How to Build an Animal (OEB 58)

Fall 2017, 2018, 2022
Undergraduate course
Co-taught with Mansi Srivastava
Tues,Thurs, 10:30-11:45am


Throughout the course, we consider 10 prominent features of animal anatomy (e.g. eyes, neurons, gonads); study their variation in form and function; and how they are made during embryonic development.


Course instruction is a modified version of a ‘flipped classroom’, where we provide one lecture, follow it by a hands-on activity (e.g. dissecting a cow eye; measuring cockroach neuron activity; spawning sea urchins), and finish with a section that discusses a prominent paper from the primary literature.


Vertebrate Evolution (OEB 126)
Spring 2016,2017, 2020
Undergraduate course
Tues,Thurs, 11:30-1:00am


This course provides a comprehensive survey of the origin and evolution of vertebrates through an examination of the fossil record. A primary focus will be on major events in Earth’s evolutionary history, with an emphasis on anatomical and physiological transformations in fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.


Includes a Lab component and a spring recess Fossil Dig which gives students hands-on experience with fossil identification.


Recommended prep:
OEB 58, LifeSci 2, and/or one other whole animal biology courses (e.g. OEB 51, OEB 101, OEB 130, OEB 167, OEB 190)

PEFO Spring 2017
                  Petrified Forest Spring 2016                                                      Petrified Forest Spring 2017


What makes a....? (OEB 217)


A student directed course that explores the origin and evolution of a particular group of animals* through a mixture of literature discussions, cadaveric dissection and fossil observation. Discussion topics will be broad and far reaching, including such things as: evolutionary dynamics, ecomorphology, and feeding and locomotor performance. Alongside in class discussions, students will participate in dissecting cadaveric material with the aim to build hands-on musculoskeletal knowledge.


*The taxon of focus changes from year to year.


Please contact Prof. Pierce for availability.


Prior years:

What makes a RODENT?
Spring 2017, Mon, 3:00-5:00pm
Included dissecting a capybara


What makes a CAT?
Fall 2016, Mon, 3:00-5:00pm
Included dissecting a"big cat"



The fishy aspects of the human body (OEB 207)
Spring 2019, 2021, 2022
Undergraduate/graduate course
Mon, 3:00-5:00pm



Explore how the human body evolved through an analysis of the award-winning non-fiction book, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion-Year History of the Human Body, by evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin. We will read and discuss each chapter in turn and discover how different parts of the human body can be traced back to creatures that lived eons ago. By the end of the course students will gain a better appreciation for how all life on Earth is interrelated and how our own bodies are a result of millions of years of evolutionary history.


*Undergraduates are particularly encouraged to consider this course. It provides a basic foundation in anatomy that would be applicable for many concentrations and career paths, such as IB, HEB, MCB, and human and veterinary medicine.


Advanced Vertebrate Anatomy (OEB 323)

Graduate seminar; please contact Prof. Pierce for availability.