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Due date

The essay must be handed BY THE END OF TERM, i.e. Wed 19 March 2008, by 4:00pm, to the BIOL2008 (B243) tutorial box in the THIRD FLOOR OFFICE in WOLFSON HOUSE. NOTE: the building will be closed for Easter from that evening, so you will not be able to get it in late.


Write an essay on one of the following topics:

Sexual selection in plants
Reproductive isolation in plants
Mate guarding
Ecological genetics in land snails
Using variation in gene frequencies to measure population structure
Direct methods for measuring dispersal
Thermal ecology and genetics
Evolution of eusociality in haplodiploids: ecology and genetics

These topics are all relevant to the field course.


It is worth checking out general aspects of your topic first in one of the recommended course books for BIOL2007.  A list of more specialized references will be available HERE . These references are only a small introduction to what are often large subjects. Feel free to concentrate on specific aspects of a problem, and we do not discourage the use of additional references.

Detailed instructions

The essay should be a maximum of 3000 words, although length is not so important as proper planning, attention to presentation, grammar and spelling, and division into sensibly structured parts.

You should make up your own title. We are interested in creative (although to-the-point!) overviews of a field.  The essays should consist minimally of: (1) an introduction outlining the problem discussed and the aims of the essay, (2) a detailed central section explaining evidence for or against the thesis expounded, (3) a set of conclusions, (4) literature citations such as you would find in a scientific paper. Remember to write your NAME and the COURSE NUMBER (BIOL2007 or B243) on the front page.

Please do not regurgitate material directly from the references. [If the wording is VERY similar to the references, or to some other perhaps internet source, this will be considered plagiarism].

Imagine you are writing a review article for the Trends in Ecology and Evolution or Nature: develop a theme, say a question or hypothesis to be tested around which to hang your (soon to be) impressive knowledge of the literature. Then make a plan. Finally, flesh your plan out with writing.

References: cite references in an approved style using, e.g. "(Bloggs, 1969)", and give either an alphabetised or numbered (in order of citation) list of references (but only those you have actually READ!) at the end.  [e.g. Bloggs, DA. 1969.  Mate guarding in the common coot.  Nature 365: 48-52.]  Internet sites are rarely acceptable as references, as they may contain unrefereed material, or just plain rubbish.  Wikipedia tends to be better, but as anyone can alter it, it's very variable, and its best to make sure with real scientific publications. Only scientific journals or scientific books are sensible reference material for a 2nd year scientific essay.

Figures: if you want to include figures, I suggest you don't simply copy out figures from references.  Redraw them, and cite the source (this is what you would have to do if you were writing fro Trends in Ecology and Evolution).

Organism names: you may as well learn how to cite them now! I feel common names should be cited uncapitalised, unless a proper name is included: for example, Idaho ground squirrel, black-winged damselfly.  [However, international bird and butterfly guides tend to capitalize common names of species, such as the Wren, the Common Crow, the Small Tortoiseshell, etc.]. Scientific names consist of italicised (or underlined) genus (always capitalized), species and sometimes subspecies (never capitalized), and optionally unitalicised (but always capitalized) order and family name to indicate where the organism belongs.  As an example: Gerris remigis (Heteroptera: Gerridae).  Sometimes the author of the species name is cited (you do not need to do this here); the author is placed in brackets if the species was described in a genus different to the current one.  For example Heliconius erato (Linn.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) -- "Linn." or "L." is short for Linnaeus, who originally described this South American butterfly as "Papilio erato".

By all means discuss the topics with us or with your BIOL2007 tutor.

Late essays: should still be handed in before the course departure, but due to draconian departmental rules on marking coursework, late work will be given a maximum of the pass mark (35%) for this part of the course. This essay is worth 33% of the total, so this means you will only get a maximum of 11.5% for this part.

If you have not handed in your essay before departure for Spain, you will get 0%, and you will be INCOMPLETE for the course.

This essay will carry 33% of the marks for the course.

If there are any problems, drop me a line,

Have fun, and see you at the first meeting!  It is very important to attend, since there will be important safety information, and information about travel.

Jim Mallet

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