Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Alicia K Wilbur
BIO A 101
Seattle Campus

Human Biological Diversity

Exploration of human biological variation, including skin color, body form, blood groups, genetics, and reproductive strategies. Introduction to the theory of evolution through natural selection. Offered: A.

Class description

In this course, we will explore the myriad ways in which humans vary biologically. We’ll look at historical concepts of “race” and other classification systems, and how these ideas have changed over time. What do anthropologists mean when they say that “there are no races, only clines?” If there are no races, how can forensic anthropologists assign skeletal remains to “racial” groupings? We'll try to answer these questions by starting with an introduction to evolutionary theory and human genetics. Using this biological grounding, we’ll then learn about skin and hair color, body form, blood groups, immune variation, and even disease susceptibility. Along the way, we will assess the benefits and detriments of using any of these traits, singly or in combination, to divide humans into groups.

Student learning goals

Understand historical concepts of "race" and how they are and are not supported scientifically.

Understand and assess the utility of modern-day usage of human biological variation.

Understand human evolution, migrations, and environments and the roles of each of these in shaping human diversity.

List at least 5 ways other than skin color that humans vary, and how these correspond with each other and with skin color.

General method of instruction

Lectures and readings.

Recommended preparation

No prerequisites necessary.

Class assignments and grading

Readings in the course textbook and current scientific publications. No written homework assignments will be made, but pop quizzes will cover lecture and reading materials.

Grades will be assigned on the basis of class participation (= pop quizzes), scheduled quizzes, and exams.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Alicia K Wilbur
Date: 09/26/2011