BIO A 201 A: Principles of Biological Anthropology

Autumn 2021
MWF 11:30am - 12:50pm / AND 223
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

PDF or DOC downloadable versions

Course Overview & Learning Goals

This course is an introduction to biological anthropology. During the quarter, we will explore the processes and mechanisms of evolution and the “human story.” We will learn about evolutionary and genetic processes and the roles they have played in shaping the biological and behavioral adaptations of the Primate Order – humans, the nonhuman primates, and our ancestors. We will consider what it means to be human and how we “fit” into the larger natural world, examining past, present, and future human variation, the complex interactions of biology, behavior, and our environments. In addition, we will examine the ways in which we are currently trying to better understand ourselves, and our history.

You should leave this course with an understanding of the following:

  • Evolutionary theory, variation, and adaptation – how organisms change and adapt over time
  • Nonhuman primate diversity, ecology, and behavior – for its intrinsic value and as models of human behavior
  • Paleoanthropology and the fossil record which reveals our evolutionary history from small protoprimates to large-brained hominins, taxonomy, morphology and behavior
  • The variation and selective factors that shape biology and behavior in modern human populations

Suggested Text

How Humans Evolved (9th Ed.) by Robert Boyd and Joan Silk

W.W. Norton, 2021, ISBN 9780393427967 (paperback)/ 9780393533088 (ePub)

The text should be carried at University Bookstore  and e-books may also be obtained directly from the publisher, W.W. Norton

Please note: older editions like the 8th, while available, are different and not equivalent substitutes for the newest edition.

Process & Coursework

Students are expected to attend all lectures (Mon, Wed, Fri) and weekly lab sessions (Tue). 

The UW requires all individuals wear face masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. A mask or other suitable face covering is required indoors when other people are present and in all public and common areas, such as lobbies, hallways, stairways, restrooms, elevators and shared vehicles.  More information about this policy can be found at Environmental Health & Safety – Covid Prevention and Response.  We will strictly enforce this policy. (Requests for mask-less accommodation by students can be submitted through Disability Resources for Students.)

More specific information can be found on the last page of the syllabus.

We will use Canvas for communications, assignments, and supplemental materials.   Coursework is organized by week in MODULES.  Each week contains a Summary Page with that week’s lecture topics, learning goals & assigned readings, and any assignments due that week. (Please aim to have each week’s readings completed by the start of the assigned week).  There are three categories of graded assignments:  Lecture, Lab & Exams

    • Weekly topic quizzes (Canvas-based) – These will post on Monday mornings and be due the following Sunday at midnight. The quizzes will be open all week and you can work on them as you move through the week’s lectures with an aim to be completed with Friday’s lecture materials. 
    • Films:
      • There are several films assigned across the quarter as homework. You will watch these on your own and complete a short summary quiz on which your credit for the assignment is based.
  • LAB
    • Tuesday lab sections with your TA are required and are not interchangeable - students are expected to attend the lab in which they are enrolled.
    • Lab activities are often interactive. Students are asked to come prepared to discuss current course topics and ready to participate with questions, comments, ideas, and/or discussion.
    • Weekly lab assignments (in-class and/or take-home) - Each week you will either complete an assignment/activity during lab or start it in lab and complete it as homework (any take-home work is due before your next lab session).
    • Midterm - Wednesday, Nov 3
      • The midterm will cover all material presented up to the day of the exam
    • Lab Practical - Tuesday, Nov 30
      • Specimen-based exam on fossils and human evolution held during lab session
    • Final - Wednesday, Dec 15
      • The final will cover the remainder of the material and will be cumulative only in regard to overarching themes in the course
    • Current plans are to hold exams in-person. You will need a scantron answer sheet and pencil for the Midterm and Final.  Should circumstances merit it, we may move them to Canvas-based exams instead. 
    • 25% Lecture (weekly topic quizzes and film assignments)
    • 25% Lab (in class + homework)
    • 20% Midterm Exam
    •   5% Lab Practical
    • 25% Final Exam




 Any portion of these plans may be subject to change should we need to make adjustments during the quarter.  In the event that we need to switch to remote instruction, a new and updated version of the syllabus will be provided.

Availability of Materials & Make-up Policies

Lecture slides and any Panopto recordings will be available via Canvas within 24 hrs after each class meeting. 

All materials provided in this class (handouts, exams, videos, slides, etc.) are protected materials, which I provide for your personal academic use only.  It is illegal to share, upload, copy or otherwise distribute any of these materials without my consent.  This includes online study sites like Coursehero, Chegg, or others.

Late assignments will be accepted for up to 24hrs after their due date for 50% of earned points.

  • On a 10pt assignment, you have 8/10 correct answers. If you turn it on time, you receive 8/10 pts.  If you miss the deadline, but are able to turn it in within the 24hr late window, you will receive 4/10 pts – 50% of your earned points.  After 24hrs, the score is zero. 


