Botany 480: Algal Diversity and Evolution Lab

University catalog description: “Principles of algal diversity, structure, and evolution. Identification of common Hawaiian algae.”

Botany 480 is the best class ever! Led by Dr. Celia Smith and your knowledgeable teaching assistants, you will take an evolutionary journey from the beginnings of life on earth, through the evolution of the Cyanophyta (cyanobacteria), Chlorophyta (green algae), Rhodophyta (red algae), and Phaeophyta (brown algae), culminating in the evolution of land plants! With exciting plot climaxes including the great oxygenation, the return of land plants to the ocean as sea grasses, and the loss of photosynthesis in heterotrophic algal species! This class isn’t just about algae. You will learn how marine plants in tropical ecosystems may be ecologically linked to fibropapillomatosis tumors in Chelonia mydas (green sea turtle), how watershed management can be linked to invasive algae blooms, and how fisheries management interacts with algal species to transform coastal ecosystems.


A field trip each semester takes students into the field to experience the wonderful world of marine plants in their natural environment. Led by your knowledgeable teaching assistants (myself included), you will discover the abundance of marine plant species found in the intertidal and subtidal zones. Be prepared to get wet and dive into marine botany!


Each student collects and presses algae specimens to produce three herbaria. Here they identify and describe the common local species of green, red, and brown algae. Herbaria specimens are the professional standard for describing algae in any marine or freshwater biological study. Students have used these as proof of their skills for job interviews, fellowship applications, and graduate school interviews.