We explore ecological and evolutionary patterns in broadest spatial and temporal perspective — “big picture” biology. Our general questions are: What shapes patterns in the ranges and distributions of organisms and in overall biodiversity? How do ecological systems respond to long-term and large-scale changes in environment (glaciation, global climate change, plate tectonics, meteorite impacts and other global catastrophes…)? What are the mechanisms and patterns of macroevolution that explain the odd and fascinating pattterns of organisms on the planet?? How do we study and understand the great trends and patterns of evolutionary history (origin(s) of life, mass extinction…)? What is the current understanding of the peculiar macroevolutionary story of our own lineage? These are arenas where standard experimental approaches have limited applicability; generation and testing of hypotheses call for creativity. We will act as both theorists and explorers, assessing the tools for rigorous study of these questions, while becoming acquainted with the grand history and vast richness of the biological world. Students will work extensively with the primary literature. Appropriate for intermediate and advanced students in biology and earth science.
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