After two decades of teaching the two-semester sequence of general biology courses, requiring students to purchase a hefty textbook at a high cost that contained far more chapters than one could ever realistically cover in a typical academic year, the concept of this textbook was born.
This text not only removes materials not covered in most general biology classes (which are covered in courses that follow) but it also condenses the material that is most often taught into a more manageable and usable form. Additionally, this text is written to focus on how the subject of biology fits into the real world through utilizing a myriad of applications and current research to illustrate that our understanding is constantly growing. Each chapter begins with a ‘Big Picture’ introduction, ends with a ‘Bottom Line’ summary, and includes a ‘Field Notes’ feature that highlights current or recent research on the topic of that chapter.
The text follows the theme that the Earth has been and always will be going through changes. Over time, historical events have shaped everything that we observe today from environments to anatomical structures and from species diversity to molecular processes. Thus, it is important for students not just to understand the what behind any given phenomenon or process, but to understand how, why and from where such things evolved to exist in the way that they did.
As neither life nor science is multiple choice, the assessment sections for each chapter include some multiple-choice questions for quick knowledge checks and convenience but also short answer questions that require students to think critically, connect concepts and write answers in their own words.
With the overwhelming availability of online information, the function of textbooks is changing in regard to their role in education. In short, this text is designed for classroom use for both instructor and student, not as the traditional comprehensive encyclopedic reference.
Biology: Life as We Know It:
- contains teaching ancillaries, such as PowerPoint slides and a Test Bank.
- includes "Test Your Understanding" discussion questions at the ends of chapters that engage students and solidify understanding.
- features adaptive software that provides an individualized learning experience tailored for every student.
Additionally, the book has proven effective for non-majors as well. Hear what author Andy Baldwin has to say:
A Note From the Author - Teaching Philosophy:
Science is neither multiple choice nor guesswork and therefore courses should neither be taught nor assessed in ways do not prepare students for real world experiences. Science is a process that involves building a foundational understanding of the natural world and then explaining patterns and concepts to others based on that knowledge. It also involves synthesizing ideas, designing experiments and applying knowledge to a practical use or problem. My teaching philosophy for students who are interested in pursuing science as a career is to do so in a manner that prepares students for upper and graduate level courses as well as the real world. I offer real life examples and applications, recent discoveries that make us all question what we think we know and always approach even the most disturbing topics with a positive ‘opportunity to learn and improve’ approach. Too often texts and instructors present topics (i.e. ecology or conservation) with a gloomy outlook that make students feel guilty for living their lives. Such an approach does not motivate enthusiasm or action. It often makes people shy away in shame. In the classroom, I know that students learn science by doing science and therefore I have them participate in undergraduate research projects. Instead of teaching canned labs with known outcomes (which again is not the real world), student address original biological questions. This approach is also more interesting for the instructor.
Almost as important as students learning biology, they need to learn how to learn (which is unique to each person). So many students think studying means making and using flashcards. While this approach may be successful for learning vocabulary, it is often not useful for connecting concepts. Further, the introductory biology course sequence typically spans two semesters and it is bewildering how many students think that once they pass the first semester, they can purge all the information they learned and start fresh for the second semester.
This textbook is representative of my approach in the classes I teach at Mesa Community College. Science is the continual building and connecting of information and ideas. Every topic has a ‘wow factor’ and a ‘what can we do with this knowledge?’ approach. Complex topics are not watered-down, only simplified and then expanded to their full form. While I offer some multiple-choice questions, these are simply to assess definitions and facts. All other assessments are short answer where students are expected to answer a question in their own words as if they are explaining it to another person. This is preparation for real world situations regardless of their eventual profession.
