SCI 139 - Introduction to Animal & Plant Biology

Spring 2023


Professor M. McDarby 
Office: C-231N (and the Lab C223).


Office (in Lab) Hours:   M 11-1; Tu 12-1; W 11 - 12.
W 12-1 and Th 12-2 (except for meetings once a month).

Try other times on your own luck or by appointment.

Telephone: 762-4651, Office extension 8970, Has Voice-Mail.
Lab extension 8856*.
Not during lab classes, please - Tu, Th 2-5; Tu, Th, 8-11.


Lectures:   Mon, Wed, 1- 2, C-221.

Laboratory:  Thursday, 8 - 11 AM, C-223.

Link:  Old Exams 

Link: How to Succeed






    About the Course...
The "Book"

        Course Objectives
        Important Dates
        Attendance & Make-Up Policies
Lecture & Lab Schedule
Research Papers
General Information
        Proposals for the Papers
        Problems and Extensions
Overall Format
First Page / Title Page
                Reference Page
Common Mistakes
Marking Deductions

About the Course...


Introduction to Biology, Plants and Animals, SCI 139, is a broad overview of the science of living things that concentrates mostly on the larger organisms. This is a course for non-science majors, intended to give an acquaintance with the topics. It is not an in-depth biology course and is not part of a sequence: there are three SCI-level biology courses, but they are each stand-alone courses that look at different aspects of the science. However, SCI 139 is not intended as a "from scratch" course - students are expected to have some basic understanding of simple scientific concepts, such as cells, molecules, et cetera. We will build upon your basic science vocabulary but try not to get too technical. Often, living things will be presented with a view toward their impact on humans, or vice-versa. Laboratories are set up to present concepts for discussion and/or animals and plants for hand-on investigation, and please note that this course does expect students (in groups) to perform dissections.

Here is the official FMCC Catalog Description of the Course, and the learning outcomes This course fulfills the SUNY Education Guidelines for Natural Sciences.


Course Objectives:


When you have successfully completed this course, you should have an overview understanding of the basic workings of animals and plants, as well as the differences between the major groups. You should have a basic working knowledge of how biologists think the world works, including how basic scientific method works, current theories on the development of Life and on the different ideas connected to evolution. You should also increase your biology vocabulary and general understanding of basic biological processes, including those at work in and around human beings. We hope that you will better be able to follow current events related to biology, such as medical breakthroughs, ecological issues, and such topics in lower-level science education as young people you know may be exposed to.


The "Book":


The "book" we will be using is available online.  It is the actual book - there is no official "hard" textbook

Important Dates:


Lecture Exams: 
February 22nd;  March 15th;  April 19th;  May 11th.

Lab Quizzes:
March 1st;  March 30th;  May 4

Research Papers:
1st Proposal, Feb 6th; 1st Paper, March 9th in lab.
2nd Proposal, March 29th; 2nd Paper, May 3rd.

Lab Reports:
Due by end of following lab period; last lab due by May 8th.







Lecture Exams (4) 100 Points Each - 400 Points - 40%

Lab Reports (12) 25 Points Each - 300 Points - 30%
Lowest completed lab of 13 dropped.

Lab Quizzes (3) 30 Points Each - 90 Points - 9%

Paper Proposals (2) 5 Points Each - 10 Points - 1%

Research Papers (2) 100 Points Each - 200 Points - 20%

Notice that the course grades add up to 1000 total Points, so each 10 Points gained (or lost) is the equivalent of 1% of your final grade, which will be figured this way:

90 - 100%........... A .......... 891 - 1000 Points.

87 - 89% ........... A- .......... 861 - 890 Points.

84 - 86% ........... B+ .......... 831 - 860 Points.

80 - 83% ........... B .......... 791 - 830 Points.

77 - 79% ........... B- .......... 761 - 790 Points.

74 - 76% ........... C+ .......... 731 - 760 Points

70 - 73% ........... C .......... 691 - 730 Points.

60 - 69% ........... D .......... 591 - 690 Points.

