Program Information


The Department of Biology currently offers modules of study in Animal Behaviour, Biodiversity and Conservation, Biology, Ecosystem Health, Genetics, and Genetics and Biochemistry.

Biology Modules

The Department of Biology offers a total of 12 different modules spread among 4 major areas of study.  

By clicking on one of the titles below you will find a description of the area of study followed by a link to the Academic Calendar for each module offered in that area.  As well, a handy checklist PDF is provided to help you navigate the module requirements.

You may enter into a module following satisfactory completion of first year. The required first-year courses as well as the grade requirements to gain admission are not the same for each module. The link to the Academic calendar provides the admission and progression requirements.

Animal Behaviour

Understanding how animals navigate their physical and social environments and process information to maximize survival and reproductive success constitutes the subject of behaviour. The Animal Behaviour module takes a scientific approach to understanding what animals, including humans, do and why they do it. This module will explore behaviours at both the proximate and ultimate levels of analysis. Proximate analysis involves the mechanism underlying a behaviour such as hormonal controls and gene expression, while ultimate analysis involves understanding the evolutionary origin and reproductive consequences of a behaviour. The module draws on teaching and research expertise in the Departments of Psychology and Biology.

Biodiversity and Conservation

This module develops scientific understanding of global biological diversity, the threats to its existence, and methods for its conservation. Solid grounding in systematics, genetics, ecology, and field biology provides a foundation for advanced courses and hands-on experiences in conservation and restoration.


Biology can be studied at the level of molecules, cells, organisms and populations. Selecting a Biology module affords you the opportunity to study at all of these different scales or to focus in upper year courses on only one or two. Another reason the Biology modules are a popular choice is it allows you to study a wide range of organisms from microbes to humans. Students interested in the area of ecology will find that the Biology modules will allow them to take a wide range of engaging courses covering aspects of community, population, molecular and chemical ecology. Similarly, students interested in evolutionary biology can be engaged by courses on more quantitative aspects of evolution to evolutionary genetics. Both plant and animal physiology courses are also popular choices of students in these modules built on a strong cohort of research faculty in these areas.

Ecosystem Health

The increase in human population is placing greater demands on the capacity of our planet and is altering terrestrial and marine ecosystems on a global scale. These changes are already having serious effects on ecosystem and human health. The Major in Ecosystem Health will allow students to explore the relationships between ecosystem and human health and our global environment. Drawing upon expertise from the Departments of Biology, Geography and Political Science, students will be exposed to experimental and theoretical approaches to ecosystem health as well as to the economic factors and the policies that impact how humans interact with their environment.


Genetics is the study of the process and implications of trait inheritance which is linked explicitly to the concept of the gene and the molecule DNA. The Department offers four modules in this foundational area of biology that are built upon its research and teaching strengths. In the area of molecular genetics students will be able to take a range of courses focused on gene structure, function and regulation that introduce modern 'omic' approaches (e.g. genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics) that are taught using a range of animal, plant and microbial systems. Related topics such as genetic engineering and developmental genetics form the basis of additional courses. Building on research expertise in other subdiscipline there are courses in behavioural genetics, and evolutionary genetics.

Genetics & Biochemistry

The disciplines of Genetics and Biochemistry have been in a powerful alliance for over a century and have given rise to the modern research discipline of molecular biology. Scientists studying patterns of inheritance have worked together with those studying the structure and interaction of cellular components in order to elucidate the structure of DNA, the basic mechanisms of gene structure and expression, intricate developmental pathways, evolutionary histories, disease pathologies and now, the complete spectrum of genes, transcripts or proteins used by an organism. The Honors Specialization in Genetics and Biochemistry offers an opportunity to bring these two disciplines together and is jointly coordinated by the Departments of Biology and Biochemistry.

Synthetic Biology

Synthetic Biology is an interdisciplinary field that involves use of genetic and biochemical approaches to design and construct novel biological systems with user defined characteristics.  The Honours Specialization in Synthetic Biology draws on teaching and research expertise in the Departments of Biochemistry and Biology.  This module is jointly coordinated by the Departments of Biology and Biochemisty.

Interdisciplinary Modules

  • Honours Specialization in Geology and Biology. For complete information, see the Academic Calendar.
  • Specialization in Geology and Biology.  For complete information, see the Academic Calendar.
  • Honours Specialization in Integrated Science with Biology. For complete information, see the Academic Calendar.
  • Honours Specialization in Integrated Science with Genetics.  For complete information, see the Academic Calendar.
  • Honours Specialization in Integrated Science with Biology. For complete information, see the Academic Calendar.
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How Degrees are Constructed

At Western, degrees are built around the concept of the module. A module is a collection of courses that defines an area of study. The number of courses included in a module is defined by the amount of specialization in the topic.

There are four different types of modules:

The four different types of modules
Honors Specialization:
4.0-5.0 courses
6.0-7.0 courses
9.0 or more courses
9.0 or more courses

The specific courses that are included in a particular module are designated by the Department.

The modular degree structure gives you the opportunity to combine various subjects from different departments and faculties. The chart below shows how modules can be combined in the three different types of degrees offered: Honors Bachelor Degree, Bachelor Degree (4 yr), Bachelor Degree (3 yr). For instance, if you were planning to complete a 4-year Honors Bachelor Degree, you could do an Honors Specialization in Biology combined with a minor in a different Science or even a non-Science (Philosophy, for example). A very popular choice is an Honors Bachelor degree based on the double major – two different Major modules, either both in Science or one in Science plus a non-Science. At Western, there are literally thousands of possible combinations of modules.

