Principles and Methods of Systematic Biology (EEB 5347)

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2009 Class on top of the AMNH
2011 Class on top of the AMNH

Fall 2013

Lecture MW 9:05-10:35, Lab F 9:05-10:35

Instructor: Dr. David L. Wagner, TLS Rm 471
Phone: 486-2139
office hours as available
email: david.wagner'at'

Graduate Teaching Assistant: Russ Meister
Office hours: BioPharm 323 TBD
Phone: 486-3947
email: russell.meister'at'

Textbook and readings

There is no assigned text. Generally you can expect one or two readings to be assigned for each lecture. Many readings will be available as pdfs, downloadable from the course website. Others, available in hard copy only, will be on reserve in the departmental office (TLS 312) in the filing cabinet next to the window. You are free to check out copy #2 for 3 hours; copy #1 should stay in the office, i.e., so one is always there for others to photocopy.

Schedule (Will be updated soon)

Day Topics Reading/Assignment Lab
Aug 26 Organizational meeting; an introduction to biological systematics
Lecture instead of lab this week
Aug 28 The many roles of biological systematics
Aug 30 Species definitions & species intermediacy & collections tour
Sept 2 Labor Day, No class Babbidge Library resources; taxonomic literature Meet in Babbidge library electronic classroom 1 (EC1) on level 1, to the left and behind Info Cafe 1 (
Sept 4 Species definitions & species intermediacy
Sept 6 Lab, Meet in library Room EC1 Meet in library
Sept 9 Species definitions & species intermediacy; variation within species Taxonomic resources: key websites, taxonomy exercise assigned (Meet in McCarthy Room, 4th floor TLS)
Sept 11 Subspecies and geographic variation
Sept 13 lab lab
Sept 16 Variation within a genotype: ontogeny & phenotypic plasticity Lab: Alpha taxonomy: finding taxonomic characters & keys; descriptions and diagnoses; introduction to Mesquite’s alpha taxonomic features (Meet in McCarthy Room, 4th floor TLS)
Sept 18 Supraspecific taxa
Sept 20 lab lab
Sept 23 Phylogenetic inference: mostly a historical overview Describing and diagnosing species; specimen/museumdatabases DELTA, MANTIS & other taxonomic computer tools Lab: NYC field trip (Meet in McCarthy Room, 4th floor TLS)
Sept 25 Phylogenetic inference: mostly a historical overview
Sept 27 lab lab
Sept 30 Trees and characters; types of dendrograms;
rooting and polarization
Lab: Mesquite II (Meet in McCarthy Room, 4th floor TLS)
Oct 2 Taxonomic characters: polarity, outgroups, order, weighting, and step matrices
Oct 4 lab lab
Oct 7 Distance methods, UPGMA, neighbor-joining, correcting distance data, multivariate methods Lab: Neighbor-joining and corrected distances; PAUP* (introduction) (Meet in McCarthy Room, 4th floor TLS)
Oct 9 Parsimony; search algorithms; algorithmic power, accuracy, and inconsistency
Oct 11 lab lab
Oct 14 Midterm exam Parsimony with PAUP (Meet in McCarthy Room, 4th floor TLS)
Oct 16 Midterm Review
Oct 18 lab lab
Oct 21 lab lab Lab: PAUP*: tree searches; tree statistics
(Meet in McCarthy Room, 4th floor TLS)
Oct 23 Reliability and measures of tree support
Oct 25 No Lab/AMNH & Bronx Zoo Trip
Oct 28 lab lab Lab: Likelihood (Garli and/or RAxML) and Bayesian analyses (Meet in McCarthy Room, 4th floor TLS)
Oct 30 Maximum likelihood (Lewis Guest Lecture)
Nov 1 Bayesian inference (Lewis Guest Lecture)
Nov 4 Data partitions; consensus; comparing trees Lab: PAUP*: ModelTest; molecular clocks; AIC et al. (Meet in McCarthy Room, 4th floor TLS)
Nov 6 Molecular systematics in plants (Les Guest Lecture)
Nov 8 lab lab
Nov 11 Molecular systematics in animals (Simon Guest Lecture) COI Barcoding and analyzing your own data sets (Meet in McCarthy Room, 4th floor TLS)
Nov 13 lab lab
Nov 15 DNA barcoding
Nov 18 Nomenclature Lab: Mesquite; character optimization; character correlation (Meet in McCarthy Room, 4th floor TLS)
Nov 20 Nomenclature; Phylocode
Nov 22 Lab Lab
Nov 25 Thanksgiving Recess Thanksgiving Recess, Do NOT meet in McCarthy Room
Nov 27 Thanksgiving Recess
Nov 29 Thanksgiving Recess
Dec 2 Special topic: Phylogenetic trees & evolutionary processes No lab this week DO NOT Meet in McCarthy Room
Dec 4 Special topic: Taxonomic collections
Dec 6 Special topic: Systematics and conservation biology and the future of biological systematics
Dec 14 Final: 8-11 AM

Supplementary Reading

Topics Additional Reading
Species as ranked taxa and species concepts Pdficon small.gifApplication of Evolutionary Species concept.pdf Pdficon small.gifSpecies concept for prokaryotes.pdf Pdficon small.gifIs the BSC showing its age?.pdf
Pdficon small.gifImportance of stating species concept for conservation purposes.pdf Pdficon small.gifImpact of species concepts on biodiversity studies.pdf
Pdficon small.gifThe need for specifying species concepts.pdfPdficon small.gifOn the failure of modern species concepts.pdf Pdficon small.gifSpecies as ranked taxa.pdf

Pdficon small.gifDoes the choice of species concept result in an increase in bird species?.pdf Pdficon small.gifMethod for delimiting Cohesion speceis.pdf

DNA Barcodes Pdficon small.gifElias et al. 2007.pdf
Pdficon small.gifJanzen et al 2005.pdf
Pdficon small.gifTen Reasons For Barcoding.pdf
Pdficon small.gifWill & Rubinoff 2004.pdf
Pdficon small.gifHebert and Gregory 2005.pdf
Pdficon small.gifMoritz and Cicero 2004.pdf
Pdficon small.gifHebert et al.2003.pdf
Pdficon small.gifPLoS_Birds_Hebert et al. 2004.pdf


Lab and take home exercises 20% 200 pts
Midterm 20% 200 pts
Term paper 22% 220 pts
Nomenclature exercise 1% 10 pts
Participation 2% 20 pts
Final 35% 350 pts
Total 100% 1000 pts

Term paper

Each student will be required to prepare a paper that will be due on December 2nd. Styles that have been adopted in the past include (1) a literature review that could be incorporated into a thesis chapter or (2) an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant proposal. Another angle would be to (3) review a subject relevant to systematic theory or methodology. If you are considering the DDIG option this year's Dissertation Improvement Grants will be due on October 10th, 2013. Visit htm

Funding sources for taxonomy and biodiversity

Here is a comprehensive guide to potential funding sources for taxonomy and biodiversity studies. It was created in 2010, so most sources are up to date.
Pdficon small.gifFunding for biodiversity and taxonomy 2010.pdf

Important dates (To be updated soon)

7 October, 2011: conference; topic selection
17 October, 2011: midterm
21 October, 2011: outline with 5+ references
18 November, 2011: first draft due
2 December, 2011: paper due