BIO A 300 A: Evolutionary Biology of Women

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm
SMI 304
Martin head shot
Melanie Martin

Syllabus Description:

(Abridged syllabus. Full syllabus linked under 'files').


TUES-THUR 10:30 - 12:20 SMI 304

Instructor: Dr. Melanie Martin (, Office hours Denny Hall 144, by appointment (

Teaching Assistant: Delaney Glass (, Office hours by appointment (

Course Description:

What are unique aspects of human female biology? How and why did they evolve? What social and ecological factors influence biological variation across individuals today? This course explores these questions using a biocultural and evolutionary life history approach. We examine the development and expression of female reproductive traits, and their implications for women’s health, throughout puberty, pregnancy, birth, lactation, and menopause.


Check Canvas regularly for announcements and updates. Schedule of readings and assignments are subject to change. PDFs of lecture ppts will be posted to canvas within 24 hours AFTER lecture.


Course Readings:

  • REQUIRED: The wonder down under: the insider's guide to the anatomy, biology, and reality of the vagina (2018) by Ellen Stokken Dahl and Nina Brochmann. (ISBN: 9781681440217)
  • RECOMMENDED: Breasts: a natural and unnatural history (2012) by Florence Williams. (ISBN: 9780393063189)
  • Both texts are available at University Bookstore under BIO A 369 MARTIN. They are also on 2-hr reserve at Odegaard Library.
  • Additional research, popular media articles, movies and podcasts are assigned and linked to under Files > Readings (see also 'Schedule of Readings' in that folder, and course bibliography on full syllabus for complete reference list)

Course Grades:

  • Eight assignments (each worth 5-15% of final grade), consisting of reflection essays, media critiques, and in-class quizzes and activities
  • Two exams (each worth 25% of final grade) covering lectures and required readings from weeks 1-5 and 6-10, respectively. Both will be take-home, open-note/book, multiple-choice and short answer/essay

Make-up assignments and examinations will only be given with a documented medical excuse or upon prior arrangements with instructor.  


Catalog Description: 
Explores evolutionary influences on human female biological development and physiological expression from puberty through menopause. Applies a biocultural perspective, encompassing ecological and cultural influences, in examining variation in these biological processes and expressions across and within populations. Prerequisite: BIO A 101 or BIO A 201
GE Requirements: 
Natural World (NW)
Last updated: 
January 22, 2022 - 1:21pm