Leigh Johnson Lab. Leigh A. Johnson. Brigham Young University. Plant Systematics. Botany. Polemoniaceae.

Home | Course Descriptions | Research


Course Web Sites

Biology 230
Plant Diversity
Biology 430
Plant Classification & Identification
Biology 510
Biological Systematics & Curation

Biology 230 - Plant Diversity

Biology 230 is a comparative and evolutionary investigation of the origin and subsequent diversification of cyanobacteria, algae, land plants, and fungi.  Plant groups are studied according to the chronological order of their appearance in the fossil record, which generally corresponds with modifications of increasing complexity.  Bio 230 meets three times a week for lecture, and one time each week for lab.

Students completing this course will: (1) be able to discuss differences between cyanobacteria, algae, bryophytes, non-seed vascular plants, gymnosperms, flowering plants, and fungi with repsect to their lifecycles, characteristic morphologies, and biological roles; (2) develop the skills necessary to understand and critically apply evolutionary logic including the use of phylogeny, the fossil record, and tree-thinking to formulate and test hypotheses that explain biological diversity; (3) be able to communicate how life forms evolve by means of vegetative, reproductive, and symbiotic mechanisms; and (4) have the background necessary to continue to explore related topics with confidence and understanding throughout their lives.


Biology 430 - Plant Classification & Identification

Biology 430 meets twice a week for lecture and twice a week for lab immediately following lecture.  This course covers general principles of plant taxonomy and classification with a focus on two skills: 1) sight recognition of major plant groups, including representative fern, gymnosperm and flowering plant families; and 2) practical use of identification keys for our temperate flora.

Students that complete this course will be able to: 1) discuss major plants groups, the principal characters that define these groups, and their general relationships to each other; 2) use correct vocabulary for describing plant parts and be able to deduce the meaning of new terms based on knowledge of common roots, prefixes, and suffixes; 3) identify ~43 families of flowering plants by sight as well as many families of gymnosperms and fern allies by recognizing differentiating features of each family; and 4) use keys and manuals for identifying unknown plants to species. These four objectives will be achieved in a framework that presents the science of plant systematics as an active endeavor with historical roots as well as future opportunities.  Understanding this science builds a foundation for further study in comparative biology, evolutionary biology, ecology, and related disciplines.


Biology 510 - Biological Systematics & Curation

Biology 510 focuses on the science of systematics at the species level, including specimen based research and curation.   Species concepts and empirical methods of species delimitation; character delimitation, coding, and character evolution; nomenclatural codes, collection ethics and permits; and the synthesis of data for preparing taxonomic descriptions, monographic treatments, and identification tools are foundation topics of this course.  Software tools for managing specimen-based research are also presented.  This course compliments Phylogenetic Systematics (Bio 640) with minimal redundancy between courses. Cladistic principles and concepts are fundamental to modern systematics, but phylogenetic reconstruction is not the emphasis in Bio 510.

With systematics as a science spanning such considerable breadth, this course will be far from comprehensive.  Instead, topics have been selected that are relevant to the modern practice of systematics with an emphasis on providing foundation principles for the science as a whole.

Students that participate fully in this course will be able to 1) discuss basic philosophies of classification and the relationship between classification, phylogeny, and nomenclature; 2) discuss species as the fundamental unit of biodiversity and the difference between species definitions and criteria used to delimit species; 3) compile the necessary information needed for a new species description; 4) prepare a floristic or faunal treatment; 5) understand responsibilities of collection management; and 6) appreciate and use various software designed for specimen-based research.