Bard College at Simon's Rock: the Early College
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Biology Courses

Simon’s Rock has a variety of courses for those interested in the life sciences

Introductory Courses

Introductory courses focus on content and skills that are fundamental to understanding biological systems. Introduction to Biology satisfies the science requirement, is a prerequisite for all 200-level biology classes, and is required for the biology concentration. Students looking to satisfy the science requirement may also wish to consider similar introductory courses offered in Environmental Studies and Natural Sciences, such as Introduction to Environmental Studies, Introduction to Geology, or Forensic Science. While modular classes do not satisfy the science requirement, students interested in learning more about specific and/or applied topics in biology may be interested in Berkshire Butterflies, Apiculture, or Sweet History.

Introduction to Biology

Biology 100 | Snyder | 4 credits

This course provides a comprehensive overview of the fundamental concepts, methods of observation, and major currents of thinking in the life sciences today, laying the groundwork for both the theoretical knowledge and the skills necessary for a deeper understanding of the biological sciences. The three major topics covered are the molecular basis of cellular function, organismal life strategies and evolution, and the flow of matter and energy in the biosphere. Students will also build their observational skills as well as skills in scientific literacy, experimental design, data analysis and scientific writing. Students enrolled in this course must participate in the laboratory, and there is a laboratory fee.

No prerequisites. This course is generally offered every semester.

Field Studies of Berkshire Butterflies

Biology 105m | Snyder | 2 credits

This course is designed to familiarize students with the general biology of lepidopterans (butterflies and moths), including aspects of their ecology and morphology. Field trips will expose students to butterflies and moths found in the Berkshires and by the end of the course students will be able to identify local species. Students will also learn how to preserve butterflies for scientific collections by spreading and pinning specimens and will collect new specimens to be deposited in the Simon's Rock Natural History Collection. Throughout the course, students will keep a field notebook in which they will record observations made in the field.

No prerequisites. This course is generally offered once every two years in the fall.

Intermediate Courses

Intermediate courses provide students with more specialized content and skills in three general areas of biological knowledge: Cell & Molecular Biology, Organismal Biology, and Ecology.  These courses build on and reinforce the theoretical foundations and skills introduced in Introduction to Biology, such as scientific literacy, observation, experimental design, data analysis and scientific writing.  Students concentrating in Biology must take at least two ‘core’ intermediate level courses (lecture and lab), each from a different “Area.”

Area A: Cellular and Molecular Biology

All life on Earth is surprisingly similar in the structure and composition of its cells. The single Area A courses explores the boundary between chemistry, physics and biology, providing a solid foundation to understanding the molecular machinery and functions common to all organisms and their adaptations to specific environments.

Cellular and Molecular Biology

Biology 201 | Smith | 4 credits

The fundamental unit of all life is the cell. Understanding how cells function, gain and consume energy, and build new biomolecules is essential to understanding how biology works on a higher level. Cellular and Molecular Biology introduces the chemical and molecular basis of cells, focusing on energy production, central carbon metabolism, and the processes that make up the Central Dogma of Biology. These processes include DNA replication, transcription, and translation. Protein synthesis, trafficking of packaged molecules, and cellular signaling are also specific topics covered in this course. In the laboratory, students will explore topics related to course content using the tools and techniques of molecular biology while also practicing experimental design, data analysis, and scientific writing.

Prerequisites: Biology 100 and one semester of college-level chemistry, or permission of the instructor. This course is generally offered once a year (in the Spring).


Biology 219 | Smith | 3 credits

This comprehensive astrobiology course will take you from the beginning of time until present day and leave you considering the future of life in the Universe. Everything you ever wanted to know about why we are here, where we come from, and where we are headed begins here. We will discuss the origin and evolution of life on Earth, what caused mass extinctions, the importance and function of membranes, and what role energy flow and thermodynamics play at the cellular and ecosystem level. We will cover the different ways life can access and transform carbon and energy in various environments, with particular focus on "extreme" life. Past, present, and future missions to search for signs of life in our solar system will also be covered. This course will give you a deeper understanding of the puzzle that is life in the Universe and whether life could exist elsewhere in our Solar System.

Prerequisites: Biology 100. This course is generally offered every other year (in the Fall). This course has no lab.

Area B: Organismal Biology

While Area A focuses on the molecular mechanisms of life, these processes are occurring within a larger context, that of the whole organism. Courses in Area B focus on the study of structure, function, ecology, and evolution at the level of the organism, linking biology at a very “small” scale (molecules and cells) to that at a very “large” scale (ecology and evolution).

