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What is biology about?

Biology is the scientific study of living things

Life is incredibly varied, yet based on common processes. Biologists – and students studying biology – seek evidence to explain the nature of living things, and to understand where and how life is evolving, how evolution links life processes and ecology, and the impact that humans have on all forms of life.

Biology explores the interconnectedness of all living things and the environment

Through learning in biology, students discover that life involves interactions at all levels of organisation: cells interact with their environment and with each other, so do organs, organisms and ecosystems. No living thing exists in isolation from its environment.

Interpreting the Nature of Science aims in a biology context

Understanding about science

Students develop understanding of how biological theories and ideas have evolved over time and as technology has improved.

For example:

  • Lamarck and Darwin’s ideas about the evolution of species.
  • The growing field of epigenetics challenges our assumptions about inheritance.
  • Modern microscopes provide greater detail than the simple lens mechanisms used by van Leeuwenhoek. New techniques make it possible to better investigate live cells and so continually expand our knowledge and understanding.

Investigating in science

Investigations provide students with opportunities to experience the different kinds of approaches that scientists use to learn more about living organisms.

  • Ecologists use 'field sampling' to explore relationships among organisms within ecosystems.
  • Physiologists 'model' organ systems to test the interrelationships between them.
  • Cell biologists 'experiment' to test their ideas on the properties of cells.
  • Geneticists use 'biotechnological techniques' to learn more about the genetic code of agricultural plants and animals.

Communicating in science

Students learn to communicate using the language of biology. For example, by:

  • using appropriate terminology when discussing or evaluating biological issues
  • using punnet squares to predict phenotypes
  • using biological diagrams to describe what can be seen through a microscope (for example, the structure of a leaf).

Participating and contributing

Students develop understanding of how scientific argument is conducted, enabling them to participate in informed debate on socio-scientific issues relevant to them and their community. For example:

  • Considering ecological issues from different points of view. Possible issues include: mining in national parks; stringency of biosecurity measures; different methods for controlling possums (1080 poison, biological control, or trapping).
  • Debating the proposition 'Genetic engineering has produced many wonderful products that help society, so society and governments should encourage it'.
  • Exploring the ethics of embryo selection and 'designer babies': 'Should we, just because we can?'

Last updated April 23, 2021