Undergraduate Program

We offer all undergraduates an opportunity to become familiar with the plants and animals around them as well as learn how they interact and evolve.

What is Ecology and Evolutionary Biology?

The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) is one of five affiliated departments in Biology and Medicine at Brown. The other four are: Molecular and Cell Biology and Biochemistry (MCB), Molecular Microbiology and Immunology (MMI), Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology (MPPB), and Neuroscience (NS). All operate collaboratively within a Program in Biology. Rather than offering specialty degrees in each department, the Program in Biology offers A. B. and Sc. B. degrees in Biology.

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology spans the gamut of biological organization from molecules and cells to communities and ecosystems. Thus we provide a broad and holistic perspective of the biological sciences. Our faculty and students study molecular evolution, plant and animal populations, community and ecosystem ecology, animal behavior, functional morphology, paleoecology, physiology, phylogenetics, and genetics. However, our interests all converge around a common thread: the evolutionary paradigm. One of the preeminent scientists of the twentieth century, Theodosius Dobzhansky, noted that, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

We firmly believe that it is imperative for students with interests in ecology and evolutionary biology to obtain a broad view of biology, in order to place our own field in an appropriate context.

What relevance is Ecology & Evolutionary Biology to:

...the Biology curriculum?

First and foremost we see ourselves as contributing to the curriculum in biology as a whole. Whether our courses are part of broadening someone's training in biology or a focus of their concentration, we offer perspectives that help a biology concentrator integrate and expand her concentration. This is a relatively easy task since we ourselves are formally integrated into the broader curriculum. We offer classes in three of the concentration areas: cell and molecular biology (genetics), structure and function (comparative morphology), and organismal biology (our main focus). Our faculty are involved in medical education as well as in undergraduate and graduate education. Our research covers both basic and applied problems. The very nature of evolutionary biology makes ours an integrative and holistic curriculum.

Our undergraduate students will normally take either an A. B. or Sc. B. in biology, degrees coordinated by the Program in Biology of the Division of Biology and Medicine. Since ecology and evolutionary biology are subjects that depend on a wide range of expertise from other areas of biology, we feel it important that students avail themselves of these areas as well as ecology and related subjects.

In the Brown tradition, we encourage students to generate individualized programs that uniquely fit their interests and needs. These may differ strikingly with your interests. As in all fields of biology, parts of our subject are becoming progressively more quantitative. We encourage our students to avail themselves of statistics, additional mathematics beyond the required year of calculus, computer science, geology, or chemistry. Obviously neither time nor space is adequate to do justice to all of these important areas. Suffice to say that if your interest is, say, population dynamics (the area concerned with population growth patterns of humans and other organisms) you would be well advised to bolster your mathematical skills. If, on the other hand, you are determined to become a limnologist (someone who studies fresh-water systems), you should expect to pick up extra analytical chemistry.

...the University curriculum?

We are enthusiastic about sharing our expertise with students and offer a number of courses of interest to non-science and non-biology concentrators. Ecology forms a critical part of the expertise required to understand and remedy current environmental concerns. To that end, many of our courses provide important insight into environmental concerns and closely complement environmental studies courses that focus on environmental policy issues. We, along with the Center for Environmental Studies and the Department of Geological Sciences, are the major contributors to environmental science and the Environmental Science concentration at Brown.