BL 337 General Ecology                    Syllabus                                   Fall, 2006


Meeting times: Lecture 1300 T and Thu. Lab 1400 to 1700 Tuesday or Thursday. Be prepared to be out until 1700.



Gregory Zimmerman 213 Crawford Hall. 635-2470.

Office ourHou

Hours: 1000 to 1100 MW + 0900 to 1100 T; 1100 to noon Th; other hours by appt


Required Text: Dodson et al. 1998. Ecology. Oxford U Press, New York

In addition to the text, you will need a clipboard, engineering pad and non-smudging pen for field notes.


Course Objectives:

By the time you complete this course, you will be able to:

·         Describe appropriate approaches for analyzing specific ecology problems (i.e., how to recognize the appropriate organizational level for a particular problem)

·         Hypothesize about ecological processes operating at various scales and recognize the importance of explicitly recognizing the best scale at which to address a particular problem,

·         Conduct field measurements of some of those processes,

·         Prepare written reports based on that information , and

·         Read ecological research reports.


You should also come out of the class with an enhanced desire to know more about the structure and function of ecosystems and increased comfort in accessing the ecological literature.


The idea is to provide you with the background that will let you reason your way through ecological problems and provide you with opportunities to practice doing so. The idea isn’t just to memorize a bunch of facts, though there are facts and terms you will need to have at your disposal.


Key concepts:

physiological ecology – the niche and evolutionary cost/benefit tradeoffs associated with physiological adaptations, conservation biology implications of niches, tools and techniques of physiological ecology, including basic mathematical approaches.

behavioural ecology – how organisms alter their patterns of activity to take advantage of spatial and temporal variation in niche factors and the evolutionary cost/benefit tradeoffs associated with behavioural adaptations, conservation biology implications of niches, tools and techniques of behavioural ecology, including mathematical approaches.

population ecology – factors that regulate numbers of organisms over time, namely competive, predator/prey, host/parasite, mutualistic relationships, evolutionary cost/benefit tradeoffs associated with various population strategies, conservation biology implications, tools and techniques of population ecology, including mathematical approaches.

community ecology – basic community descriptions, hierarchical aspects of community ecology, neutral vs. niche-based models of community ecology, relationship of community structure and ecosystem function,  tools and techniques of community ecology including mathematical approaches, measuring ecological integrity of communities.

landscape ecology – the importance of spatial context, describing landscapes, disturbance regimes across landscapes, conservation biology implications, tools and techniques for landscape ecology, including mathematical approaches.

systems ecology – energy flow and biogeochemistry in ecosystems, human impacts on ecosystem function, ecosystem services, tools and techniquesw for ecosystem ecology including mathematical approaches.

historical ecology – role of humans in ecosystem structure, connections between ecology and development of societies.


Prerequisites: BL131, BL132, MA111


Components of grade:     

Exams (3) essay                                    40%

Final exam                                            10%    

Article reviews (3)*                               10%

Other lecture assignments                      10%

Lab assignments                                    30%


*You are to find two semi-technical articles and one technical article related to an aspect of biological ecology that you are interested in and write an article review (500 words maximum – that’s 2 double spaced typed pages). Details to follow. You might consider doing all three on the same topic and using this assignment to get started on your senior thesis lit review.


Format and other details of lab assignments will be provided as we go along.


Grading Scale:

98 -100 A+ ; 92 - 97 A ; 90 - 91 A-; 88 -  89 B+ ; 82 - 87 B ; 80 - 81 B-;

78 -  79 C+ ;  72 - 77 C ; 70 - 71 C-; 60 -  69 D ; LT  60   F




Week of           Topic                            Reading assign.               Lab (tentative)             Due*

28 Aug             Intro and Phys Eco        Chapters 1,5                   Ash Ck. recon

04 Sept             Phys Eco, cont.             Chapt 5                          no labs – labor day recess       

11 Sept             Behav Eco                    Chapter 6                       Algonquin recon           EXAM 1

18 Sept            Popln Eco                     Chapt 7                          local wetland               Lab Assgn 1

25 Sept             Pop, cont. Landsc Eco   Chapt 7, 3                       Algon – Q&T              Art 1

02 Oct              Landsc. Eco, cont          Chapt 3                          AshCk – Q&T                        EXAM 2

09 Oct              * Lab only *                                                       Robts Lk Cliffs ON     

16 Oct              Systems Eco                 Chapt 4                          Monacle Lake             Lab Assn 2

23 Oct              Systems Eco, cont.        Chapt 4                          St Marys River            EXAM 3

30Oct               Comm Eco                    Chapter 8                       data analysis in lab       Art 2

06Nov              Comm Eco, cont                                                 data analysis in lab      

13Nov              Historical Eco                                                     data analysis in lab

20Nov              Cases                           Chapt 2                          no labs – Tks Brk       

27Nov              Cases,cont.                                                         computer exercise        Lab Assn3

04Dec              Wrap Up                                                            Lab Final Assignment   Art 3

11Dec              Final Exam ------  Consult official exam schedule for time and day



*Lab data sheets due at conclusion of each field trip

Exams will be on Thu of week indicated.



1. This is a field-intensive course and the field experience is an essential component. Be prepared for extensive hiking in all weather and over rough terrain. Be prepared with rain gear, layered clothing, adequate footwear, etc. Do not schedule too tightly after the field trips. I try my best to get us back by 1730 but due to unforseeable circumstances we may not always make it exactly on time.


2. All assignments must be turned in on the due date. Late assignments will not be accepted. All University policies regarding academic policy apply (e.g., if you cheat, you flunk). Reasonable accommodations will be made for students with documented special needs for tests, tutoring, note-taking and similar services. Students must coordinate these accommodations through the RCSD Office in South Hall. 


3. You are expected to take all exams at the scheduled time. If you know you must miss a test, provide 2 days advance notice and an alternative test will be provided. Unexpected absences require documentation from appropriate student office. Otherwise, missed exams score zero, including the final exercise. Personal travel arrangements for breaks are not considered valid reasons to miss exams.


4. Additional constraints on grade: You must pass the lab portion to pass the class. Lab attendance is mandatory. If outside activities will require you to miss more than one lab, you are requested to take this course at another time when you will be able to attend all lab sessions. Failure to complete any one of the above assignments will result in deduction of a letter grade, regardless of the point value.