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College of Letters & Science


Goals of the Zoology Major
Requirements for the Major
Interest Areas within the Major
Directed Study
Senior Thesis
Senior Thesis and Distinction in the Major
Honors in the Zoology Major and Senior Honors Thesis
Honors in the Liberal Arts

145 Noland Hall, 250 North Mills Street, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-1051; fax 608-262-9083; www.zoology.wisc.edu/

Professors Hardin (chair, jdhardin@wisc.edu), Bement, Blair, Carpenter, Gammie, Halloran, Ives, Lee, Porter, Riters, Stanley, Stretton, Turner and Vander Zanden; Associate Professors Amann, Bleiweiss, Damschen, Grinblat, Orrock; Assistant Professors McIntyre, Sharma, Wolman; Adjunct Professor McConnell, Peckarsky, McConnell

Undergraduate advising in the major: All zoology faculty members serve as undergraduate advisors. The Student Services Coordinators, advisor@zoology.wisc.edu, 233 and 234 Noland Hall, are the primary advisors and can refer students to faculty members in specific areas of zoology. Students can make appointments for general advising and major declarations through the Student Services Coordinators, 608-262-2742. Students should declare the major no later than the beginning of the junior year.

Undergraduate honors and senior thesis coordinator: Student Services Coordinator, 608-262-2742, advisor@zoology.wisc.edu, 233 or 234 Noland Hall.

Faculty diversity liaison: Professor Carol Lee, carollee@wisc.edu, 426C Birge Hall, 608-262-9225

The zoology major is a gateway to the diverse areas of modern animal biology. The major can be tailored to prepare students for advanced study and careers in many different areas: health professions and public health; law; life sciences research in university, government, and industrial settings; education including museum, nature center, secondary school, and college teaching; biotechnology; and environmental studies.

Specialized preparation is offered in ecology, systematics, limnology, morphology, molecular biology, cellular biology, developmental biology, genetics, neurobiology, physiology, evolution, and behavior. Several possible areas, emphasizing different interests, are outlined below. They include general biology; ecology, evolution, and behavior; anatomy, physiology, and organismal biology; and cellular, molecular, and developmental biology. Students are encouraged to consult with a department advisor to construct individual programs appropriate to their own needs. The department encourages undergraduate participation in research and offers summer research scholarships to outstanding students.

Goals of the Zoology Major

The zoology major emphasizes critical thinking and conceptual skills that come from an understanding of how scientific information is obtained and evaluated, and of how this information can be applied to societal issues. The major provides a solid foundation in genetic, cellular, physiological, ecological, and evolutionary principles, and in the related disciplines of chemistry, physics, and mathematics. As a result, the major fosters an understanding of biological complexity including the interrelationships among humans and natural systems.

The unique characteristics of the zoology major include:

  • broad-based, yet integrated training in wide-ranging areas of biology;
  • solid foundation of basic principles and processes in biology;
  • flexibility and advising needed to allow students to tailor the major to their specific goals;
  • wide range of opportunities for undergraduate involvement in independent research and senior thesis.

Requirements for the Major

  • Elementary chemistry equivalent to or more advanced than Chem 103 and 104.
  • General physics: 103 and 104, or 207 and 208.
  • Math: Math 112 and 113 or their equivalent 114, by either completion of course(s) or placement examination. (Does not satisfy L&S math requirement for the B.S. degree.)
  • 30 credits in zoology courses including not more than one elementary course or course sequence. Up to 6 credits of approved courses outside the zoology department may be counted toward the 30 credits. The 30 credits must include a minimum of 6 credits of upper-level courses numbered 300–677 within the zoology department and designated as lecture, lab, or field. These 6 credits exclude Biocore courses, approved non-zoology courses, directed study, thesis, and seminar courses.

All students must fulfill the L&S requirement of at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence. Zoology courses numbered 300–699, and all Biocore courses, count toward this requirement.

Students can satisfy the elementary course requirement by taking one of the following options. Either option a or b is recommended for majors and students intending to do honors in the major.

a. Zoology 151 and 152 (two semesters lecture and lab), 10 credits

b. Biology Core Curriculum (four semesters lecture and lab), 13–18 credits. Requires special application and admission. An application form can be picked up from the Biocore Office between January 20 and February 15 and must be submitted to the Biocore Admissions Committee (345 Noland Hall) by February 15. (Note: Biocore Curriculum courses 381, 382, 383, and 384 while satisfying the elementary course requirement, are tabulated as intermediate-level courses in the major.)

c. Zoology 101 and 102 (lecture and lab), 5 credits. Botany 130 General Botany, 5 credits, is recommended but not required for students who take Zoology 101 and 102. The 5 credits of Botany 130 will automatically be applied to the 30 required zoology credits.