Combining the modules to construct the three degree types

Modules can be combined in the three different degree types:

Honors Bachelor Degree
4 Years/ 20.0 courses
  • Honors Specialization
  • Honors Specialization-Major
  • Honors Specialization-Minor
  • Major-Major
Bachelor Degree
4 Years/ 20.0 courses
  • Specialization
  • Specialization-Major
  • Specialization-Minor
  • Major-Major
  • Major
  • Major-Minor
  • Major-Minor-Minor
Bachelor Degree
3 Years/ 15.0 courses
  • Major
  • Major-Minor
  • Minor-Minor
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Learning Expectations

The twelve learning expectations are:

  1. Graduates are expected to gain an understanding of the aims and basic methods of science through the experience of doing science whether this be in the field or laboratory.

  2. Graduates will be information literate and be able to convey their understanding of a topic effectively using a diversity of both verbal and written communication skills.

  3. Graduates will understand the processes and patterns of biological evolution and the role of evolution as the central unifying concept in biology.

  4. Graduates will understand the interactions among organisms and their environments, and the consequences of these interactions in natural populations, communities, and ecosystems.

  5. Graduates will learn the scope and consequences of biological diversity and the evolutionary relationships among major groups of organisms. 

  6. Graduates will understand principles of inheritance including molecular mechanisms, reproductive strategies, and population genetics.

  7. Graduates will learn the basic structure and function of the cell, the basic unit of all living things.

  8. Graduates will understand processes underlying development, cellular differentiation, and reproduction.

  9. Graduates will understand the relationship between form and function in biology, as expressed in molecular, cellular and whole organism physiology.

  10. Graduates will understand the mechanisms organisms use for the sensing and perception of the internal and external environments through communication and signalling systems.

  11. Graduates will understand the interconnectedness and interdependencies of biological processes – systems biology – as it pertains to processes at the cellular, whole organism, and ecosystem levels.

  12. Graduates will understand the historical and social context of biological thought and research and the contributions of biology (and science in general) to the resolution of ethical, social and environmental issues.

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Student Rights and Responsibilities

Western University is a community of faculty, students and staff that is engaged in pursuits related to teaching and learning and research.  Since its inception, the university has been recognized as an institution where both faculty and students are offered academic freedom to pursue inquiry in an environment that promotes equity, respect, and honesty.

All students, as members of the University Community, accept a responsibility to maintain and uphold the purposes of the University and, in particular, its standards of scholarship. It follows, therefore, that acts of a nature which prejudice the academic standards of the University are offences subject to discipline.

As well, all students have the right (i) to be reasonably accommodated for a range of medical, religious and personal issues, (ii) to appeal any academic decision regarding the mark given in a course, on a test or assignment, and (iii) to appeal any charge of alleged academic misconduct. 

Academic Appeals

A request for relief relating to a specific mark, a course grade, the appropriateness of assignments, examinations, or grading practices must be initiated with the instructor as soon as possible after the mark is issued. 

If the issue is not resolved following discussions with the course instructor, then please fill out the Appeals Form and send it to the Associate Chair, Undergraduate Education, Dr. Greg Thorn (

More detailed information regarding academic appeals including appeal deadlines are found here.  

Academic Consideration: Medical reasons, religious observation, athletics, compassionate reasons/bereavement

If you are seeking academic consideration for an absence, follow these steps:

1.  Inform your course instructor(s) by email that you missed or will miss a course component. 

2.  Access the website of the Academic Advising Office of YOUR home faculty to complete an Academic Consideration Request. If you are a Science/BMSc student, you can access the Science/BMSc Academic Advising Help Portal to submit your request.

Please note: All religious considerations, except for final exams, should be approved by your professor.

Note: If you write your tests/exams with Accommodated Exams (through Student Accessibility Services) you may also need to fill out the Makeup Request Form through the Examination Services Portal after receiving approval from the Academic Advising Office.

Scholastic Offenses Including Plagiarism

All students should be familiar with Western's Code of Student Conduct (PDF).  As well, Western has well articulated policies regarding scholastic discipline (PDF). This document outlines a complete list of behaviours that are worthy of disciplinary action, including cheating.


The most common form of academic misconduct is plagiarism, which may be defined as “ the act or an instance of copying or stealing another’s words or ideas and attributing them as one’s own." This concept applies with equal force to all assignments, including laboratory reports, diagrams, and computer projects.

Department of Biology guidelines and procedures regarding plagiarism

For each course offered by the Department of Biology the course outline refers to plagiarism and the penalties that may be brought to bear.  Many course instructors use the software Turnitin to identify similarities between a submitted assignment and previously authored works in the vast Turnitin database.  Turnitin does not by itself identify plagiarism, this is done by the Associate Chair - Undergraduate  who looks at any matching text and decides whether the match constitutes an act of plagiarism. 

When a Biology instructor suspects that an act of plagiarism has occurred they inform the Associate Chair  Undergraduate who, after notifying the student, is tasked with investigating the allegation in more detail before arriving at an independent conclusion.  Any penalty that may be leveed on a student is made after consultation with the course instructor.  Depending upon the severity of the copying, the penalty may range from a percentage deduction on the assignment to a grade of zero in the course. Students that are found to plagiarise repeatedly are subject to more severe discipline levied by the Dean of Science. 

Any decision by the Department that concludes that a scholastic offense has been committed can be appealed.  The stepwise method of appealing an decision is found  here

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