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Biology Department

About the Course

Note: This page is formatted so as to be also prinbtable as a 'Word' style document for general distribution in paper at the first lecture

A) About this course - objectives, viewpoint, philosophy

Welcome to Comparative Vertebrate Physiology 2013! Unusually, this year the official registrar's course description addresses the above overview issues very nicely. To quote from it directly -

"The course provides a systems focused view of the "function and structure of the major systems of vertebrates considered principally from the perspective of their ability to meet environmental demands."

The overarching goal of the course is for students to gain an understanding of "vertebrate (and representative invertebrate) evolved adaptation strategies including:

i) cellular and metabolic mechanisms;      

ii) systems level mechanisms ;

iii) select populations level mechanisms

iv) adaptation to extreme environments (high altitude, deep sea, flight demands, etc.)."

The methods by which we work toward these goals and viewpoint(s) are mainly via interactive lectures but "while the course has no scheduled lab, at least several 'lectures' are planned to be held in whole class participatory lab-like activities and space."

The crucial place to look at for the most up-to-date source on this course is the course web site* itself part of which (The About the course section) you are reading right now .


And since "this is a lecture-only version of BI244", the most crucial and central part of that web site is Lectures page itself.

B) Lecture topics and associated Readings


1) Required Materials-

2) Location and nature of the reading assignments

Reading - Location - all readings can be found on the most current version of the web site Lecture page  [a.k.a. Outline of Lecture Topics] . You have in your hand the version of that page as of 22 Jan., 2012 (see immediately below for more).

 Sample Image

Above: Sample view of the Lectures web page [made on 31 Dec.]



- Primary readings (i.e. required or central to an aspect of that topic) (see column 3) are drawn from the text (SN),

[here pages 5-20, Appendix B(418-19) and 284-287], sometimes from other texts (see H & W and its link) and from other sources. They are listed above in the Primary Reading column. Be alert for changes in the primary readings. Such changes will be listed in the updated version of the web site and announced in class and/or via email.

- Supplementary readings, while not required, in many cases may prove quite helpful or interesting or both [see Supplementary Reading - TBA, last column]. This example above is a link to Carey's original Tuna paper and a link to the popular press article how human eating habits may spell the end of a physiologically marvelous creature.


3) Lecture topics, lecture notes - Lecture [Outline of Lecture Topics] web page

Lecture topics and notes - The centrality of the Lecture [Outline of Lecture Topics] web page to the course.

Note also from our example above that the topic of the lecture and its date of consideration are listed in the first

Full, screen by screen notes, of the completed lecture are mounted for your use as soon as possible after the lecture via an activated [link]. And these final screen by screen notes are the result of an interaction between myself, the Smartboard projection and your own comments and sometimes drawings.

4) The web site is dynamic; that is expect it to change!

Readings may change, topics may shuffle according to our needs and interests, the final version of the lecture has, by definition(!), not yet mounted via a link, sample exams may be posted and more. So get used to using the web site to your advantage; keep up with it.


Reading- a bit more - on the choice of SNas the text.

At first glance SN may seem somewhat dated given its lack, by current standards, of multiple color figures, focus boxes, discussion issues and much more of the ethos and current Weltanschauung of the science textbook world. But I guarantee you that many (perhaps the preponderance) of Comparative Physiology courses offered in the world, and a good number of the Animal Physiology courses, still choose SN as their text.

The text is uniquely valuable in multiple dimensions including clarity of presentation, focus on the systems level (which is where adaptations are tested, in the end!) and, most importantly,

In addition, an impressive portion of the findings presented were determined by the experimental studies of either Knut Schmidt-Nielsen himself and his collaborators or Schmidt-Nielsen's students and their collaborators.

C) Lab-like activities

Lab-like activities - where and when

There is no question in my mind that the hands-on (lab) aspects of the Comparative or Animal Physiology course experience are crucial and utterly valuable. An unfortunate confluence of factors has made it a necessity to offer this version of the course lecture only.

But recall that even the registrar's course description makes an explicit provision for a lab experience  ...

i.e. "While the course has no scheduled lab, at least several 'lectures' are planned to be held in whole class participatory lab-like activities and space".

lab - where?

1) Lab-like activities - where

Such activities will occur in DA lab 316B, which was prepared by myself as a combined Lecture-Demo room in late December. Such classes will contain a perhaps 10 minute lab-type demonstration (or hands on) period as an integral part of that day's lecture topic.

lab - when?

2) Lab-like activities - when

Recall that I have only very recently set up and trouble-shot  Dana Lab 316B explicitly for this purpose. And, I thus far have developed or assembled only a modest prototype number of such lecture-demo combinations. So it is likely you will not yet find these listed on the Lecture web page (I am writing this 31 Dec.).

    1. announcement at the previous class plus posting on the Lecture page - one or better, both as the best option.

    2. posting on the Lecture page of the web site and an email to the class - second best option

    3. email only - this will occur only if the decision is quite late but this scenarion may well occur.

While I apologize for the level of uncertainty, I do think it is worth the lab experience.

Realistically, at the worst, if you show up at DA 240 and see no Comparative Physiology there, simply walk up the stairs to the 3rd floor, turn right as you enter the Biology corridor, walk about 15 steps and you will find Lab DA 316B (it is about the 4th door down on your left). We are roughly across from Josh Ness' office.

Some additional more nuts and bolts issues of the course follow.

D) Electronic mail

The course will have a mail list that will sometimes be employed quite actively [possible email sample exams, change of class meeting to Da Lab 316, more].

E) Web site

Is very central to the course's daily operation. Monitor it.

F) Attendance

Attendance in lecture is required and is usually taken daily via a circulating signature sheet. 'Required' means that one unexcused absence can result in failure and that the only valid official excuse is a signed medical note. Sounds harsh, yes!? If you are a serious Comparative Physio student, don't be afraid; simply read below.

G) Grades 

1) The 3 in-class hour exams have their dates (and much more about them)listed on the Lecture schedule itself. Except for seniors taking exam #3 (if necessary) there are NO early exams. Generally, there are also no late exams allowed either but if you have utterly compelling and justifiable reasons to ask for one be certain to have a conversation with me well-before the exam. "I also have an exam in Xi 3xx that day" is unfortunate for you but not "compelling".

2) Final numerical grades are determined by an average of the 3 examinations and, since there is no independently scheduled lab, there are no other factors weighed in numerically (e.g. lab average). Attendance & sometimes participation are also weighed as additional factors.

3) Final letter grades are determined in the standard manner. e.g. 70.0-71.9 = C- / 72.0-77.9 = C / 78.0-79.9 = C+ / 80.0-81.9 = B- etc. 

There is no extra credit work available to factor into your grade.

H) Preparation for Lecture or demo

The purpose of lecture is not to repeat the reading but to complement it. I work on the assumption that you are reading ahead [-;  of the lecture. Recall that the Lecture page schedule already lists most of your reading assignments for the entire course, Topic by Topic.

I) It is possible that we may still do some student run or active (learning) participation classes, based on pre-handed out data packets and associated orienting text. If so, these will be indicated as Group Presentations (GP) under the lecture Topiccolumn.

J) The web-HUMAN model

Which may be employed in lecture and in demo-lab, is located http://placid.skidmore.edu/academics/

K ) Instructor contact info/office hours

Roy S. Meyers  DA345 ext. 5079 rmeyers@skidmore.edu Office Hrs. - TBA