Interest Areas within the Major

The four interest areas outlined below are meant to be a guide to students preparing course programs. These are not lists of requirements. It is not unusual for students to mix courses among the four areas described.

In addition to the courses listed, majors should seriously consider taking organic chemistry, biochemistry, and statistics as "supporting" courses. Students contemplating graduate work, professional training, or teacher certification are strongly encouraged to seek assistance from advisors when preparing course programs.

1. General Biology

Students who would like a broad general background should consider taking a broad range of courses in different areas of biology.

Upper-level zoology courses include:

Genetics (466 General Genetics)
Evolution (410 Evolutionary Biology, or 360 Extinction of Species)
Ecology (460 General Ecology, or 315/316 Limnology)
Classification/Anatomy (302 Intro to Entomology, or 430 Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates)
Developmental or Cellular Biology (470/555 Animal Development, or 570 Cell Biology) Physiology (611/612 Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology, or 523 Neurobiology, or 603 Endocrinology)
And/or courses in ethology or specific taxa to make a total of 30 credits in Zoology (335 Human/Animal Relationships, 350 Parasitology, 510/511 Ecology of Fishes, 520/521 Ornithology/Birds of Southern Wisconsin

2. Ecology, Evolution and Behavior

Students preparing for work in ecology, conservation, environmental protection, or marine biology will find appropriate courses listed below. This list is also suitable for those interested in evolution, animal behavior, or limnology.

Upper-level zoology courses include:

302 Intro to Entomology
315/316 Limnology
335 Human/Animal Relationships
360 Extinction of Species
410 Evolutionary Biology
425 Evolution of Behavior
430 Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates
460 General Ecology
466 General Genetics
473 Plant-Insect Interactions
504 Modeling Animal Landscapes
510/511 Ecology of Fishes
520/521 Ornithology/Birds of Southern Wisconsin
530 Insect Behavior
535 Ecosystem Analysis
540 Theoretical Ecology
548 Ecology of Rivers and Streams
550 Animal Communication and the Origins of Language
565 Principles of Landscape Ecology
611/612 Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology
651 Conservation Biology

3. Anatomy, Physiology and Organismal Biology

Students whose interests center on the organism and its function should consider courses from the following list. This listing is also appropriate for students planning to enter medical, veterinary, or dental school, and for those who intend to work in any of the allied health professions.

Upper-level zoology courses include:

350 Parasitology
371 Medical Entomology
410 Evolutionary Biology
430 Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates
466 General Genetics
470 Intro to Animal Development
504 Modeling Animal Landscape
510/511 Ecology of Fishes
520/521 Ornithology/Birds of Southern Wisconsin
523/524 Neurobiology
550 Animal Communication and the Origins of Language
603 Endocrinology
611/612 Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology
619 Biology of Mind

4. Cellular, Molecular and Developmental Biology

This list of potential courses emphasizes studies of single cells, their behavior, and the behavior of their subcellular components. This is based on the premise that the structure, function, and behavior of complex organisms can be understood by examining their most basic constituents. These courses serve as an excellent introduction to advanced work and research at the molecular and cellular levels in areas such as embryological development, neurobiology, endocrinology, immunology, genetics, genetic engineering, and related biotechnology. This area is also appropriate for students preparing for medical careers.

Upper-level zoology courses include:

410 Evolutionary Biology
466 General Genetics
470/555 Intro to Animal Development
523/524 Neurobiology
570 Cell Biology
611/612 Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology
603 Endocrinology
625 Development of the Nervous System
630 Cellular Signal Transduction Mechanisms
635 Neurobiology of Disease

Directed Study

For students interested in a short-term undergraduate research experience in a particular area of zoology, the Department of Zoology offers Directed Studies in Zoology 699. Zoology 699, recommended for juniors and seniors, is graded on an A to F scale.

Directed study allows students to gain experience in any of a wide range of research areas in biology and to learn research techniques that are not easily taught in the classroom. Such experiences allow students to make more informed decisions about their future goals and careers.

Before students can sign up for either Directed Study 699, they must set up an appointment with a professor/mentor of their choice and work with him or her to: (1) decide the specific number of credits and (2) plan the work required to earn those credits. Such plans can involve reviewing relevant literature in the area, developing a proposal for independent research, and/or conducting an experiment in the mentor's study area.

