on laboratory material. NOTE: You must obtain an average of 50% on the laboratory material (lab material on Tests 2 and 4 and the "other lab work") in order to pass the course.

Other Lab Work: 12% (quizzes 6.8%, library assignment 1%, ethics report and presentation 3.8%, participation 0.4%)

Test 1: 16% (lecture material only)

Test 2: 26% (17% lecture + 9% lab material)

Test 3: 23% (lecture material only)

Test 4: 23% (14% lecture + 9% lab material)

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10 - Tests

Test Duration Date and time* Material tested
Lecture # Lab Chapter
1 75 min Thursday, Nov. 2, 6:00–7:15 p.m. 1 to 11 ­
2 2 hrs Faculty Exam Period: Dec. 11–22 12 to 23 1-6, 12, 13
3 2 hrs Tuesday, Mar. 13, 6:00–8:00 p.m. 24 to 39 ­
4 2 hrs Faculty Exam Period: Apr. 22–May 11 40 to 49 7-10, 13 (again), 15
* Locations where tests will be written will be posted on the Course Announcement page prior to each test. The Faculty examination timetables are available on Fri., Oct. 20, 2006, and Fri., Feb. 16, 2007.

Test Format: Lecture and laboratory material will be tested by computer-graded multiple-choice questions. Marks are not deducted for incorrect responses. Students must bring their University student identification card and an HB pencil to all tests.

Previous year's tests: Tests from previous years are available online to give students an idea of the style of test questions that can be expected. Since the course content changes from year to year, students should not expect to be able to answer all of these questions.

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11 - Policy on Missing a Test

Students who miss Test 1, 2, or 3 must contact the BIO150 Office on the day immediately after the test if they wish to be scheduled to write a make-up test at a later date; make-up tests consist of short-answer questions. These students must complete a written request for special consideration explaining the reason for missing the test, and attaching appropriate documentation, such as a medical certificate or a letter from your college registrar. If a student misses a make-up test, s/he must discuss the situation with the Course Coordinator on the day that the test was to have been written; no student is entitled to write a second make-up test. Students who miss Test 4 in the Faculty examination period must petition to the Faculty of Arts and Science. Note: Medical certificates must confirm a students inability to attend a test and the dates of the illness, and must show the physician was consulted at the time of the illness. Medical certificates will be verified by the BIO150 Office.

Test Conflict with a Scheduled Class:
If you have a scheduled class at a time when either Test 1 or 3 is being written your class takes precedence (i.e., attend your lecture and write the early test sitting). Contact the BIO150 Office no later than one week prior to the test date to arrange to write the early sitting; this will be on the day of the test immediately before the regular sitting is scheduled to begin. You must provide a copy of your timetable as proof of the conflict.

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12 - Policy on Missing a Lab
: If you miss your scheduled lab period for an authorized reason (e.g., illlness), come to the BIO150 Office during office hours to find out if space is available to arrange to attend a lab at another time during the two-week period when each exercise is offered. Documentation authorizing your absence (e.g., medical note or registrar’s letter) must be presented to the BIO150 Office only if you are unable to attend a lab at another time and are requesting to be given special consideration. Students who do not produce written documentation will lose the value of any quiz that took place during their absence.

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13 - Announcements and Course Websites

All course announcements (e.g., test locations, dates when marks will be posted) will be posted on the Course Announcement page. Check this page at least once a week.

In addition to announcements, this website includes previous year's tests, "tips" from successful students, an online version of this syllabus, previous year's tests, "tips" from successful students, and a link to the BIOME "Year 1" Message Board, which provides you with forums to communicate with your fellow students about issues relating to BIO150 and your other courses.

The popular BIOME website is "the meeting place for students in the life sciences at U of T," containing links to important resources of relevance to students in the life sciences (helping students navigate more directly to useful information), as well as providing discussion forums structured to meet the needs of each cohort of students (year 1, year 2, etc.). Over 600,000 messages were posted in 160 forums last year.

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14 - Study Groups

Your learning can be enhanced by getting together with fellow students to review course material, clarify concepts, and prepare for tests. Becoming a member of a study group of 4 to 6 students can also be a great way to motivate you to study on a regular basis and to meet new friends. Guide to a Successful Study Group is available on BIOME and includes suggestions on how to form a study group, what to do at the first and subsequent meetings, and locations where to meet on campus with your study group. Because it can often be difficult finding other students who can join a study group when you have the available time, visit the Study Groups forum on the BIOME 1 message board to connect with other interested students.

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15 - Rewarding Student Excellence

We are eager to promote and reward academic excellence among our students. At the completion of the course, students with a grade of A+ will receive a certificate which acknowledges their outstanding achievement. In addition, the top student will receive a prize of $250 (which has been donated by a professional association).

Summer Research Experience Scholarship

BIO150 received the University of Toronto's prestigious Northrop Frye Award in recognition of the course's "distinguished achievements in linking teaching and research." The money received with the award has been used to create an endowment for the Northrop Frye-Biology 150 Summer Research Experience Scholarship. The value of the 2005 scholarship was about $5,000. The purpose of this scholarship is to enable an outstanding student in BIO150 to spend up to four months in the laboratory of a faculty member working in the disciplines of evolution, ecology, or behaviour. Application information will be available from the course website in January 2007. The fifth annual scholarship will be awarded in the spring of 2007. Information about 2006 scholarship. Read about past scholarship recipients.

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16 - Course "Use of Email" Policy

Course “Use of Email” Policy: Much to our regret, but due to the large class size, it is not possible for the lecturers to respond to email; please do not send email to the lecture professors. For help with lecture material please attend the weekly lecture tutorials/help sessions, or speak with the lecturer immediately before or after class. The staff in the BIO150 Office would be pleased to use email to respond to your administrative queries about the course; when sending mail about BIO150 please be certain that your Subject: line includes “BIO150” and identifies what your query is about (e.g., “BIO150: ill for Lab 2”).

We strongly encourage all students to set up a U of T e-mail (UTORmail) account (see; you can easily autoforward mail from this account to the e-mail account that you use regularly.

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17 - Student Feedback

We welcome your comments and opinions throughout the course; please send mail to or We will also ask for your comments several times throughout the year in evaluations which will be conducted in your labs.

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18 - Lockers/Lounge/Lost and Found

Lockers are available for use in the Ramsay Wright building from Sept. 15, 2006 to August 15, 2007. You must remove your lock and locker contents no later than August 15. After August 15 all remaining locks and contents will be removed. A student lounge is located in the basement of Ramsay Wright near room RW 013; you may find this a convenient place to study or meet friends. If you lose something in Convocation Hall, contact the Hall manager at 416-978-2100; in a laboratory room or test location, come to the BIO150 Office during office hours or email:

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© 2006 University of Toronto. All rights reserved.
Comments to BIO150 staff.