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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Alicia K Wilbur
BIO A 369
Seattle Campus

Special Issues in Biocultural Anthropology

Exploration and analysis of a specific issue in biocultural anthropology with a focus on critical analysis on methodological approaches and theoretical frameworks.

Class description

This course surveys the myriad ways in which humans and infectious agents have influenced one anotherís evolution, from the beginnings of humanity to the 21st century. We will study host and pathogen co-evolution from a variety of perspectives and based on a range of sources: ancient mummified and skeletal remains, historical and archaeological evidence, modern epidemiological investigations and disease outbreaks, and the emergence of new infectious diseases. Evolutionary theory will be discussed in detail, as will be various models for understanding human disease origins and evolution. Specific infectious diseases covered will include those carried by vectors (malaria, schistosomiasis), bacteria (bubonic plague, leprosy, tuberculosis, syphilis, lyme disease, typhus), viruses (smallpox, influenza, AIDS), and prions. In addition, we will consider human evolution and noninfectious diseases/adverse conditions, including diabetes, obesity, and psychological/ psychiatric disorders.

Student learning goals

List and compare/contrast the evolutionary and epidemiological models that have been set forth for development of human diseases.

Explain how human migration and settlement patterns across the landscape have influenced the evolution of pathogenic microbes and their vectors.

Navigate U.S. Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization websites to find epidemiological and epizootological information.

Read and discuss peer-reviewed journal articles concerning emerging infectious diseases, coevolutionary theory, and epidemics/pandemics.

Understand the types of interspecies interactions and conditions under which these may be altered.

Discuss changes in human settlement, subsistence, and technology patterns across space and time and the ways in which these have influenced human health experiences at population levels.

General method of instruction

The course consists of lectures, homework assignments, and three exams. Homework assignments are constructed to challenge students to navigate websites such as CDC or WHO, and to read journal publications and glean pertinent information from them.

Recommended preparation

Basic biology, including genetics, is a necessary foundation, although this will be briefly reviewed.

Class assignments and grading

Homework assignments are constructed to challenge students to navigate websites such as CDC or WHO, and to read journal publications and glean pertinent information from them. Students will think about and answer questions about disease epidemiology and evolution based upon their readings.

Grades are assigned on a point system based on exams and homeworks.


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: 03/05/2012