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Ornithologist in Training: Bird Evolutionary Biology and Systematics (Flex)

Heather Gerth, M.S.
Average rating:5.0Number of reviews:(83)
Flexible schedule. Learn about the science of systematics, methods scientists use to uncover the phylogeny of birds, and what drivers contribute to avian speciation and hybridization. (Biology, Animals, Zoology, Ornithology)

Class experience

US Grade 9 - 12
- Learners will be able to define the vocabulary words systematics, phylogeny, classification, and monophyletic group and use them to describe the methods used in the science of systematics.  
- Learners will be able to describe the principles of natural selection and explain how this process can result in evolutionary change.  
- Learners will be able to describe the process of sexual selection and explain how this process has produced a variety of traits in birds.  
- Learners will be able to describe how reproductive isolation drives speciation.  
- Learners will be able describe 2-3 specific ways that hybridization can influence the evolution of or survival of bird species.  
Heather is a published ecologist who has conducted field ecology research for more than a decade.  She has done research in Costa Rica, Teton Mountain National Park, the Southern Appalachian Mountains, and in the Midwest. Her main research interests are birds and landscape ecology. Heather is also an environmental educator and naturalist with over 20 years of experience teaching students of all ages through nature centers, schools, and Girl Scouts.
Homework Offered
This is a flexible schedule course designed to take 1-2 hours each week. Please see course description for more information about course materials.
1 - 2 hours per week outside of class
Assessments Offered
This course offers both formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments include: - Weekly Pear Deck Lessons with embedded questions that students respond to (instructor will provide individual feedback on student responses) - Weekly assignment that is turned in to the instructor for individual feedback Summative assessments: - Weekly Quiz for students to check their understanding of lesson materials (students may use notes and may submit this quiz as many times as they would like to achieve a higher score, instructor will send correct answers and feedback as needed) - Final Project on the last week of course for students to demonstrate their mastery of the course materials (instructor provides individual feedback and a score for the project using the rubric that students receive when this project is assigned)
Grades Offered
All assignments submitted on time will receive individual feedback from the instructor. Students who wish to receive a grade in this course should notify Heather by the start of week 2. Grades for this course are based on: - 25% = Completion of interactive Pear Deck Lessons (completion/effort) - 25% = Weekly Quiz Scores (quizzes are open book/notes) - 30% = Assignments (completion/effort) - 20% = Final Project Score (guidelines and rubric provided week 6) Grade Scale: A: 93-100% A-: 90-92% B+: 87-89% B: 83-86% B-: 80-82% C+: 77-79% C: 73-76% C-: 70-72% D+: 67-69% D: 63-66% D-: 60-62% F: Below 60%
Optional Course Textbook: This course is a part of the Ornithologist in Training curriculum series.  Most of the courses are organized by topics that are similar to the chapters in The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Handbook of Bird Biology (Third Edition, ISBN# 978-1-118-29105-4).  This text is NOT required for the course; however, some learners may wish to supplement the Ornithologist in Training curriculum series courses with optional textbook reading.  In the Handbook of Bird Biology, Chapter 2 Avian Diversity and Classification, Sections 2.1 and 2.2 as well as Chapter 3 How Birds Evolve corresponds closely with the content of this course.
In addition to the Outschool classroom, this class uses:
This course uses the following external resources: Pear Deck, Google Jamboard, and Google Forms.  Students will be provided with links in the Outschool Classroom to access relevant resources each week.  Students will not need to create any accounts to access these resources, but are expected to provide their first name only in their responses so that the instructor can review these responses and provide each student with individual feedback in a private message through Outschool communications. 
Lovette IJ and Fitzpatrick JW. 2016. Handbook of Bird Biology, Third Edition. Wiley & Sons, Inc.  Hoboken, NJ.
Average rating:5.0Number of reviews:(83)
I am passionate about ecology, birds, and getting students outside observing and studying the natural world! I am a scientist with 15+ years of experience in field ecology research and publications in peer-reviewed ecology journals.  I've... 
Flex Class


for 6 weeks
6 weeks

Completed by 12 learners
No live video meetings
Ages: 13-18

This class is no longer offered
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