Freely available to everyone, I highly recommend Principles of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior. This introduction is from Open Yale Courses, as taught by Professor Stephen C. Stearns, and recorded in Spring 2009. The complete videos and transcripts are all online. This is not an interactive course, or a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), so you can proceed at your own pace. There are no exams, grades, or course credits (the listed requirements and grading apply only to the on-campus Yale class). PLEASE NOTE that, although much of my website focuses on LGBTQ+ arts, this course is general interest, from Yale’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. (BELOW are links to many more free university courses, in a wide range of subjects, all open to everyone.)
Although I have only a basic science background, I found Prof. Stearns’s lectures understandable, engrossing and revelatory. He ties together so much, from genetics, to basic geology and climate science, to ecology, evolutionary biology, and behavior in animal and human populations, including the tug between selfishness and altruism. For me, the course was life-changing, in its comprehensive vision of how everything in our shared world interconnects.
As Prof. Stearns notes, “This course presents the principles of evolution, ecology, and behavior for [those] beginning their study of biology and of the environment. It discusses major ideas and results in a manner accessible to all… Recent advances have energized these fields with results that have implications well beyond their boundaries: ideas, mechanisms, and processes that should form part of the toolkit of all biologists and educated citizens.”
Here is an outline of the 36 lectures, from Yale’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology course number EEB 122.
Although all of the videos and transcripts are freely available online, the course used three textbooks:
- Cotgreave, Peter and Irwin Forseth. Introductory Ecology. Oxford: Blackwell Science Ltd, 2002.
- Krebs, John R. and Nicholas B. Davies. An Introduction to Behavioral Ecology, 3rd ed. Oxford: Blackwell Science Ltd, 1993.
- Stearns, Stephen C. and Rolf Hoekstra. Evolution: An Introduction, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
More Free University Courses
These courses, encompassing both the arts and sciences/STEM, are open to everyone.
- See all available free Open Yale Courses, in a wide range of subjects – complete video lectures and transcripts, learn at your own pace, no grading or course credit.
- 1,700 free online courses (from Yale, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, University of Chicago, Oxford, more, as listed by openculture.com).
- Article on “65 free online courses from the top US colleges” including the platforms Coursera, edX, and FutureLearn (Business Insider, March 29, 2021).