As the study of life, biology can truly help us understand the world around us.  Whether we are studying how organisms interact with each other and their environment or how water and nutrients move through an organism, we can learn about the world around us and understand our role and place in it.  Learning concepts at their basic level is important, and then being able to apply these lessons and solve problems or see their relevance to other issues is equally important.

The goal of any introductory course is to introduce students to the basic principles of that discipline.  More details and a deeper understanding of these principles will come as you take additional upper-level courses focused on that area.  At the introductory level, we explore and see the relevance of issues.  The hope is that this book will be useful in that end.  It will supplement what you are covering in class, provide additional information in a different way to aid in your learning the material and inspire you to explore other related websites and content.  There are various activities and videos embedded in the text.  I hope you take the time to watch, interact, and apply what you are learning.

The following is a short, but nice overview video of what life is.  There are some beautiful images to see as Dr. Paul Nurse briefly discussed what the 5 core principles of life are.  Easier said than done as defining life can be more complex than you might realize.


The cell is the smallest unit of life.  Many people study yeast, a simple cell that can be studied easily in the lab.  Dr. Nurse has studied a gene in yeast that aids with reproduction and realized this had a connection this a reproduction gene in humans.  This very old gene, like all genes, helps to dictate life.  And these genes can be favored sometime with natural selection which allows some individuals with a certain advantageous trait in a given environment to live longer and reproduce more, passing on that trait.

Life is made up of molecules and chemicals and therefore chemistry is vital to understanding life.  There are various chemical reactions occurring within cells that allow the cells and living organisms to survive.  And finally, life has to constantly manage information to keep these chemical reactions working and genes functioning.  As Dr. Nurse states “Life is and can only operate through information.”

Taken together, these ideas point out some of the core biology principles.  Living things are bounded physical entities.  The bounded entity is the chemical and informational machine which has a heredity system that determines how it works and with variability it can evolve through natural selection.  All life can be viewed from this lens.

Take a few minutes to reflect on this video and then answer the question below.



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Introductory Biology: Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity Copyright © 2023 by Erica Kosal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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