Overview and objectives: Ecology is the science of understanding complex interactions between organisms and their environment. When you look out your window at a flock of birds feeding on a tree, you may not realize all the factors that influence this occurrence. Are the birds migrating? Does this flock consist of family members or an interbreeding group? Why are they foraging at that specific location? Are they feeding there because of the types of trees present? Why does that specific tree grow where it does and produces fruit when it does? The list of questions concerning that single observation can go on and on. The overall purpose of this course it to help you think beyond the simplicity of an initial observation and to delve into the ‘complex web of interactions’ that influenced it.
This course will give each student a strong background in General Ecology, from Ecological Genetics to Nutrient Cycling. We will begin this course highlighting how individuals and populations are shaped by their environment, proceeding to a discussion on the theories of Natural Selection and Hard-Weinberg equilibrium. Our focus will then turn to reproductive strategies, population regulation, interspecific interactions and community ecology. We will end this semester with a brief overview of nutrient cycling and a biogeographical survey, highlighting important biomes on the planet Earth.
This is a writing course, so each student will be responsible for writing 3 primary literature summaries on any topic dealing with Ecology. Additionally, you will have to present these three paper summaries as an 8-minute oral presentation at the end of the semester.
The lab portion of this course has been structured to follow the lecture material as closely as possible, but sometimes lab topics may be different than what we are learning about in class. Therefore it is important that each student read the pre-lab chapter material provided in the lab manual. During the semester I plan to take the lab for a half-day trip to explore the nature center at Nixon Park. This will count as two of your lab periods and the field trip date will be deiced upon within the first 3 weeks of the semester.
After this course, you should be able to:
- Understand Ecology as a scientific discipline.
- Discuss the theories of Natural Selection and Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium. Be able to illustrate the importance of each in terms of Ecological Genetics.
- Understand different life history strategies, citing examples of each pattern. Be able to fill out a life table.
- Determine the key factors influencing population growth and regulation.
- Understand the predator/prey, parasite/host, mutualism and other interspecific interactions.
- Discuss how communities are structured and how these factors lead to community dynamics.
- Summarize the importance and process of nutrient cycling.
- Identify different terrestrial and aquatic biomes.
Required Text and Materials:
Lecture- Smith and Smith “Elements of Ecology” 8th Edition.
Lab – Kingsolver “Ecology on Campus”
Calculator: You will need a working calculator for this course- NOT your cell phone.