If you know in advance that you will need to reschedule an assignment, please contact us as soon as possible to make those arrangements ahead of deadlines.  In the case of extenuating circumstances (medical situations or other significant absences), please contact us ASAP (ideally within 24hrs). We can discuss remedies for missed assignments on a case-by-case basis, within a reasonable framework.  After one week from the missed deadline, if we have not heard from you, then it is too late to address missed work.  (Understandably, there may be truly extenuating circumstances which prevent these best practices and, again, we can address each situation on a case-by-case basis).

Office Hours, Communication & Extra Help

Weekly Office Hours will be held in person and on Zoom.  Times and contact information for myself and your TA are posted on Canvas under “Support & Office Hours.”  You may always make an appointment if those times do not work for you – for in person or Zoom meetings. 

It is my general policy not to respond to email between the hours of 6:00pm and 7:00am on weekdays, and very limited access on weekends. If, however, you have an emergency arise during these times, please note “Urgent” in the subject line of your message and I will try to address it as soon as possible, even during “off hours”.

As your instructor, my purpose is to convey the concepts and materials of this course in a clear and comprehensible manner.  It is part of my commitment to you that I am available during weekly office hours, appointments, and email. I encourage you to meet with me to discuss course materials or just to say hi.  If you are having concerns with the material or your grade and want to review or discuss it, please contact me – we will try to find ways to approach the material that work for you.  If you are experiencing personal issues that are impacting your work/performance, please make me aware of your situation as early as possible (with as little or as much information as you are comfortable sharing) and I will work with you to help in any way I can.  In the final weeks of the quarter, there are very few options to address these concerns, so please don’t wait.

Our return to campus and in-person instruction during this pandemic may be subject to unpredictability for all of us.   We may all be affected by personal and health related issues for ourselves and our family and friends.  In this environment, communication is crucial.  Please, if you find yourself needing help – reach out.  Let’s approach class and each other with some patience, flexibility, respect, and humor.  


Student Conduct

The University of Washington is committed to fostering an environment where the free exchange of ideas is an integral part of the academic learning environment. University policy states that students must treat one another and the instructor in a respectful and considerate manner.  By accepting admission to the University of Washington, each student also makes a commitment to understand, support and abide by its code of conduct regarding academic and personal integrity ( 


Access & Accommodation

This class and the University of Washington are committed to providing inclusive and accessible learning environments, equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education and employment for all individuals. To request accommodations for this class please contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS) at: (206) 543-8924 (voice & relay) or e-mail at:, Office 011 Mary Gates. 

DRS plans to provide in person services again to our students starting Monday Sept 13, 2021.  Information on specific accommodations (e.g. mask exception and other COVID-related accommodations) can be found at DRS COVID-19 Information.

If you have already established accommodations through DRS, please communicate with me and your TA at your earliest convenience so that you may discuss your needs in this course.

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy.  Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.


COVID-19 Information, Practices, & Resources

UW Coronavirus Resources

AS OF SEP 27, 2021:


In Class Expectations:

  • Masks must be worn in the classroom at all times.
  • NO eating or drinking in the classroom. We will take breaks to allow students to eat or drink during class.
  • Select situations when masks can be removed:
    • Outdoors (not in a large group)
    • Alone in an office with door closed
    • Actively eating/drinking – however, not during class time
    • Actively performing
    • Alone in a vehicle
    • When presenting in class – in a large room, behind a podium or stage-like setting

Testing & Reporting:

  • We can all be tested at the UW club; walk ins are allowed now. 
  • If you experiences ANY symptoms indicative of COVID-19, no matter how mild, vaccinated or notgo get tested!
  • Self-report exposures and positive tests to
    • Regardless of vaccination status
    • If you’ve had a “Contact” = close-contact, within 6ft for at least 15min cumulatively over 24 hrs


What happens if we have an exposure among our classmates:

  • Anyone who tests positive must isolate for 10 days from first symptoms or, if asymptomatic, from the test.
  • If we have an exposure in the classroom:
    • If you are fully vaccinated and you wore your mask and you have no symptoms, you do not have to quarantine.
    • If you are believed to have been in “close contact” (i.e. within 6 feet for >15 min) you will need to get tested 3-5 days after exposure.
    • If you are not vaccinated, you will be asked to quarantine if you experience a close contact. 
    • The instructor will be notified if a student tests positive but their identity will not be disclosed. Notification to other members of class will not reveal individual’s names, just that our class has been exposed.
  • Any situation where 2 or more cases are associated with the same event/person/exposure, it will be treated as an outbreak.  
  • You do not have to quarantine IF you are VACCINATEDunless you have symptoms, however you still need to report your exposure.


How to report an exposure:

Catalog Description:
Evolution and adaptation of the human species. Evidence from fossil record and living populations of monkeys, apes, and humans. Interrelationships between human physical and cultural variation and environment; role of natural selection in shaping our evolutionary past, present, and future.
GE Requirements Met:
Natural Sciences (NSc)
Last updated:
April 15, 2024 - 7:14 pm