Faculty of Science

Undergraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2012 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 0 (NATIONAL PRIORITY), 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered, or view unit timetables.

FacultyFaculty of Science
OfferedClayton Second semester 2012 (Day)
Coordinator(s)Dr Paul Sunnucks


This unit introduces students to different kinds of genetic variation and the ways in which they are, and are not, important in fitness of individual organisms and viability of populations. A major distinction is made between functional genetic variation as opposed to the non-functional genetic variation typically used as a source of DNA-based tools to study the biology of organisms and their populations. After exploring these concepts, the unit expands on the control and inheritance of traits that have major influences in the lives of organisms. There follows an investigation of how ecological and conservation genetics is applied to real-world research and biological management, in a coherent progression from fine scale 'wildlife forensics', relatedness, parentage, through 'landscape genetics' to phylogeography and phylogenetics. Recent revolutions in these fields are outlined. The concepts are illustrated by exploration of exciting examples encompassing pure and applied science, including urban ecology, invasion and conservation biology, global change ecology, and associated practical work. We explore the relationship between genetic variation and extinction risk of populations and species. Finally, we investigate how genetic variation in organisms is associated with ecosystem function, ecological community structure and protection against environmental change.


After completing this unit the student will:

  1. understand the principles underlying interactions between the genotypes of organisms and their environment;
  2. understand the application of those principles to ecology and conservation management and thus comprehend the roles of this field of study as it applies to society;
  3. be able to apply practical and analytical skills in ecological, evolutionary and conservation genetics involved in the conduct of ecological studies;
  4. be able to apply principles of experimental and survey design, data collection and interpretation, in the field of ecological and conservation genetics;
  5. be able to synthesize and communicate scientific principles and information underlying ecological and conservation genetics in oral and/or written formats.


Practical assignments: 30%
Mini-quizzes: 20%
Final examination: 50%

Chief examiner(s)

Dr Paul Sunnucks

Contact hours

Two hours of lectures and three hours of practical, per week


12 credit points of level one biology