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Students busy as BEEs program starts at UTSC

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There is an incessant buzz on campus this fall as the Department of Biological Sciences launches the Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution (BEE) Specialist program at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

The BEE program is the University's effort to tackle the growing issues facing biodiversity at a critical time to our future. With its laboratory and field-course intensive curriculum, it is dedicated to creating educated scientists trained to understand and actively seek solutions to global problems for vulnerable plants and animals. Students will be engaged in hands-on experiences that combine theories with knowledge from the real world in order to develop a full understanding of how ecology and evolution shape species, communities and ecosystems.

"The BEE program is a unique [opportunity] for students to get their hands dirty and experience how ecosystems function by going out to the world and seeing how things really work," says Maydianne Andrade, associate professor of biological sciences at UTSC and Canada Research Chair in Integrative Behavioural Ecology.

As early as second year, students are able to receive credits for participating in either group or individual research. Several courses also include a field component where students examine various ecosystems located either locally, at a field station near campus, or internationally, in countries such as Panama where they are given a chance to study a completely different type of environment.

Professor Andrade believes that the University's location will only enhance the success of the program. "As an urban campus set on the edge of a ravine, the natural world is right at our doorstep," she says, "giving students a means to directly investigate the biodiversity of the region and see firsthand how humans affect the natural world while living in a city."

The specialist program will cover materials from morphology, physiology and behaviour, while examining the structure and function of communities and ecosystems. It will demonstrate how ecological and evolutionary perspectives are used to understand and predict the outcome of dynamic interactions among organisms, populations, species and communities. BEE graduates will be well-equipped to take positions in government agencies, consulting firms and NGO's, continue their graduate studies in the sciences; or pursue careers dealing with business, law, environmental issues, stewardship and sustainable development.

"Biodiversity is an area of major importance," Andrade says. "And with the impacts of climate change and human encroachment becoming [more apparent], students [find themselves] wanting to make a difference but are often uncertain how to accomplish this."

But that is what the BEE program is for - training students to go back to their communities and making real changes.

For more information about the BEE program, read the Biological Sciences Department course calendar:

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