Evolution of Plant Diversity

Hamilton College, Fall 2020

Course Description: In this course we will explore the amazing diversity of extant plants. We will move backward in evolutionary time; in the first half of the course we will focus on flowering plants, the most diverse group of plants living today, and most likely the group that comes to mind when you think of a "plant." We will then move on to the "naked seed" plants (cycads, Ginkgo, conifers, gnetales), and then transition to discussing vascular, spore-producing plants (ferns, horsetails, lycopsids). We will end with the seemingly modest non-vascular plants (hornworts, liverworts, mosses). As we learn about the fascinating and often overlooked lives of plants, we will focus particularly on the evolutionary relationships among groups and the important characteristics that differentiate these groups from one another, along with fundamental aspects of their ecology that make plant diversity possible. 

This course will also focus on developing your ability to read scientific literature, and write your own pieces for various audiences. Accordingly, even if you don't think you are a "plant person," this course will provide you with skills that are useful in the sciences, and as an informed citizen of earth, more broadly. 

Course Goals

By the end of this course you will be able to:

1) Identify many different groups of non-flowering and flowering plants

2) Describe how they are related to one another, and explain how we know this

3) Productively read, judge, and discuss primary scientific literature

4) Write about science for different audiences

Above all else, I want each of you to leave this course having reflected on your new appreciation for, and understanding of, all of the plants that you walk by every single day. 

Adapted from Simpson, 2019

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