Andrew (Andy) Baldwin was raised in North Carolina by a father who was a wildlife artist/nursery owner and mother who grew up in the newspaper industry. He never had a chance but to pursue biology and love books as he was reading plant catalogs and field guides during story time and knew the Latin names of most local species before ever leaving elementary school. Keeping everything from crows to copperheads, pigeons to prairie dogs, turtles to tarantulas and a backyard carnivorous plant bog that put most other similar collections to shame, Andy’s love for nature and firsthand experiences complimented the formal education that he earned at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC). There, he earned a BS in Biology with Honors by completing a project involving the state’s native carnivorous pitcher plants that resulted in his first publication. Not able to stop there, he continued his education at Appalachian State University (ASU) in NC’s Blue Ridge Mountains where he earned a MS in Biology. There, Andy was exposed to the desert southwest, traveling to west Texas each summer to collect scorpions for microscopic examination during the fall and spring semesters. This project led to the description of a new species and an absolute love for the desert. Later, he began a project studying evolutionary patterns in salamanders at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). There, he met his (to be) wife, Jana, a native Texan and also a biologist and adopted a daughter, Hannah. Both became and remain his inspiration for all he does. In 2002, Andy earned his Ph.D. in Quantitative Biology, earned awards for both teaching and research, and then spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at Texas Tech University (TTU) before accepting a fulltime teaching position at Mesa Community College (MCC) in Arizona.
Andy intentionally left the high-pressure research, ‘publish or perish’ universities to teach at the community college level because this is where he knew he could make a greater impact on science. Two-year open-door institutions are where inspiring students and the establishment of a strong foundation in science for future courses is most critical. Many of these students are underprepared, due to no fault of their own, and lack the knowledge of how to navigate through college to a career. Andy was elected Chairman of MCC’s Life Science Department in 2011 and re-elected twice again. This role brought awareness of many aspects affecting student success that extend beyond the biology classroom, one of which is the role and style of textbooks, assessments and other materials.
Andy has field research experience working with many different species, including bats, carnivorous plants, scorpions, salamanders and venomous snakes from many different ecosystems from many different countries. He also has many years of experience working in molecular laboratories, bringing samples from the field into the lab and then using biotech wizardry to address ecological and evolutionary questions. With over two decades of bringing such experiences into college biology classrooms and participating in textbook production at varying levels, the time came for him to author a textbook and meet the needs of today’s upcoming biologists.
Andy is fortunate enough to make a living doing what he enjoys – teaching and studying biology in the beautiful Arizona Sonoran Desert. He routinely teaches Introductory Biology for both majors and nonmajors, biotechnology and undergraduate research classes. Outside of the classroom, Andy enjoys educating the public about desert wildlife, camping and hiking, gardening with native species, beekeeping, restoring an antique truck and exploring the vast world of food and drink.
The material presented in this book is very condensed. I actually really liked this. [Its competitor] has a lot of detail and it can be overwhelming to students. I think students are more likely to read the chapter ahead of class if it is presented in this fashion. I do not cover all the information that is included in my current textbook.
- Aurea Cortes-Palomec, Fort Lewis College
The writing style is fluent and easy to read which is a strong asset for students. The presentation is excellent and manageable...The content is interesting and engaging; the visuals are colorful and of excellent quality. The writing style is similar to other texts that I have read and used. It is very fluent and not too much jargon.
- Noelle Cutter, Molloy College
The first chapter of this text covers the main ideas of biology, the process of the scientific method, the hierarchy of life, and a great summary of the history of biology. It does not contain as much information as our current text, which goes into more detail about evolution, DNA, etc., but that is not a bad thing. The arrangement and depth of the material is just the right amount. After reading this chapter I actually prefer it to our current text. It is not overpowering with fancy talk and gives some great comparisons to life situations. My favorite section is the history of biology and the timeline of significant discoveries. This is really a great addition to the story and allows the student to see how science has advanced over the last few centuries.
- Mary Colon, Seminole State College of Florida
As previously mentioned, I think that this chapter is written in a reader-friendly manner. Topics are discussed in a way that make them easy to understand. I think that compared to other texts, students would be willing to actually read this one.
- Marleshia Hall, Shelton State Community College
This chapter is right in line with the important key concepts, as I teach them in my course. I absolutely love the bold/red key words with definitions in the margins. I think the text is appropriately readable and strikes the right balance between depth and length. Examples are excellent.
- John Steele, Humboldt State University