0 - 59% ............ F .......... 0 - 590 Points.

"D" is considered passing, but often only "C" or higher are accepted as transfer credits!

Grades may also be severely affected for students violating FMCCs Academic Integrity Policy.


Attendance & Make-Up Policies:


Laboratory classes all have associated marked reports, so missing them may lead to lost points.  Make-ups are possible using the remote materials posted on Blackboard.  All marked assignments and exams are scheduled in advance and those dates are posted on Blackboard – check regularly and/or mark your personal calendar. 

Due materials (lab reports, proposals, papers) may be handed in past the due date, (by email if no longer accessible on Blackboard) but will lose 5% per day, down to 25% for a complete and appropriately done but really late assignment.  However, proposals will not be accepted on or after the due date of the paper they are for, and NO MATERIALS WILL BE ACCEPTED AFTER MAY 10th.




Spring 2023 Schedule


     Wed Jan 25 -  Introduction.
                   SECTION ONE, CHAPTER 1 -  Early History of Biology.

     Thursday LAB  - Introduction. (1) - Metacognition.

     Mon Jan 30 -  SECTION ONE, CHAPTER 2  -  Classification.  

     Wed Feb 1 -  SECTION ONE, CHAPTER 3  -  Scientific Method.  

      ThursdayLAB (2)  - Introduction to Microscopes.
                             Genetics Prelab Given.

     Mon Feb 6 - SECTION ONE, CHAPTER 4  -  Microscopes & Cells.
                          First Paper Proposal Due.

     Wed Feb 8 -     

     Thursday  -  LAB (3)  -   Classification.   

     Mon Feb 13 -   SECTION ONE, CHAPTER 5 -Evolution.

     Wed Feb 15  -    SECTION ONE, CHAPTER 6 - Genes.

     Thursday - LAB (4) - Evolution

     Mon Feb 20 -  NO "CLASSES" - Presidents' Day. 

     Wed Feb 22 -   FIRST EXAM

     ThursdayLAB (5) - Genetics
                              Genetics Prelab Due.

     Mon Feb 27 -  

     Wed Mar 1 -  SECTION ONE, CHAP 7 -Origins of Life on Earth.

     ThursdayLAB  (6) - Plant Structures. Roots & Stems.
                                 First Lab Quiz.

     Mon Mar 6 - SECT TWO, CHAP 1, 2 - Photosynthesis, Mosses.

     Wed Mar 8 - SECTION 2, CHAPTER 3, 4 - Ferns, Gymnosperms.

     Thursday - LAB  (7) Plant Structures.  Leaves & Flowers.
                                 First Paper Due.  

     Mon Mar 13 -  SECTION TWO, CHAPTER 5 - Angiosperms.

      Wed Mar 15 -     SECOND EXAM.

     ThursdayLAB (8) - Protozoa.


     Mon Mar 27 -

     Wed Mar 29 -  SECTION TWO, CHAPTER 6 - Agriculture.
                         Second Proposal Due. 

     Thursday - LAB  (9) - Cnidaria

     Mon Apr 3 -

     Wed Apr 5 -  SECTION THREE, CHAPTER 1 - Protozoa.

     Thursday - LAB (10) - Worms.

     Mon, Apr 10 - SECT 3, CHAPTER 2 - Sponges & Cnidaria.

     Wed Apr 12 - SECT 3, CHAPTER 3 - Flatworms.

     Thursday - NO LAB.  Founders Day.

     Mon Apr 17 -  SECTION 3, CHAPTER 4 - Roundworms.

     Wed Apr 19 -   THIRD EXAM.

     Mon Apr 24 -  SECTION THREE, CHAPTERS 5 & 6 -
                         Mollusks, Segmented Worms.

     Thursday - LAB (11) - Arthropods.

     Wed Apr 26 -    SECTION THREE, CHAPTER 7 - Arthropods.

     Thursday - LAB (12) - Fetal Pig - Outside & Abdomen.

     Mon May 1 -    SECTION 3, CHAPTER 8 -

     Wed May 3 -   SECTION 3, CHAPTER 9  -
                              Invertebrate Chordates.
                                       2nd Paper Due.

