Introduction to Biology – Textbook


This textbook covers a study of the structure, relationships, and diversity of life on earth from the cellular level to the function of ecosystems.

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Introduction to Biology

This textbook covers a study of the structure, relationships, and diversity of life on earth from the cellular level to the function of ecosystems.

This text contains 10 modules, each with multiple lessons that support varied approaches to help a student learn and engage with the topic, including readings, video, and a knowledge-check quiz.

Course Outcomes

This course focuses on the following learning outcomes. By the end of the course you will be able to:

  • Analyze and evaluate the structure and processes of living things at a micro (cellular) and macro level; including the acquisition and use of energy.
  • Analyze and evaluate the interactions and dynamics of the characteristics of ecosystems.
  • Identify and apply the characteristics and mechanisms of genetics as they relate to heredity and inherited traits.
  • Evaluate and apply the characteristics of genetics and adaptation as they apply to population, biodiversity, and ecosystems.

Technology Requirements

This course is delivered fully online and you will be required to have access to a computer, laptop, or web-capable mobile device – along with consistent access to the internet – to access course material and complete assignments.

Review the information below to ensure your system meets the minimum requirements necessary to complete a course for credit.  

PC Requirements


  • Intel Core 2 Duo (or AMD 64×2 Dual-Core) processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 80 GB hard drive
  • 1024×768 resolution monitor
  • Soundcard with microphone and speakers
  • Built-in or external webcam
  • Broadband internet connection with speeds of  at least 2 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload. Hot spots are not recommended. Test internet speed at:
  • Browser with pop-up blocker disabled


  • Windows 7 or above

Macintosh Requirements


  • Intel Core 2 Duo (or AMD 64×2 Dual-Core) processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 80 GB hard drive
  • 1024×768 resolution monitor
  • Soundcard with microphone and speakers
  • Built-in or external webcam
  • Broadband internet connection with speeds of  at least 2 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload. Hot spots are not recommended. Test internet speed at:
  • Browser with pop-up blocker disabled


  • Mac OS 10.6 “Snow Leopard” or above

Tablet or Smartphone

NOTICE:  Though you can view and interact with all of the available course content on a tablet or smartphone, you MUST USE A DESKTOP OR LAPTOP computer to complete the proctored midterm and final examinations.


  • 2 GHz process or faster
  • 1 GB RAM or greater
  • 80 GB hard drive
  • Microphone and speakers
  • Wireless internet connection

Course Outline


Module 1 – The Study of Life

The Science of Biology

  • Introduction to Biology
  • The Science of Biology
  • Natural Sciences
  • Two Types of Science: Basic Science and Applied Science
  • Relationship Between Basic and Applied Science
  • Luck? The Discovery of Penicillin
  • The Process of Science

The Process of Science

  • Scientific Reasoning
  • The Scientific Method
  • Proposing a Hypothesis
  • Testing a Hypothesis
  • Reporting Scientific Work
  • What is an Experiment?

The Branches of Biology

  • Branches of Biological Study
  • Forensic Scientist

Characteristics of Living Things

  • Properties of Life
  • Order
  • Sensitivity or Response to Stimuli
  • Reproduction
  • Adaptation
  • Growth and Development
  • Regulation
  • Homeostasis
  • Energy Processing
  • Levels of Organization of Living Things
  • The Diversity of Life

Module 2 – The Cell

How Cells Are Studied

  • Microscopy
  • Light Microscopes
  • Electron Microscopes
  • Cell Theory
  • Cell Size

Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells

  • Components of prokaryotic cells
  • The plasma membrane
  • The Cytoplasm
  • The Nucleus
  • The Nuclear envelope
  • Chromosomes
  • The Nucleolus
  • Mitochondria
  • Ribosomes
  • Peroxisomes
  • Microfilaments
  • Microtubules

The Endomembrane

  • The Nuclear Envelope
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum
  • Rough ER
  • Smooth ER
  • The Golgi Apparatus
  • Vesicles and Vacuoles
  • Lysosomes
  • The Plasma Membrane
  • Cardiologist
  • Geneticist

