Since Darwin’s groundbreaking work, phylogenetic trees have become important graphical representations of evolutionary hypotheses, patterns, and history. Understanding of evolutionary concepts and principles goes hand-in-hand with cross-disciplinary knowledge about the genetic continuity of life and the genetic connections of individuals, populations, and lineages over time. Thus, integrating tree-thinking into introductory biology curricula may help students better understand evolution.1,2,3,6,10  Because a phylogenetic, tree-thinking perspective is used throughout modern biology, biological research is expected to be phylogenetically based for studies in epidemiology, forensics, agriculture, conservation, and other fields outside the traditional realm of phylogeny in taxonomy and systematics.

This site presents modules, resources, and information about the tree-thinking curriculum we have developed and collected to support an introductory biology curriculum organized around a central theme of tree-thinking that can increase student understanding of evolution as a central biological theory.


Welcome to the Tree-Thinking Curriculum Site

Tree-thinking is an approach to evolution education that links understanding evolution with how it is represented in phylogenetic diagrams.

Charles Darwin first sketched his concept of evolution as a simple tree diagram in Notebook B (left) and later in the single diagram (below) included in his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (Darwin 1859). These diagram illustrate the central concept of evolutionary theory that all lineages ultimately share a common ancestor and lineages originate, split, persist, and even end over time. Over multiple generations, descendants in different lineages exhibit descent with modification as they change from their ancestors.

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