• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Biology
  • Areas of interest Genetics
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Rod Peakall
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2022
    See Future Offerings

See https://www.anu.edu.au/covid-19-advice. In Sem 1 2022, this course is delivered on campus with adjustments for remote participants.

Have you ever watched a crime show on TV and wondered just how DNA forensic analysis really works? Does everyone really have a unique DNA fingerprint? Have you been tempted to spend $100 to get your own DNA tested? If so, did you know that your test results could help you to trace your ethnic background, find missing relatives and even help the police find a murderer? Have you ever wondered why you are a similar height to your siblings - is it because of your genes, or because of the environment you grew up in? Why do traits vary even when their underlying DNA sequence is exactly the same? What role does genetics play in your risk of developing diseases such as diabetes?

This course will introduce you to the principles of population, evolutionary and quantitative genetics. We do this by asking: what can we learn from DNA? In answering this question, we focus on the practical applications of the theory illustrated by human forensic DNA analysis, conservation genetics and evolutionary genetics. In the practical component of the course, students will gain hands-on experience in human forensic DNA profiling in the laboratory, as well as statistical analysis skills across a range of genetic topics. Other topics covered include Next Generation Sequencing and its emerging and far reaching applications in human forensics and conservation genetics; and genetic adaptation including epigenetics and plasticity.

Note: Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates but are assessed separately.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Explain to an audience of subject matter experts the key concepts in population, evolutionary and quantitative genetics including: the basis and estimation of genetic variation; Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium; genetic drift; effective population size, population substructure, inbreeding and inbreeding depression; genetic adaptation including epigenetics and genetic plasticity; and heritability.
  2. Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the molecular laboratory techniques used routinely in human forensic analysis and population genetic analysis including sex typing, Short-Tandem Repeat (STR) DNA profiling, Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) detection, Sanger DNA sequencing and Next Generation Sequencing.
  3. Perform the statistical analysis of genetic data relevant to forensic, conservation, quantitative and evolutionary genetics, and summarise and critically interpret the outcomes. This will be done by hand, calculator, and other statistical software including the widely-used package R.
  4. Learn how to use the genetic software GenAlEx, then using this package analyse 1 or more DNA databases to statistically test whether the assumptions made in forensic DNA analysis hold. Based on this statistical analysis and a critical evaluation of the literature, write a scientific report that demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of the strengths and limitations of forensic DNA analysis.
  5. Search the literature to identify papers relevant to the genetic data sets provided for statistical analysis and integrate and evaluate the findings in written form.

Other Information

This course is an excellent accompaniment to postgraduate courses specialising in genetics, ecology, evolution, molecular biology and computational biology. The course is particularly well suited to postgraduates who wish to gain a thorough understanding of the practical application of population genetics to human forensic DNA analysis, conservation biology and evolutionary biology. The focus is on principles and concepts, illustrated by examples drawn from studies of human, agricultural, laboratory and wild populations. The course also serves as an excellent introduction to concepts in quantitative biology, teaching students how to break down the calculation of somewhat complex genetic statistics into a series of simple steps that can be performed with a hand calculator, or computer software such as R. Feedback from students who have taken the course consistently highlights gains in confidence and skills for tackling biological calculations of broad relevance to any field in biology, and the value of the skills learned for courses taken later in their degree.

Please email rsb.studentadmin@anu.edu.au to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Indicative Assessment

  1. 2 x Assignments (20) [LO 1,2,3,5]
  2. 1 Major Forensic DNA Analysis Assignment (30) [LO 4,5]
  3. Regular mini-assessment (10) [LO 1,2,3,5]
  4. Final Exam (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


The expected workload will consist of approximately 130 hours throughout the semester including:

  • Face-to face component which may consist of 3 x 1 hour lectures/tutorials per week (total 36 hours), 6 x 3 hours of practical and 6 x 1 hour of computer lab sessions throughout the semester.
  • Approximately 70 hours of self directed study which will include preparation for lectures, presentations and other assessment tasks.

Students are expected to actively participate and contribute towards discussions.

Inherent Requirements

Not yet determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

Incompatible with BIOL2151

You will need to contact the Biology Teaching and Learning Centre to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Prescribed Texts



Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $4200
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $6000
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3145 21 Feb 2022 28 Feb 2022 31 Mar 2022 27 May 2022 In Person View

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