Plant Cell vs. Animal Cell

  • The Centrosome
  • Lysosomes
  • The Cell Wall
  • Chloroplasts
  • The Central Vacuole
  • Extracellular Matrix of Animal Cells
  • Intercellular Junctions
  • Plasmodesmata
  • Tight Junctions
  • Desmosomes
  • Gap Junctions

Passive Transport

  • Selectively permeable
  • Concentration gradient
  • Diffusion
  • Facilitated transport
  • Osmosis
  • Hypotonic
  • Hypertonic
  • Isotonic

Active Transport

  • Electrochemical Gradient
  • Moving Against a Gradient
  • Carrier Proteins for Active Transport
  • Primary Active Transport
  • Secondary Active Transport (Co-transport)
  • Endocytosis
  • Phagocytosis
  • Pinocytosis
  • Receptor-mediated Endocytosis
  • Exocytosis

Module 3 – Capturing and Converting Energy

Energy and Metabolism

  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Metabolic Pathways
  • Anabolic and Catabolic Pathways
  • Energy Types
  • Endergonic Reactions and Exergonic Reactions


  • First Half of Glycolysis (Energy-Requiring Steps)
  • Second Half of Glycolysis (Energy-Releasing Steps)
  • Outcomes of Glycolysis
  • Adenosine Triphosphate

Citric Acid Cycle and Oxidative Phosphorylation

  • CAC-pyruvate molecules

Anaerobic Respiration

  • Anaerobic Cellular Respiration
  • Lactic Acid Fermentation
  • Alcohol Fermentation
  • Other Types of Fermentation
  • Control of Catabolic Pathways


  • Importance of Photosynthesis
  • Main Structures and Summary of Photosynthesis
  • The Two Parts of Photosynthesis

Light-Dependent Reactions

  • How Light-Dependent Reactions Work
  • Generating an Energy Carrier: ATP
  • Chlorophylls
  • Carotenoids
  • Absorption of Pigments
  • Photosynthetic Organisms

Light-Independent Reactions

  • The Calvin Cycle
  • The Energy Cycle

Module 4 – Cell Growth, Reproduction and Heredity

Cell Division

  • Genomic DNA
  • Eukaryotic Chromosomal Structure and Compaction
  • Binary Fission

Cell Cycle

  • Interphase
  • The Mitotic Phase
  • Cytokinesis
  • G0 Phase
  • G1 Phase (First Gap)
  • S Phase (Synthesis of DNA)
  • G2 Phase (Second Gap)

Control of the Cell Cycle

  • Regulation of the Cell Cycle by External Events
  • Regulation at Internal Checkpoints
  • Regulator Molecules of the Cell Cycle
  • Proto-oncogenes
  • Tumor Suppressor Genes

Meiosis I

  • Meiosis I
  • Meiosis II
  • Chromosome Identification
  • Chromosome Number Disorders
  • Aneuploidy
  • Polyploidy

Meiosis II

  • Sexual Reproduction
  • Meiosis II
  • Geneticists Use Karyograms to Identify Chromosomal Aberrations

Sexual Reproduction

  • Gametes
  • Zygote
  • Diploid
  • Homologous chromosomes
  • Meiosis
  • Life cycles
  • Germ cells
  • Gametophytes
  • Sporophyte
  • Haploid

Errors in Meiosis

  • Karotype
  • Disorders in chromosome number

Module 5 – Patterns of Inheritance

Mendel’s Experiments and Punnett Squares

  • Mendel’s Model System
  • Mendelian Crosses
  • Garden Pea Characteristics Revealed the Basics of Heredity
  • Creating a Punnett Square

Characteristics and Traits

  • Alleles
  • Phenotype
  • Genotype
  • Homozygous
  • Heterozygous
  • Punnett square
  • Monohybrid
  • Test cross

Laws of Inheritance

  • Equal Segregation of Alleles
  • Independent Assortment
  • Probability Method

Chromosomal Theory and Genetic Linkage

  • Chromosomal Theory of Inheritance
  • Genetic Linkage and Distances
  • Homologous Recombination
  • Epistasis
  • Human Sex-Linked Disorders
  • Lethality

