Home > Biology > [#6] – Biology 108 – Introduction To Biological Diversity

[#6] – Biology 108 – Introduction To Biological Diversity

Firstly, I’d like to provide an explanation for my lack of entries as of late.  In order to expel any confusion: I did not abandon this blog haha; I’m still alive; I didn’t win the lottery, and no, I didn’t get abducted by aliens.  The truth is much more mundane: The final exam for my (condensed) summer physics course was a few days ago, and naturally, I’ve been busy studying, and solving countless problem sets in preparation for the test.

For those who are still curious: I received my Physics 102 – Final Course Grade today, and got an A+.  More on this in an upcoming post.


The world is full of flora and fauna; most of which we haven't gotten the slightest clue about.


Hey, wait!  This post wasn’t supposed to be about physics!  It’s supposed to be about a life science, the one and only, biology!  (My digressions get the best of me sometimes)  Now onto the review:



My first ever course review for this blog was for Biology 107.  While Bio 107 was concerned with the microscopic aspects of biological processes, Biology 108 dealt purely with macroscopic phenomena.  Because I took Bio 108 during my winter (second) term, I had already received all of my fall (first) term grades.  Needless to say, I was quite disappointed with my marks, and was spurred by my shortcomings to try harder, and ultimately, to perform better.  As you will see in the subsequent weeks, however, my entire first year was a hodgepodge of good and mediocre results.


Course:  Biology 108 – Introduction To Biological Diversity

Instructor:  Felix Sperling

Textbook:  Biology – by Campbell and Reece (8th ed)



This course was structured in much the same way as all of the other first year science courses.  There was a lecture component, a laboratory, and last but not least, a seminar.  The seminar was a mirror image of Bio 107’s seminar.  Essentially, we were to read a journal article, and complete a two page write-up on it.  As for the labs, instead of handling bacteria and other microscopic organisms, we dealt with plants, fungi, and small aquatic creatures.

Besides the course content, one glaring difference between Bio 107 and Bio 108 was the nature of the notes; the way in which our information was obtained.  You may recall that my Bio 107 instructors had insisted that we copy our notes off of a giant projector screen.  In contrast to this, my Bio 108 instructor, Felix Sperling, provided us with a complete set of notes before every lecture.  We were expected to print off and bring our notes to class in which he would then proceed to read off of his own set of notes verbatim.

I’m well aware that there exists both naysayers, and advocators for each type of teaching style.  Without sounding overly didactic, on the one hand, writing notes during class ensures that students are physically engaged with the course material, albeit not always mentally.  On the other hand, giving a completed set of notes before class ensures that a student will never miss crucial information, but may, as a consequence, lower a student’s motivation to learn the material.  Depending on your learning style (which I will discuss in a later post), your preference could be either one of these.

My preference sways towards the latter style, in which the notes are provided, in full form.  Biology 108 was filled to the brim with novel information.  We were in charge of memorizing a multitude of epithets, more specifically, genus and species names.  This, along with many other taxonomic properties, including plenty of latin and greek root words, can make one’s head spin!  Incidentally, I was elated when I became aware that I wouldn’t have to write a thing during class; all I had to do was read, read, and then read some more, until the information had successfully been branded into my mind.

In fact, about a month into the course, I thought to myself: “What would be the harm of not attending these lectures at all?”  And so, at the drop of a hat, the scientist within me decided to embark on a little experiment.  My half-facetious, half-hopeful hypothesis went somewhere along the lines of: “If I stop attending lectures, but still end up with a respectable midterm grade, then I will conclude that attending said lectures are not an absolute prerequisite for success in this course.”

To my amazement, the results of my ‘experiment’ did in fact substantiate my hypothesis!  I was able to ‘get away with’ skipping class.  I know what you’re thinking, this was/is a very bad thing to do; it is something that is frowned upon by most academic circles.  To this I say “yes,” it doesn’t work for everybody, but it did work for me (in this particular case).

Moral of the spiel:  Do what works best for you.  What works wonders for someone else may be disastrous for another.  Felix Sperling was a great professor, but I felt that I could learn about the course content in a way other than through his biweekly lectures.


Class Average:  ~ B-  (2.6 GPA)

My Grade:  A-  (3.7 GPA)

  1. Nikki
    December 19, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Found your blog in a random search. I’m a first year at UofA (since Sept. this year) and I really wish that I had found your blog before my endeavor. Do you have any tips for studying for Bio? Sadly, my methods just didn’t cut it for 108 and my mark, although not devastating, was not preferable. I’m going to be doing 107 for the winter semester and would love some tips for studying in order to save my GPA.

