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Department of

Biological Sciences

Ichthyology (Bio 162): Course Information

Spring 2008

Dr. Ron Coleman
Office: 119 Humboldt
916-278-3474 (w)
916-705-2606 (cell) until 10 pm

Course Location & Times

Lec:#34944 Tues 2:00 to 3:50 pm Room 124 HMB
Lab: #34945 Thurs 2:00 to 4:50pm Room 124 HMB

Enrollment is limited to 24 students. Each student must attend both the lecture and laboratory portions of the course.

Office hours
Ron Coleman                  
Wed 2:00 - 5:00pm                 
Room 119 Hmb

What this course is about 
This course is about the amazing world of fishes. Fishes are the most diverse and most abundant vertebrates on this planet with over 25,000 species; that is more than all other vertebrates combined. The purpose of this course is to introduce you to this incredible biodiversity with an aim to understanding how fishes evolved and how they exist in the modern world. The focus will be on topics like ecology, evolution and behavior, with some discussion of anatomy and physiology.

Learning Objectives


  • Appreciate the diversity of fishes, the largest group of vertebrates
  • Develop a basic understanding of the phylogeny of fishes
  • Appreciate modern approaches to phylogeny (i.e., cladistics) and the difference between phylogeny and taxonomy
  • Develop an appreciation of the relationship between form and function


  • Research and compose a well thought-out term paper on a topic related to ichthyology, making use of the primary literature
  • Be able to construct and analyze simple cladograms
  • Learn to use a scientific key efficiently and effectively
  • Build an appreciation for the use and construction of scientific nomenclature
  • Gain practical experience working with museum specimens
  • Understand the skeletal and soft anatomy of fishes
  • Experience key techniques used by practicing ichthyologists
  • Become proficient with the various field guides for identifying fishes
  • Identify a core group of fishes (both local and from around the world)

Attendance and Deadlines 
I expect you to attend every lecture and lab; you miss class at your own risk. Anything I say is fair game for exams, whether it is in the text or not. Some things I say will definitely not be in the text, and some may contradict the text. In the latter case, what I say is taken to be the correct answer. If there is a difference between what I say and what is in the text or what you have learned elsewhere,please ask about it in lecture or after class. 

My goal as a lecturer is to guide and assist you in learning about this material. I can't do that if you aren't in class or if you don't tell me what you don't understand. 

If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to get the notes from another student, not from me. I DO NOT hand out lecture notes, nor do I post them to the web. 

Deadlines are strictly adhered to. It is not fair to students that complete work on time for other students to have extra time to do the same work. Plan ahead and schedule your time. Most importantly, don't leave things to the last minute; you don't need that kind of stress!

Helfman, G.S., Collette, B.B. and D.E. Facey. 1997. The Diversity of Fishes. Blackwell Science, Malden, Mass. REQUIRED.

There will be one midterm and a final for the lecture portion of the course. There will be a midterm and a final in the lab, both held during lab time. The midterm will be held during the lecture period and will be a mixture of fill-in the blank, short-answer and essay questions. I do not believe in multiple choice questions and do not use them. 

Exams will be comprehensive, i.e., anything in the whole course up to that point in time is fair game. My previous students comment on two aspects of my exams: I am a hard grader and I am a fair grader. You can expect long exams that test your knowledge, but they will be exams without tricks. My goal is to have you tell me what you know and understand. You will have to work very quickly.

Lecture Midterm Tues March 11
Lecture Final Tues May 20 at 12:45-2:45
Lab Midterm Thur March 20 in class
Lab Final Thur May 15 in class

The number of points/questions on a particular exam is irrelevant to the exam's worth -- it is merely a tool for grading. What matters are the following percentages.

Your lecture grade will be calculated according to the following scheme:

Midterm I 35
Final Exam 45
Term Paper 20

Your lab grade will be calculated according to the following scheme:

Midterm 20
Final 20
Labs (including "Jars") 60

NOTE: You must retain in some orderly fashion all assignments and graded materials until after the end of the semester (i.e., June). You may be asked to produce these at the end of the semester. Failure to produce an assignment will result in a grade of 0 for that assignment. 

Your course grade will be a combination of your lecture and lab grades as follows:

 Lecture   2/3
 Lab   1/3

 Your letter grade will be calculated according to the following table:

A = 93 to 100% C+ = 77 to 79%
A- = 90 to 92% C = 73 to 76%
B+ = 87 to 89% C- = 70 to 72%
B = 84 to 86% D+ = 67 to 69%
B- = 80 to 83% D = 60 to 66%
F = 0 to 59%


I generally do not adjust or curve or scale grades; If you want an "A", work for it and make it happen! 

I do not hesitate to correct any errors I make in grading (e.g., incorrect addition or if I missed grading an answer), but keep in mind that I am looking for clear, succinct answers, not answers that sort-of-show-you-possibly-might-know-what-you-mean. If you feel that your answer deserves a better grade, please return it to me promptly.

Honor Code
Please don't cheat. Besides the fact that we will be forced to take strong measures if we catch you -- including recommending your dismissal from the class and from the university -- I will be profoundly disappointed in you.

Don't even think about doing any of the following:

  1. giving or receiving information from another student during an examination
  2. using unauthorized sources for answers during an exam such as writing answers on hats, clothing or limbs
  3. illegally obtaining the questions before an exam
  4. altering the answers on an already-graded exam
  5. any and all forms of plagiarism
  6. destruction and/or confiscation of school and/or personal property

I appreciate your feedback on this course. It is most useful to tell me things while the course is in progress, rather than waiting until the end of the course. If there is something that needs changing, LET ME KNOW and I will see what I can do about it. This course is a collaboration between you and me. I really enjoy teaching this class and I want you to have a great time as well.