General Botany

Biology 200 | McClelland | 4 credits

This course is an introduction to the plant kingdom, emphasizing major evolutionary trends and the relationship between form and function in plants. Elements of economic botany, plant ecology, physiology, and ecology are incorporated.

 Prerequisite: Biology 100. This course is generally offered once a year (in the Fall).


Biology 207 | McClelland | 4 credits

Mycology is the study of the kingdom Fungi. To many people, fungi are mysterious and paradoxical organisms. Mushrooms seem to materialize overnight, and some are rare delicacies while others are deadly. In this course, we will explore the fungal kingdom and discover that from zombie ants to glow-in-the-dark mushrooms, fungi are fascinating. This course consists of two major components, a broad overview of fungal biology and an examination of the influence of fungi on human society. We will examine the diversity of major fungal groups including the rusts, smuts, yeasts, molds, ascomycetes, and basidiomycetes, and we will learn about the ecological importance of fungi as decomposers, parasites, and symbionts. Humans use fungi to leaven bread, to ferment sugar into alcohol, for religious ceremonies, and as medicine. We will explore these important practices and the science behind them in order to understand how fungi have helped shape human history. This course will be supplemented by laboratory exercises including collection and identification of macrofungi and cultivation of edible mushrooms.

Prerequisites: Biology 100. This course is generally offered every other year (in the Fall).

Animal Physiology

Biology 276 | Snyder | 4 credits

This course explores the study of animal form and function from a physiological perspective. Humans and other animals will be used as models to compare physiological processes across the animal kingdom. We will explore how animals function by investigating homeostatic mechanisms. Topics discussed will include the digestive system, energetics, the nervous system, muscle activity, gas exchange and material transport, water balance and the excretory system, the endocrine system, and reproduction.

Prerequisites: Biology 100. This course is generally offered once a year (in the Spring).

Area C: Ecology

Area C courses explore how organisms interact with each other and their physical environment to understand large-scale patterns and phenomena observed in the natural world. These courses put the organisms explored in Area B courses into a broader context. Courses investigate how relationships among organisms change over time and how humans impact ecosystems.

Marine Biology

Biology 223 | Smith | 3 credits

This course will introduce you to the concepts of marine biology as well as the tools of scientific investigation. We will begin with an introduction to oceanography and biology, and then continue with a more detailed description of groups of marine organisms. We will then discuss the biology and ecology of different marine habitats (salt marshes, coral reefs, deep sea, etc). Finally, we will cover human interaction with and impact on the marine ecosystem.

Prerequisite: Biology 100 or Environmental Studies 100. This course is generally offered once every two years (in fall).

Life in Extreme Environments

Biology 227/317 | Smith | 3/4 credits

This course explores extreme environments like Yellowstone Hot Springs, hydrothermal vents, the International Space Station, and the deep subsurface, and provides a solid foundation of biological principles that are tested in these unique environments. We will cover extreme microbes, fungi, plants, and animals that push the boundaries of life and what adaptations they have acquired in order to live in seemingly the most inhospitable places on this (or other) planet(s).

Prerequisite: Any 200-level Biology course. This course is generally offered once every two years (in Spring).

Non-core Intermediate Courses

The courses listed below focus on specific subjects within biology and have course goals that do not necessarily match those in the description of the “core” courses above. Students may also be interested in intermediate course offerings in environmental studies, natural sciences, geography, or chemistry.

Basic Human Anatomy

Biology 221 | Mechanic-Meyers | 4 credits

This course seeks to examine and understand the structure and basic functions of the human body and its organ systems. We will explore the functional anatomy of the human body through gross examination using computer software, and dissection of a model mammalian organism. We will focus on the skeletal and muscular systems primarily, but will also cover the circulatory, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. We will also investigate disease pathologies affecting normal body function. This course is especially useful for students interested in the health care professions, dancers, athletes or anyone with an interest in gaining a basic understanding of human anatomy. The course involves three hours of lecture and three hours of lab per week. Some independent labwork may be required.

Prerequisite Biology 100 or equivalent. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Advanced Courses

Advanced courses build on knowledge and skills gained in intermediate courses and require students to design and conduct experiments and/or read and discuss primary research articles. Each 300-level course has at least one 200-level course as a prerequisite. Students may also be interested in advanced course offerings in environmental studies, natural sciences, geography, or chemistry.