Students interested in doing in-depth research as undergraduates in an area of interest can elect to do a Senior Honors Thesis or Senior Thesis (see below). Students should contact an advisor at the beginning of the junior year to explore possible research areas.

A maximum of 10 credits of directed study (699), senior thesis (691, 692), or senior honors thesis (681, 682) will count toward the 30 credits required for the major.

Senior Thesis

Students interested in making a longer-term commitment to a research project may consider undertaking a senior thesis. Students should contact their major advisor during their Junior year to explore possible research areas in zoology.

Zoology Senior Thesis Requirements:

  • approval of zoology advisor;
  • completion of Zoology 691 and 692, a two-semester thesis research sequence, during the senior year (6 credits).

It is recommended that candidates for the senior thesis take Directed Study 699 during second semester junior year to prepare for the thesis.

Senior Thesis and Distinction in the Major

Upon recommendation of the department to the dean, Distinction in the Major is granted at graduation to students not earning Honors in the Major who have done superior work in the major. In addition to the requirements for a senior thesis, to graduate with Distinction in the Zoology Major, students must maintain an overall GPA of 3.3 and a GPA of 3.5 in the zoology courses in the major.

Honors in the Zoology Major and Senior Honors Thesis

Honors in the Major in Zoology is intended for students who are eager to experience the excitement of original research and who wish to graduate with the best possible undergraduate training in the discipline. Honors in the major is especially appropriate for students who are considering graduate work in the biological sciences or who want an especially rigorous training in research, reasoning, and writing skills useful to a wide range of career choices. Students should consult with student services coordinator (advisor@zoology.wisc.edu) to determine the best ways to fulfill honors requirements and to make the most out of the Honors in the Major experience. Students then submit the approved honors declaration form to the Student Services Coordinator in 234 Noland Hall.

To earn the B.A. or B.S with Honors in the Major in Zoology, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major and must:

  • Achieve a GPA of 3.5 out of 4.0 in all zoology courses at the time of graduation.
  • Achieve a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 in all courses taken at UW–Madison at the time of graduation.
  • 6 credits of Honors coursework in the major (these must be taken for official honors credit)
    • 410 Evolutionary Biology
    • 460 General Ecology
    • 504 Modeling Animal Landscapes
    • 550 Animal Communication and the Origins of Language
    • 466 General Genetics
    • 470 Intro to Animal Development
    • 523 Neurobiology
    • 524 Neurobiology II: An Introduction to the Brain and Behavior
    • 570 Cell Biology
    • 603 Endocrinology
    • 611 Evolutionary Physiology
    • 510/511 Ecology of Fishes
    • 520/521 Ornithology/Birds of Southern Wisconsin
    • 651 Conservation Biology
  • Complete a two-semester senior honors thesis in Zoology 681 (3 cr) and 682 (3 cr), for a total of 6 credits (senior year). Students completing the Senior Honors Thesis in an additional biological science major should consult the zoology honors coordinator to determine whether the project may also apply toward zoology honors. It is recommended that candidates for the Senior Honors Thesis take Directed Study 699 during second semester junior year to prepare for the thesis.

Students are responsible for arranging with a faculty member to supervise the project and are urged to consult their department honors advisor for guidance in finding faculty appropriate to their interests. Thesis mentors are not restricted to faculty in the Department of Zoology. Students are encouraged to explore opportunities that best suit their individual research interests. They may select research mentors from among research faculty in the entire biological research community on campus.

It is highly recommended that second-semester juniors do a 699 Directed Study course in the lab of their potential thesis mentor. This will allow the student to prepare for the thesis project. Together with the potential thesis mentor, they can also use this time to prepare an application for an undergraduate research award (e.g., Hilldale, Hughes, or Honors).

By the beginning of the senior year, each honors student will develop a written thesis proposal that must first be approved by the thesis mentor and then by the Student Services Coordinator. Two semesters of Senior Honors Thesis research (681 and 682, 6 total credits) must be taken; the first semester can be done during the summer, especially for students doing field research. Completion of Senior Honors Thesis (682) requires a written thesis approved and graded by the thesis mentor.

Honors in the Liberal Arts

The zoology department offers the following courses for Honors in the Liberal Arts:

Zoology 101 Animal Biology
Zoology 151/153–152 Introductory Biology
Zoology 504 Modeling Animal Landscapes
Zoology 550 Animal Communication and the Origins of Language

The Biology Core Curriculum courses can also be applied.