Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

GENE312 Evolutionary Genetics

Theoretical and molecular population genetics. Evolution of genes and proteins and molecular aspects of biodiversity. Molecular evolutionary genetics of hominids. Molecular phylogenetics and phylogeography. Comparative genomics.

This 18-point 300-level paper is designed for students majoring in the biological sciences. Most of our students are Genetics majors, but the paper is relevant to those reading Anthropology, Biochemistry, Botany, Ecology, Law, Mathematics, Microbiology and Zoology. The central focus of the paper is the underlying genetic basis of population differentiation, adaptation and evolutionary change. The paper emphasises principles in population and evolutionary genetics, which are crucial to interpretation of genomic data.

Paper title Evolutionary Genetics
Paper code GENE312
Subject Genetics
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,141.35
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

^ Top of page

Two of GENE 221, GENE 222, ZOOL 222
Schedule C
In approved cases, another 200-level biological sciences paper may be substituted for one of GENE221, GENE222, ZOOL222.

Teaching staff


Professor Jon Waters (Department of Zoology) & Dr Matt Larcombe (Department of Botany)

Other Teaching staff:

Dr David Orlovich (Department of Botany)

Professor Iain Lamont (Department of Biochemistry)

Dr Nic Rawlence (Department of Zoology)

Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith (Department of Anatomy)

Paper Structure

The lecture course comprises 8 topics:

  • Phylogeography and conservation genetics
  • Genetics and genomics of human evolution
  • mtDNA, ancient DNA, demographics, phylogeny, ancestry testing
  • Speciation genetics and hybiridization
  • Genome evolution

The lecture course is complemented by four formal lab classes. Students then develop a group research project, including the following phases: proposal, literature review, data collection, data analysis, written and oral reporting.

Teaching Arrangements
There are six weeks of laboratory classes. Students then carry out their research projects, in teams, over the remainder of the paper.

Recommended reading for GENE312 is:

Allendorf, FW et al 2013 Conservation and the Genetics of Populations (2nd edn). Wiley-Blackwell.

Additional readings from the primary scientific literature will be recommended.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Environmental literacy, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
  • To develop a knowledge and understanding of the principles of evolutionary genetics
    • All parts of the course contribute to this goal; we aim to increase conceptual understanding through discussion of material in both lecture and lab time
  • To provide the basic skills for investigating the evolutionary genetics of plants and animals through application of appropriate theoretical and molecular genetic techniques
    • Three lab sessions provide these skills in the first weeks of the course, and include DNA, protein, morphological and in silico analyses of populations; computer labs are used for simulations, analyses, problems and bioinformatics
  • To develop analytical and problem-solving skills
    • Two tutorial sessions are given to provide practice at answering problems; worked answers are provided after you have had the chance to solve them the examination uses problems as an assessment medium; the exam is worth 60%
  • To encourage critical assessment of scientific literature
    • We use research papers in lectures as tools for reinforcing concepts we encourage critical interpretation of contents and we emphasise the scientific method additionally, you are expected to consider the relevant literature in your research project, particularly the literature review
  • To develop the ability to ask a simple research question that is soluble through the application of skills learnt in practicals
    • You are encouraged to think of a project for yourselves based on techniques learnt in the skills labs; list of some possible projects is given; you are expected to develop an idea and design an experiment through reading, and talking with colleagues and staff; you will write a short research proposal and literature review which are worth a total of 15%; the project itself encourages teamwork in groups of 2-4

^ Top of page


Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 12:00-12:50 28-34, 36-41
Tuesday 11:00-11:50 28-34, 36-41


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 14:00-17:50 28-30, 33-34, 36-40


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 14:00-17:50 31-32, 41