Biology Now

When many of us first took biology in high school a few years ago, or in some cases more than a few, the world of biology was rather different than it is now. New techniques in biological studies have revealed a world that was not accessible in the not-too-distant past. This series of classes explores some of these findings that either were unknown or not covered in beginning biology classes – even at the university level.

Where Have All the Kingdoms Gone? The New Tree (Shrub) of Life

Explore the most recent scheme for showing relationships among the many organisms sharing our planet. For several years, biology students were taught the “Six Kingdom” system of classification; however, newer ways of studying relationships has revealed a very different set of evolutionary connections that has displaced the kingdom system. Learn the basis for the new classification and study examples on key branches of this new tree of life.

Planet You: You and Your Microbiome

Discover the different kinds of critters living in and on us and gain insights into how profoundly they affect all aspects of our lives. The number of other organisms living on and in us is greater than the number of human cells that form our bodies, and, when looking at the number of non-human genes, some say we could consider ourselves as one percent human and 99% other. Explore this diversity and learn how the “other” has major impacts on us.

What’s Eating You: Parasites

Examine the major non-bacterial critters that use us for food and lodging. The discipline of parasitology includes protists, flatworms, roundworms and arthropods. Parasitism has been a major force in the evolution of life on Earth. Explore some of the major players that affect our lives, and discover how a changing climate affects our relationships with parasites as well as how to avoid parasites or recover from infestations.

Dr. Darwin Makes a House Call: Evolutionary Medicine

Explore insights into how our evolutionary past plays a significant role in human medical conditions and social behaviors. This study is based on the five pillars of evolutionary medicine: evolved defenses, interactions with other organisms, novel situations, trade-offs, and historical constraints.

The Good, the Bad, and the Genetically Modified

Learn some of the various ways that organisms have been modified, some of the ethical concerns related to the production and use of GMOs, including health and environmental concerns, and why GMOs may not be the evil they sometimes are said to be.


Course was previously Different Views of Life 


Steve Bratteng

Steve Bratteng has been teaching biology and other sciences at various levels from middle school to university for over 40 years.


"Steve did an excellent job of bringing me up to date with a lot of the changes in biological sciences and evolutionary changes that have happened over the last 50 years since I took formal classes in Biology. I think he was engaging, offered anecdotes to add some humor to the subject matter and did a good job of explaining some of the complicated processes now used in that field. It was an overall good introduction into current biological and pathogenic knowledge. Truly enjoyed it!"  - Dale R, fall 2018 student

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