ECOL 195G:
The Edges of Life

Exploring the world and ourselves

A course accompanying the College of Science lecture series

course description & schedule
Recommended readings for this course
Course syllabus (pdf file)
the other undergraduate course taught by me: ECOL280
another course taught by me: ECOL496V
another course taught by me: ECOL496H
Course list for the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
all EEB courses
back to Anna's teaching
Soc. Ins. Lab

This course was taught in conjunction with the College of Science’s public lecture series on ‘The Edges of Life’ in Spring 2008.

Similar to the lecture series, the course will discuss (1) what is life, (2) how did life originate here and possibly on other planets, (3) where is evolution going, if anywhere, (4) what differentiates humans from other life, if anything, and (5) how has technology changed what we view as life. We will also discuss the role of science and particularly the life sciences in society. This is a First-Year Colloquium Course.

The public lectures take place in Centennial Hall, on Wednesday evenings at 7pm.

open sections of this course: 195G
Please note that the first class will be on January 23rd (no class on January 16th).

Please email me if you have questions about the course:

Announcement for the public lectures:
As science and technology advance, fundamental issues central to the concept of life become harder to answer. Today, perspectives are changing on a wide range of issues including the origins of life, how life differentiates itself from its surroundings, what role self-awareness plays in maintaining life, and the discoveries regarding life that will emerge in the near future. UA’s College of Science is proud to present six lectures that will probe these edges of life. Bringing together perspectives that include biology, communications, medicine, technology, and philosophy, these six speakers will help us engage and understand the limits of life, and what might lie beyond.

Course plan for Spring 2008

Class date Topic Reading Public lecture
Jan 23 Introduction to class; a short history of life on earth   Parker: Life's Defining Edge - How does life begin?
Jan 30 What is life?   Lunine: Life's Extreme Edge: The limits of organic life on Earth and other planets
Feb 6 Adaptation and evolution   Rosenzweig: Life's Final Edge? The roles of adaptation, diversity, and extinction in survival
Feb 13 Tree of life and speciation   Dornhaus: Life's cognitive Edge: The role of the mind and what it means to be human
Feb 20 The mind and the brain - what are they for?   Gill: Life's Human Edge: Changing perspectives on the end of life
Feb 27 Why do organisms die? And why do some live forever?   -
Mar 5 no class, go to lecture by Kurzweil   Kurzweil: Life's Technological Edge: The singularity is near: when humans transcend biology
Mar 12 Can technology change life & death? Could we live forever?   -
Mar 26 Students present their books Everyone reads a chapter from their chosen book every week. -
Apr 2     -
Apr 9     -
Apr 16     -
Apr 23     -
Apr 30     -
May 7     -

Instructor: Anna Dornhaus
I'm a biologist with a special interest in collective behavior and cognition (esp. 'collective intelligence'). I work with social insects, particularly bumble bees, honey bees, and ants.
check out my lab webpage, department webpage, or personal webpage
Feel free to contact me with questions about the course or if you are interested in working in my lab: