Course description

Why are chilies so spicy? This course examines the chemical basis of interactions between species and is intended for students with a basic knowledge of chemistry and biology. Focuses on the ecology and chemistry of plants, animals, and microbes. Stresses chemical signals used in diverse ecosystems, using Darwinian natural selection as a framework. Topics include plant defenses, microbial warfare, communication in marine organisms, and human pheromones.

Outcome 1: Categorize ecological interactions and potential mechanisms by which they are mediated.

Outcome 2: Discuss these mechanisms in light of evolutionary theory and draw conclusions about potential agricultural applications.

Outcome 3: Become familiar with the general structures of organic molecules and the relationship between structure and function.

Outcome 4: Become familiar with a number of analytical, behavioral, and experimental techniques used to analyze chemical compounds that mediate ecological interactions.

Outcome 5: Read and synthesize findings from original scientific research in chemical ecology by studying and discussing the primary literature.


One majors-level biology course and one semester introductory chemistry for majors or nonmajors or equivalents, or permission of instructor.

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Previously offered classes

The next offering of this course is undetermined at this time.