Module Feedback

MSC03 2020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

Physical Location:
CERIA Building
Room 204

Phone: (505) 277-1358
Fax: (505) 277-1351

Phylogenetics Activities and Project

Phylogenetics Semester Project

This module was developed as a semester long activity for a 200-level evolution and ecology course. Activities can be done without completing the semester-long timeline. All necessary instructions, presentations, and data are attached at the bottom of the page.


Phylogenetics is the study of evolutionary relationships. There are many tools and different types of data that can be used to reconstruct evolutionary relationships. Historically, phylogenies (trees) were created using morphological characters. Today many phylogenies are generated using genetic sequences from multiple loci. This project is meant to teach you about the Tree of Life, phylogenetic trees, and some of the tools used to study biodiversity. You will have two labs that introduce you to the techniques for building a phylogenetic tree and then how you use a phylogeny to ask and answer questions in biology. In pairs or groups of 3, you will work together to reconstruct a phylogeny for a portion of the Tree of Life. You will then use what you have learned about phylogenies, evolution, and comparative phylogenetics to address a biological question about that portion of the tree. You will present your results in the form of a poster later in the semester, so that you will gain an appreciation for the entire experience of scientific discovery (from asking a question all the way to finding and presenting the answer). 


Learn about scientific process

Gain appreciation for evolutionary connections across the Tree of Life

Interpret a phylogeny

Learn how phylogenetic trees are constructed

Introduce the different ways to study evolutionary relationships

Learn how comparative phylogenetics is used to understand the biology of organisms 


Hypothesis testing

Database mining

Phylogeny construction


Internet access

Poster making materials 

Semester Timeline

Lab 1: Introduce the semester project and assign background readings for phylogeny-building

Assigned readings and tutorials:

Lab 2: Discussion of phylogeny readings and tutorials. Phylogeny-building lab (Module I)

Lab 6: Comparative phylogenetics lab (Module II), receive taxonomic assignments for project.

Lab 7: Turn in the topics and questions to be addressed with the phylogeny

Lab 8: Turn in draft outline of poster

Lab 10: Turn in final draft of poster, print.

Lab 11: Present posters