Module 6 – Genetics

Structure of DNA

  • Deoxyribose
  • Phosphate group
  • Nitrogenous base
  • Double helix
  • How DNA is arranged in the cell
  • Watson & Crick and Franklin

DNA Replication

  • Occurs during S phase
  • DNA repair-proof reading


  • DNA
  • RNA
  • Three main stages


  • Ribosomal RNA (rRNA)
  • Transfer RNA ( tRNA)

Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

  • Biotechnology
  • Manipulation of genetic material
  • Gel electrophoresis
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction

Module 7 – Evolutionary Processes

Understanding Evolution

  • Charles Darwin and Natural Selection
  • Processes and Patterns of Evolution

Formation of New Species

  • Species and the Ability to Reproduce
  • Speciation
  • Reproductive Isolation
  • Allopatric Speciation
  • Adaptive Radiation
  • Sympatric Speciation

Population Genetics

  • Genetic Variance
  • Genetic Drift
  • Gene Flow
  • Mutation
  • Nonrandom Mating
  • No Perfect Organism

Biological Evidence

  • Fossils
  • Anatomy and Embryology
  • Biogeography
  • Molecular Biology
  • Two Options for Similarity
  • Misleading Appearances
  • Building Phylogenetic Trees

Common Misconceptions about Evolution

  • Evolution Is Just a Theory
  • Individuals Evolve
  • Evolution Explains the Origin of Life
  • Organisms Evolve on Purpose
  • Other Theories Should Be Taught
  • Is Evolution Controversial among Scientists?

Organizing Life on Earth

  • Taxonomy
  • 6 kingdom system
  • Taxon
  • Binomial nomenclature
  • Phylogenetic tree
  • Phylogeny
  • Domains

Module 8 – Populations and Communities

Population Demographics and Dynamics

  • Population Size and Density
  • Estimating Population Size
  • Species Distribution
  • Life Tables
  • Survivorship Curves

Population Growth and Control

  • Exponential and logistic growth
  • Carrying capacity
  • Intraspecific competition
  • Density dependent and independent limiting factors

Interactions Within and Between Communities

  • Competition
  • Predation
  • Parasitism
  • Crowding and stress
  • Symbiosis
  • Commensalism
  • Mutualism
  • Foundation species
  • Keystone species
  • Environmental disturbances
  • Primary and secondary succession
  • Pioneer species

Human Population Growth

  • Growing rapidly
  • Exponential growth and consequences
  • Overcoming density-dependent regulation
  • Age structure
  • One child policy

Module 9 – Ecology and the Biosphere

Energy Flow Through an Ecosystem

  • Ecosystem
  • Ecology of ecosystems
  • Biome
  • Ecosystem disturbances
  • Food chains and webs
  • Trophic level
  • Producers
  • Primary, secondary and teriary comsumers
  • Apex consumers

Biogeochemical Cycles: Water, Nitrogen, and Sulfur

  • Hydrosphere
  • The Water Cycle
  • The Nitrogen Cycle

Biogeochemical Cycles: Carbon and Phosphorus

  • Hydrosphere
  • Water cycle
  • Carbon cycle
  • Nitrogen cycle
  • Phosphorus cycle and dead zone
  • Sulfur cycle

Terrestrial Biomes

  • Tropical rainforest
  • Savannas
  • Deserts
  • Chaparral
  • Temperate grasslands
  • Temperate forests
  • Boreal forests
  • Arctic tundra

Aquatic Biomes: Marine

  • Marine Biomes
  • Ocean
  • Coral Reefs

Aquatic Biomes: Freshwater

  • Ocean
  • Zones
  • Coral reefs
  • Estuaries
  • Freshwater
  • Wetlands

Module 10 – Conservation Biology and Biodiversity

The Biodiversity Crisis

  • Mass extinction
  • Types of biodiversity
  • Current and patterns of biodiversity
  • Extinction rates

The Importance of Biodiversity to Human Life

  • Human health
  • Agricultural diversity
  • Wild food sources
  • Psychological and moral value

Threats to Biodiversity

  • Habitat loss
  • Overharvesting
  • Exotic species
  • Climate change

Preserving Biodiversity

  • Changing human behavior
  • Habitat restoration
  • The role of zoos and captive breeding

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