Biodiversity

The study of biological diversity is of interest to biologists of all stripes, especially those belonging to the three sub-disciplines that make up the Department of Integrative Biology – physiology, ecology, and evolution. The most fundamental benefit of the study of Biodiversity is to provide information about the current state of life on Earth so that we can do a better job of detecting and protecting species at risk of extinction. It is estimated that the rate of human-induced extinction is currently two to three orders of magnitude higher than background rates. We can’t protect what we don’t know exists and, therefore, one of the primary goals of Biodiversity research is to catalogue all of the species on Earth. Ours is not the first generation to have such a lofty goal; taxonomists have strived to achieve this for centuries, but only recently have the molecular and computational tools become available to put this goal within reach. The Biodiversity Institute of Ontario is at the forefront of what is now a global effort and has developed some of the tools (including most importantly, DNA barcoding) that are being used to describe the staggering diversity of life on Earth.

Understanding patterns of diversity requires knowledge of the function, evolution, and ecology of organisms, which makes the major in Biodiversity an interdisciplinary endeavour that is especially well suited to the Department of Integrative Biology. This program will benefit Ontario, Canada, and the world by training graduates who can enter the growing field of Biodiversity Science and associated industries and government agencies, and contribute to global efforts to understand and protect life on Earth. The value of this major to humanity is underscored by the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), of which Canada is a signatory. CBD is a legal commitment to 1) protection and conservation 2) sustainable use and 3) fair & equitable distribution of benefits of genetic resources.

One of the values that we adhered to while developing this major was flexibility, the result of which is a program with ample space for electives. Students in this major will enjoy a capstone experience, which will be offered as two consecutive courses (in semesters 6 and 7, 0.5 and 1.0 credits respectively), called Interpreting Biodiversity I/II. These courses are somewhat unique in that they are built upon a Service Learning model in which the class as a whole works on a single research project.

Further information about the College of Biological Science can be found at: http://www.uoguelph.ca/cbs

Information regarding research and faculty involved in the Biodiversity major can be found at: http://www.uoguelph.ca/ib/

A complete listing of all courses required for this major can be found in the Schedule of Studies located in the Undergraduate Calendar.