     Thursday - LAB (13) - Fetal Pig - Chest & Head; 
                            3rd Lab Quiz.    

     Mon May 8 -   SECTION THREE, CHAPTER 10 -
                             Vertebrate Chordates.

                               Last Lab Report Due.

     Wed May 10 -
                     Final Deadline for all late materials.

     Thursday May 11 - FOURTH EXAM (Date Tentative).





SCI 139 Research Papers


General Information:

This course requires papers, using your choice of subjects but addressing a specific topic taken from the list found elsewhere in the handouts. These papers will include at least four type-written, double-spaced, reasonably-margined pages of text (text does not include titles, reference lists, or empty space). Most of the paper will be made up of your own collected and restated research on your subject, applied to your chosen topic.

The papers must be based upon at least four proper references, listed at the end of the paper with the format given below. Note: things like dictionaries and encyclopedias are not considered proper references - you must list them if you used them, but they will not count toward the paper's required four.

Proposals for the Papers:

It is required that, by the dates given in the course schedule, you hand in proposals for your papers. These can be handwritten. Three important items will be in your proposals: 1) Which of the listed topics (see topics sheet) have you chosen to address? 2) What subject are you going to research, applied to that topic? 3) What two references have you found that you expect to help you write your paper? Here, you need to give specific references, but not in "official" paper format. Proposals will be returned promptly with advisory comments and sometimes reference suggestions. They may have to be redone if unclear, or with a subject that can't fit the topic. Late proposals will be accepted only up to the due date of their papers.


It is very important that your papers be proofread - the seemingly small deductions for spelling, grammar, and organizational errors can really add up in a mistake-filled paper. You can submit papers early, up to three days before the due date, for precorrection. All mistakes, including everything that would be marked on a completed paper, will be marked, and the paper will be available for you to pick up and correct. If leaving papers in the lab box or mailbox, include a note indicating that you want precorrection. Usually, there's only a day turnaround for precorrection. You can submit a paper early as many times as you wish, but after the due date, marks are final - you cannot redo a paper after the deadline has passed and it's been returned to you.

Problems and Extensions:

If you are running into difficulties, keep Mr. McDarby informed - he may be able to help. Perhaps more importantly, if he's made aware throughout the process, he may give you extra time to finish the paper, which is almost never true if the first he hears about problems is on or just before the due date of the paper!



Overall Format for the SCI 139 Research Paper:


First Page / Title Page.

You can have a full separate title page, or use the top half of your first text page for the title.

The title must be specific enough to get an idea of what's in the paper clearly across to the reader.

The title must be followed by the chosen topic number in parentheses!!! See the topics list for their numbers.


Minimum four pages of text, double-spaced (leaves room for notes and corrections) - make a note if your word processor's idea of "double-spaced" looks unusually wide. Margins should not be too wide. Put things in your own words - use direct quotes sparingly. If you do quote, you should tell who's being quoted and why they matter - attribute the quote (and footnote it, too).  If your word processor skips lines between paragraphs, tell it not to.  Skipped lines on an "exactly four page" paper produces a short paper.


General information or information available from multiple sources does not require footnotes, so don't overdo it. Specific or controversial information, or numbers, or direct quotes, things that you could only have gotten from particular sources, do require footnotes. 

Footnote Format: at the end of the information / passage, put the last name of the lead author from your reference (your reference list at the end is alphabetized by author's last name, so a reader can easily find the full reference title if they want to). No other information is needed unless you have more than one reference from that author - then, use year of publication or second author or first words of title to specify which reference you're footnoting. References without authors can be footnoted with the organization, or if the organization has a very long name, the first words, followed by dots (...).

Reference Page.

At least 4 proper references required. 
NOTE: These papers require a specific
science-style reference listing format!!!

References are listed as follows. Any source used for information, whether used for a footnote, whether "proper" or not, should be listed. The entire list is alphabetized by author's last name or title if no author is listed. Make notes in your list for information that was not available.