    • December 19, 2011 at 10:42 pm

      Hi there! I’m glad you’ve happened to stumble upon my blog!

      Firstly, it always helps to put the past behind you, in order to better focus on the future. I’m sure Bio 108 (along with the rest of your semester), was a tremendous learning experience. That being said, make sure to thoroughly analyze what worked and what didn’t.

      Biology 108, along with all first year science courses, is a “high-enrollment” class, and therefore, it is difficult to move ‘up and down the grade-ladder’, so to speak. — don’t ruminate too much over your grade in this course (100-level courses are designed to be nasty on the good ol’ GPA) haha.

      Tips for Bio 107:

      – Beware of the lab exam. For the most part, the lab report and quizzes are relatively easy compared to the lab exam. Definitely make sure you’re well prepared for it!

      – The seminar component is practically identical to that of Bio 108. Take what you learned from the 108 seminar, and apply it here.

      – The lectures focus more on the “micro” aspect of biology. You’re, therefore, going to be learning a lot about many cell processes and functions. There will be an emphasis on terminology (less so than 108, though), and processes like DNA duplication, etc.

      – When I took bio 107, in 2009, our final was NOT cumulative. Everything before our first (and only) midterm was not on the final.

      – This one’s a no brainer: DON’T CRAM like I did.

      – The textbook didn’t help me, or anyone that I knew. The professor’s notes will probably suffice.

      – I was going to suggest making flashcards … but if they’re not “your thing”, they probably won’t help much for this course. (However, if you do regularly make flashcards, then I suggest you keep on making them for this course) — Also, flashcards seemed to help my friends and I remember the names and structures for the 21 amino acids for biochem 200.

      – Try to finish studying for your midterm/final 2 days before you actually have it. The day before the test should be used to re-skim/read ALL of the course material one last time.

      ^ Other than the above, studying is very idiosyncratic in nature. It is different for everyone, and yet, there is one universal commonality: the more you do it (study), the more efficient you’ll become. Rome was not built in a day, and similarly, good study habits do not manifest themselves overnight. Believe me, as long as you ‘try’, you’ll no doubt get better over time. With that, I wish you the best of luck in bio 107 (and the rest of your classes) …


      P.S. You may have noticed that the blog hasn’t been updated in quite some time. That’s merely because I haven’t had ANY TIME to update it! –School sure takes up a lot of one’s day/life– BUT, I do plan on adding some new entries over the winter break, and will definitely update it during the spring/summer.

      P.P.S. I guess I should really practice what I preach … I have a pharmacology exam tomorrow and … well … should be studying!

  2. kucekuce
    April 5, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    hey, hopefully you’re still doing this blog. I was just wondering, im registering for my fall courses for next year and was wondering if you think its beneficial to take either bio 107 or 108 first.

    • April 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm

      Hey kucekuce,

      First of all, thanks for taking an interest in this blog!

      Secondly, yes, I’m definitely planning on ending my extended hiatus once the school-year comes to a close. (Which would be, for me, around April 20th). I’ve been extremely busy for the past 8 months and just haven’t found the time to sit down and write posts haha.

      In regards to your question, there really isn’t a “right” or “wrong” choice; really, it’s all a matter of personal preference.

      My (subjective) opinion:

      – If I had to ‘do it all over again’, I’d elect to take Bio 108 first. Why? Well, to me, it seemed more straightforward than Bio 107. Bio 108 focused much more on memorization than anything else — a good change from the other first year courses that you’re bound to take (i.e.: Chem 101/102 / Bio 107 / Math 114 / Physics 124, etc., mainly focus on “conceptual knowledge” as opposed to brute memorization).

      – The Bio 108 lab exam was much less intimidating than the one for Bio 107. By doing 108 first, you’ll positively prime yourself for the tougher 107 lab exam the following semester.

      – Don’t be fooled, though … Neither 107 nor 108 are designed to be “easy”. If it were that easy, most people would be walking out with 3.7 – 4.0’s. In reality, as is evidenced by my blog entries, the averages always seem to hover in the B- (2.7) range.

      With that being said, take first whatever interests you most. If you’re really into cell biology, take 107 first. Conversely, if you’re more interested in the mechanisms of evolution and biological diversity, then take 108 first. — Taking whatever interests you most in the first semester will give you a sort of ‘confidence-boost’ for the second semester.


      In any case, good luck with your uni registration and upcoming diploma exams!

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