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In VCE Biology students learn about the various adaptations organisms have in order to stay alive. They will look into cell reproduction and how genetic information is passed on from one generation to the next. Students investigate the immune system and the different ways cells respond to stimuli, evolution and the rise of new species as well as the social and ethical implications of genetic biotechnology. Studying Biology gives students the opportunity to gain an understanding of the nature of life, past and present. Students engage in a range of inquiry tasks that may be self-designed, develop key science skills and interrogate the links between theory, knowledge and practice.

Unit 1     How do living things stay alive?

In this area of study students examine the structure and functioning of cells and how the plasma membrane contributes to survival by controlling the movement of substances into and out of the cell. They learn about the cell membrane, energy transformations and functioning systems in plants and animals.

Students examine the structural, physiological and behavioural adaptations of a range of organisms that enable them to survive in a particular habitat and to maintain a viable population size over time. They explore the importance and implications of organising and maintaining biodiversity and examine the nature of an ecosystem in terms of the network of relationships within a community of diverse organisms.

Unit 2     How is the continuity of life maintained?

In this unit students focus on cell reproduction and the transmission of biological information from generation to generation. They examine the main events of the cell cycle in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Students learn about the production of gametes in sexual reproduction through and the differences between asexual and sexual reproduction in terms of the genetic makeup of daughter cells.

Students build on their understanding of the nature of genes and the use of genetic language to read and interpret patterns of inheritance and predict outcomes of genetic crosses. They gain an understanding that a characteristic or trait can be due solely to one gene and its alleles, or due to many genes acting together, or is the outcome of genes interacting with external environmental or epigenetic factors.

Unit 3     How do cells maintain life?

Unit 3 looks at cell as a dynamic system of interacting molecules that define life. Students consider base pairing specificity, the binding of enzymes and substrates, the response of receptors to signalling molecules and reactions between antigens and antibodies. Students also study the human immune system and the interactions between its components to provide immunity to a specific disease causing antigen. They study the synthesis, structure and function of nucleic acids and proteins as key molecules in cellular processes. They explore the chemistry of cells by examining the nature of biochemical pathways, their components and energy transformations.

Unit 4     How does life respond and change to challenges over time?

Unit 4 looks at the continual change and challenges to which life on Earth has been subjected. They investigate the relatedness between species and the impact of various change events on a population’s gene pool. In this unit students consider the accumulation of changes over time is considered as a mechanism for biological evolution by natural selection that leads to the rise of new species. Students examine the structural and cognitive trends in the human fossil record and the interrelationships between human biological and cultural evolution. Genetic biotechnology is also explored including the social and ethical implications of manipulating the DNA molecule.

Career Options

Agronomist, Horticulture, Agriculture, Immunologist, Conservation Biologist, Anatomist, Marine Biologist, Biologist, Teacher, Biotechnologist, Viticulturist, Ecologist, Zoologist, Environmental Planner, Forensic Pathologist, Geneticist