Bio 4955: Genealogy and kinship

Teaching modality for S21: hybrid, including remote lectures with some in-person labs

Who are you? Who are “your people” … and what is your family history? How do you go about finding your roots? 

This course (new in S21) will tackle these exciting questions, with extensions to connected areas of population biology and evolution. We will apply conceptual and factual foundations of genetics to a focus on genealogy and human family trees. We will also explore theories and data regarding deep human origins and ancestry. The course will additionally address broader applications of information about genetic variation and kinship within conservation biology and behavioral ecology.

The court will fulfill the breadth requirement for BIO majors in the area of population biology & evolution. Bio 3351 Genetics is a prerequisite (can be taken concurrently).

Laboratory work will focus principally on students analyzing results of test of their own DNA and construction of their family tree through combined genealogical and genetic analysis. Other laboratory exercises will explore genetic techniques (DNA extraction, PCR amplification, RFLP analysis of SNP variation); field trips will investigate the importance of genetics in zoo collection management, and connections between human longevity and genealogy. Interdisciplinary links in the course will include consideration of historical events as well as sociological and other influences on each student’s ancestors and collateral relatives.

Informed consent

Because students in the course will need to have their DNA tested, it is imperative that each person considering the course understand and acknowledge various aspects in advance. All prospective students should visit these pages before registering: 

Costs to students

The Department of Biology will provide each course participant with an AncestryDNA test kit that the student will submit soon after registering. (Should the student not remain registered for the course after the S21 drop/add deadline, we will expect the student to reimburse the Department for the $50 kit cost.)

We will require each student to purchase the Traits function from Ancestry (a $20 expense) after receiving their test results.

Do you have questions or concerns as a prospective student in Bio 4955? Please do not hesitate to contact me ( for more information.