Biology 301 | Mechanic-Meyers | 4 credits

This is primarily a laboratory course designed to give students a working knowledge of techniques currently used in recombinant DNA technology. Laboratory exercises will include investigating nucleosome structure, restriction endonuclease mapping, sequence analysis, DNA hybridization, PCR, and a semester long cloning project. In addition, the current literature in this dynamic field will be reviewed with emphasis on analyzing research methods. This course will equip students to undertake more complex laboratory projects in molecular biology and will prepare them for advanced or graduate study in the field. The course involves one hour of lecture and four hours of lab per week.

Prerequisites: Biology 201, Chemistry 100 or higher. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Introduction to Bioinformatics

Biology 303 | Coote | 4 credits

This course follows the current offering of Bio 201 (Cellular and Molecular Biology) and is designed to introduce the basic concepts and methods used in Bioinformatics. Starting with a review of basic genetics, the course utilizes published DNA sequences to explore computer based analysis of genetic data, including the various types of programs, models, analysis, and outputs. Specific topics covered include sequence analysis and editing, pairwise and multiple sequence alignment, tree building and network analysis, and statistical modeling (e.g. AMOVAs, and Mantel tests). Topics that students may choose to explore are broad, ranging from conservation biology to global pandemics. At the end of this course students should be able to demonstrate competency in the program applications, research and develop their own dataset, and produce appropriate analyses and outputs.

Prerequisite: At least one 200-level biology course or permission from the instructor. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Animal Behavior

Biology 309 | Snyder | 4 credits

This course, involving both lectures and field experience, takes an ethological approach to animal behavior, examining the physiological, ontogenetic, and evolutionary bases of behavior. Topics include sensory capacities, orientation, motivation, instinct, learning, communication, social behavior, and the evolution of behavior.

Prerequisites: Either (1) Biology 100 and Psychology 100; or (2) any 200-level (or above) course in Biology or Psychology. This course is generally offered once every two years (in the fall).


Biology 310 | McClelland | 4 credits

This course covers the concepts and consequences of organic evolution. Topics include the history of the concept of evolution, nature of variation in species and populations, origin of species, and the process of speciation. Also covered are such topics as the origin and history of life on Earth, theories of evolution such as punctuated equilibrium and nonequilibrium thermodynamics, and phylogenetic methods for reconstructing historical relationships.

Prerequisite: At least one 200-level biology course. This course is generally offered once every two years.


Biology 316 | Mechanic-Meyers | 4 credits

Histology is the study of the microscopic anatomy of cells. This course is designed to prepare students who are interested in careers in the health sciences with a rudimentary working knowledge of the cellular organization of human tissues and organs. This Histology course will primarily emphasize the structural aspects of mammalian cells, tissues, and organs. It will also covers the basic functions of these structures. The laboratory portion of this course provides the student with the opportunity to use the light microscope to study stained and mounted sections of mammalian tissues, which they will prepare. Students will learn how to fix, embed, and section tissue blocks. In addition, we will learn about and use different staining techniques. Active participation in the laboratory part of the course should provide students with a basic, contemporary understanding of the material presented in lecture.

Prerequisite: Biology 201.


Biology 330 | Snyder | 4 credits

This course is designed to provide a general overview of the biology of amphibians and reptiles including aspects of their evolutionary history, taxonomy, anatomy, physiology, ecology, behavior, conservation, and natural history. Students will design and conduct a substantial experiment in lab. Field trips will acquaint students with local species and field techniques.

Prerequisite: At least one 200-level course in Biology. This course is generally offered once every two years (in the fall).


Biology 331 | Smith | 4 credits

An examination of the fundamentals of nervous system function, this course begins with the cell biology of neurons, and expands into an exploration of how nerves function as part of larger neural circuits. We discuss sensory systems for vision, pain, taste, sound, and balance. We also discuss the integration of nerve inputs in the motor system. Finally, we cover topics of higher brain function, including topics such as emotion, memory, behavior, and language. We explore current literature on important neurobiological topics including neurological damage and disease and neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Prerequisites: Biology 201 and/or Biology 276, or permission of the instructor. This course is generally offered every other year (in the Spring).

Biology Tutorial

Biology 300/400 | Staff | 4 credits

Under these course numbers, juniors and seniors design tutorials to meet their particular interests and programmatic needs. A student should see the prospective tutor to define an area of mutual interest to pursue either individually or in a small group. A student may register for no more than one tutorial in any semester.

Independent Projects in Biology

Biology 300/400 | Staff | 4 credits

Students may arrange independent projects with biology faculty members. Independent projects are often a continuation of work started within a class or align with faculty research interests. Students should consult prospective faculty members about proposed ideas or independent study opportunities.