Paper Sources: In this order: Author(s), last name first, full names, full list; Year (only) of publication; Title of actual reference; reference source if part of bigger whole, like a magazine article or a separately-written book chapter would be; Volume and Issue Numbers for a magazine, Date if a newspaper, or Publisher if a book; Page Numbers if applicable. If using a "paper" source from a database, name the database; or if a paper source offered over the Internet, give the address and date accessed.

Internet Sources: Use ONLY sources that can be shown to be reliable! List as: Author(s), last names first, full names, full list (if no author, give the website organization; if neither, you shouldn't use the source); Year of writing and/or most recent update; Title of specific web page accessed; Web site name/ support organization if page is part of larger site (information pages usually are;  this may be a repeat of the "author / organization," that's okay); Full Internet address; Date(s) that you accessed the information.

Other Sources: Check with Mr. McDarby on formats for unusual references. Don't make assumptions!





SCI 139 Research Paper - Topics List.


NOTE: You cannot use the same topic twice.

Topic 1.) For some small group of living things (a species or other small group), you will give a brief review of the types of research being done on that group purely for the sake of learning about those organisms. This last detail makes this topic different from Topic 2, below. It is important that this be a paper about research being done, and not a general "informational" article about your chosen organisms.

Common mistakes for this topic: People ignore that this is specifically a paper about the process of research - they get sidetracked with general information about the organisms instead. Sometimes it's hard to find enough process-oriented information, even about "popular" organisms.

Topic 2.) For some small group of living things (a species or other small group), you will give a brief review of the types of research being done on that group to gain knowledge with broad applications. This last detail makes this topic different from Topic 1, above. Examples of this type of research would be the use of yeasts to study cell reproduction, mice for toxicity, fruit flies for genetics, roundworms for embryology, etc. It is important that this be a paper about how the research is being done, and not a general "informational" article about your chosen organisms.

Common mistakes for this topic: As in Topic 1, people ignore that this is specifically a paper about research process - they get sidetracked with general information about the organisms instead. They may also get thinking more about the general type of research, combining different types of organisms instead of focusing on one.

Topic 3.) Living individuals consist of many functional systems that perform their basic life functions, working with other systems to keep the organism alive. For this topic, you will review the workings of one such system, then explain how it integrates into the other systems in the organism.  Humans do not count for this!

Common mistakes for this topic: People often start this paper with no really clear idea of what they're supposed to be doing - you have to understand what a functional system is to review one. Sometimes a system is picked that is very technical to explain. Often little space is given to how the system relates to the other systems, a very important aspect of this paper.

Topic 4.) Comparison of two books on the same animal or plant-related topic. These books should look, to a glance, like they're on exactly the same subject. Your job is to compare them - how are they similar? How are they different? This particular topic does not require four references - just the two books.

Common mistakes for this topic: If you choose books with very limited scope (little books), you run out of things to compare too fast.  People sometimes forget to tell at the beginning of their papers what their books are; they get bogged down just reviewing (this is not a review!) the books, and give almost no real comparisons. Sometimes it's clear that they didn't really understand the books, which makes it hard to compare them!


Topic 5.) A current ethical issue that involves animals or plants. These are the moral issues that surround Mayisions about living things. You might find proper subjects in such areas as medicine, research, public policy or the environment, but a major part of the issue has to affect animals (other than  people) or plants. You must find a subject that has at least two sides, and you must present all sides of the issue adequately. You may express your own opinion is you wish, but all sides must be treated fairly despite your personal feelings.

Common mistakes for this topic: People pick a subject they feel too strongly about, so the "other side" is presented very poorly (and don't use a reference source from one side to explain the other side); these papers may be difficult to organize properly - people sometimes just go over and over the same territory.


Topic 6.) The overall history of a some aspect of animal/plant biology theory or research. You need a subject that not only has a history, but one whose history you can actually track. Give early background and descriptions, discoveries, political / social aspects and impacts, all in a historical framework, including development of new ideas.

