Biology 341: General Ecology Course Outline Spring 2008



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Biology 341: General Ecology Course Outline Spring 2008
Dr. Craig Plante
One of the simplest definitions of ecology is “the study of the abundance and distribution of organisms.” In this course we will explore the physical and the biological features and interactions that determine densities and distributions. A central goal of ecology is to try to reduce the incredible complexity of the natural world to an oversimplified, yet hopefully still useful, set of principles. This course will provide an understanding of ecological theory, and we will critically examine some real-world applications of such theories. Ultimately, students should be able to relate ecological principles to problems of habitat and species conservation, resource and waste management, pest control, and areas of environmental planning. Ecology is not environmentalism. Sound decisions regarding environmental issues, however, require an understanding of the discipline of ecology. For those of you interested in careers in basic research in other branches of biology, you will become aware that the interaction between an organism and its environment is directly related to its physiology, genetics, evolutionary history, etc.
I will attempt to highlight the most important principles through lecture and study questions. You are, however, responsible for all material in assigned readings.
Ecology lab (Biol. 341L) is a co-requisite for this course. The lab meets on Tuesday, 1:30-4:30 in #228 SCIC. It will be a combination of natural history, field and lab activities, and experiments. I will try to warn you of special clothes or other items needed for a particular trip, but you are expected to use common sense in deciding what to wear and what to bring (e.g. an umbrella, boots, sunscreen, bug dope, etc.).
Prerequisites for the course are Biol. 111, 112, 211 and one year of chemistry. I expect students to be familiar with computers, especially spreadsheet calculations and word processing. These are the beginning tools of data analysis. The college has a number of computer labs around campus and the Biology Dept. has placed computers in the reading room, SCIC 235. Previous knowledge of statistics will be helpful, but is not an absolute requirement.
Course requirements:
Lecture: 3 in-class tests, one final exam
Lab: Five laboratory exercises/write-ups, one oral report presentation, and lab participation.
Text: Stiling, P. D.: Ecology: Theories and Applications, 4th ed.

Other useful reference texts include:

Bush, M. B.: Ecology of a Changing Planet, 3rd ed.

Smith, R. L. and T. M. Smith: Elements of Ecology, 5th ed.

Ricklefs, R. E. and G. L. Miller: Ecology, 4th ed.

Beeby, A.: Applying Ecology

Krebs, C. J.: Ecology, 5th ed.

Additional Readings: See lecture schedule; copies available in SCIC #228

Office Hours: Downtown (GML office back of computer room): Tues. 12:10 - 1:20, Thurs.10:00 – 10:50 OR #104 Grice Marine Laboratory: by appt.

Phone (at Grice lab) 953-9187


Grading Policy:

A: 93 + A-: 90-92 B+: 87-89

B: 83-86 B-: 80-82 C+: 77-79

C: 73-76 C-: 70-72 D: 65-69

F: 0-64 failing
Course grade = 40% tests (3 tests, lowest score worth 10%, higher scores worth 15%)

+ 25% final exam + 35% lab


All tests and the final will be cumulative

Absences: We will adhere to the College of Charleston Absence Policy as stated in the student handbook. If you miss lecture, get the notes from another student. If you are going to miss an exam you must notify Dr. Plante BEFORE the exam is given. If there is a documented reason (i.e., physician's note) for missing the exam you likely will be excused from taking that exam (i.e., no make-up exam), and the importance of your other exams will be adjusted accordingly. If you do not have a valid excuse from the Office of Undergraduate Studies, you will receive a zero for that exam.


Remember the Academic Honesty Policy (in student handbook) and additional rules of conduct such as no smoking, eating or drinking in class.

**** The material presented in this handout is for your information. It is, however,

subject to scheduling changes as needed.
General Ecology Spring 2008
Lecture Schedule

Reading

Date Topic (pp. in Stiling)
10 Jan Business & Introduction; (preface; 1-10)

Natural Selection

15 Jan Natural Selection (20-29)

17 Jan Evolution & Speciation (SR #1)

22 Jan Physiological Ecology (89-107)

24 Jan Physical Environment: (230-235, SR #2)

Conditions & Resources (42-53)

29 Jan Species Distributions (10-16)

31 Jan Ecological Experiments (10-16; SR #3)

& Hypothesis Testing

5 Feb **** Exam #1 ****

7 Feb Population Ecology: (65-88) Growth and Regulation

12 Feb Demography (re-read 66-74)

14 Feb Life History Strategies (SR#5; 54-64)

19 Feb Human Population Growth (re-read 76-78)
21 Feb Competition I (108-134)

26 Feb Competition II

28 Feb Predation I (150-169)

Spring Break Holiday

11 Mar Predation II: Herbivory (170-188)

13 Mar Predation III: Parasitism (189-205)

18 Mar **** Exam #2 ****

20 Mar Mutualisms (135-149)

25 Mar Community Properties (228-288)

27 Mar Determinants of Community Structure (289-302; SR #6)

1 Apr Complex Interactions; (SR#7)

Succession (303-317)

3 Apr Island Biogeography (318-334)

8 Apr **** Exam #3 ****

10 Apr Trophic Structure (335-359)

15 Apr Energy Flow & Trophic Dynamics

17 Apr Biogeochemical Cycles (360-371; SR #8)

22 Apr Human Intrusions on Cycles (20-41; 332-333 & Conservation Biology SR #9)

29 Apr Final Examination (8-11 AM)


**SR refers to supplemental readings. The goals of SRs will vary -- some will cover subjects not included in your texts or lectures, others will provide current applications of theory discussed in class. SRs will be available in SCIC 228. It is anticipated that SR readings will provide excellent material for exam questions.

Laboratory Schedule

Labs are scheduled for Tuesdays (1:30-4:30 PM) in SCIC 228. There will be no make-up labs; if you miss your assigned lab, get notes from your lab partner(s). Field trips (*) will begin in the parking lot behind the library. Transportation will be the class vans.


Week Date Activity


1 Jan 15 Introduction to Scientific Research


*2 Jan 22 Coastal Ecosystems
3 Jan 29 Statistics
*4 Feb 5 Population Size Estimation
5 Feb 12 Demography

6 Feb 19 Projects


*7 Feb 26 Population Dispersion Patterns

*** project prospectus due***
*8 Mar 11 Beidler Forest: Old Growth Cypress Swamp

(Note: each student must pay $3.50 entrance fee)


9 Mar 18 Competition: Large Mammals
10 Mar 25 Projects

*11 Apr 1 Species Diversity


*12 Apr 8 Francis Marion: Long-Leaf Pine Forest

*** project write-up due (see note below)***


13 Apr 15 TBD



14 Apr 22 Oral Reports

Written reports due w/in 3 days of presentation
Research projects will be done in small groups (2 or 3 people). It will be necessary to consult with your laboratory instructor as your projects progress. Formats for written and oral reports will be discussed further in class.

the first version of your project write-up is due on 4/8. Your instructor will comment on this version and return it to you; this can be your final version. Alternatively, a revised version could (and should) be handed in within 3 days of the oral presentation, along with the first version. Ideally the revised version will have addressed my comments on the first version.

Late prospectus, drafts, lab write-ups, or final reports will not be accepted. Lab reports will be due at 1:30 on assigned date (i.e., not during or after lab), and this material will be fair game for exams. During lab, there will be no smoking and cell phones will be turned off.

Nota bene: No grade will be given until borrowed equipment is returned, clean and in working order. Also, each student will be evaluated by their group partners – this can affect your grade.


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