Common mistakes for this topic: Finding such information is almost impossible for some subjects. You need a subject that has a significant history, with definite developments that can be connected to dates, and as such is manageable in a fairly short paper. Also, although you would think otherwise for something that's essentially a timeline, many people can't seem to organize these papers properly.

Topic 7.)  A full examination of how a particular type of domesticated plant or animal has been and is now cultivated, including how different breeds or strains have been developed.  There will be history, but mostly this will be about current practices.

Common mistakes for this topic:  Donít make the subject too narrow Ė this is basically about agriculture, not home gardens.




Research Paper - Common General Mistakes.


Title is misleading or missing.

Topic Number is missing or wrong.

Paper doesn't really address chosen topic, or misses much of the topic's requirements.

Organization of the paper is poor - things are discussed in widely separate sections. NOTE:  outline, and dont be afraid to use a word processor to move things around.

Points you've already discussed are repeated.

Plagiarism - source material is copied with no or very little attempt to put into your own words.   (You need to rephrase all material in your own words. You are allowed to quote, but only occasionally and not without attribution:  explaining in your text who is being quoted and why they are a quotable source!)

Spelling and Grammar:

Overall proofreading was not done and needed to be. (Computer checkers are better than nothing, but will still miss a lot of mistakes.)

Apostrophes are not used on possessives. (Exception: possessive "its" gets no apostrophe;  "it's" is a contraction meaning "it is.")

Apostrophes are used on common plurals (only very rare plurals get apostrophes).

Colons and semicolons are misused. (A colon sets something up, often a list; a semicolon breaks thing apart a bit more strongly than a comma.)

Verbs don't refer to their nouns (singular, plural) properly, or change tense for no reason.

Confusion amongst "there/ their/ they're," or "your/ you're," or "two/ to/ too."

Effect and affect are confused. (Effect is almost always a thing, affect is a verb.)

Proper usage is "try to do whatever," not "try and do it," as most people speak.

Footnotes are overused, or not used when needed, or formatted improperly.  (See earlier section on footnotes.)

Quotations are overused (you're supposed to be paraphrasing, mostly, not copying) or are not attributed.  Your reader should know who is talking, and why they are worth listening to!

In quotations, periods and commas are put outside the quotation marks. (Punctuation at the end of quotations go inside the quotation marks unless putting them there would change the meaning of the quotes.)

Style results in confusion or changes for no apparent reason.

Paper isn't long enough. (Text alone has to be at least 4 pages!)

Reference format is wrong, and/or information that's supposed to be there is missing.

Not enough references (should be at least 4 proper ones!).

You've footnoted a reference that's not on your reference list.

You've failed to include at least one recent reference.




Research Papers Marking Deductions (in %):


First Paper

Second Paper


Topic Number missing or wrong

- 1

- 2

Topic same as first paper


- 40

Other mistakes

- 1

- 2


Omissions from topic requirements (See Topics Sheet):
Some omissions

-1 to -10

-2 to -20

Off the topic somewhat

- 8

- 10

Way off the topic

-12 to -25

-15 to -40

Topic not even recognizable

-20 to -45

-25 to -55

Length (Minimum 4 Pages of Text Required):

Within one page of minimum

- 6

- 12

Over one page short

- 15

- 25

Over 2 pages short

- 30

- 50

Spelling and grammar:

First 3 mistakes per page



Each mistake after the first 3 per page

- 1

- 2

So many mistakes as the be virtually unreadable

-4 to -40

-8 to -50

Organization is poor

-2 to -10

-4 to -20


Footnote format is wrong. (see rules above for description)


- 10

Footnote to an unlisted reference

- 10

- 20

Footnote obviously required but not present

- 4

- 8

Fewer than required number of proper references, each

- 8

- 12

Errors from required reference format, each

- 1

- 2

Listing format completely wrong. (see rules above)

-8 to -20

-15 to -40

Other problems:
Dishonesty - Plagiarism, Falsified Reference, etc

-20 to -100

Form, readability, other subjectives

-1 to -40

Exceptional content

+1 to +25




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