Biology 308 - Ecology
Fall 2016
Instructor: Jim Dooley
Draft: 11/08/2016

                                                Office: 428 Boyd Science Center                                                       
E-Mail: jdooley, Phone: 826-8227      
Lecture: BSC 437, MWF 11:00 - 11:50 a.m. 
Laboratory: BSC 437, Thursday - 12:30 - 3:20 pm. 


Course Description:

My goal with this course is to advance and deepen your appreciation for ecological science.   You were exposed to the general principles of ecology in your introductory biology course (Biol 111).  In this course we will work to solidify your command of basic principles and advance your understanding of ecology's more signficant ideas and implications.

You will probably find that this course challenges you in ways that differ from other biology courses.   Along with factual material, you will also need to work through and learn some quantitative theory.  In addition, you may find that the emphasis I place on self-teaching - in this case learning through extensive reading may represent a departure from what you have encountered in classroom education in the past.

Understand that I see the reading of the text and other materials I provide to be the primary source of learning - listening to lectures should only reinforce what primarily occurs through your own, self-directed efforts at learning by reading and reflection.  In that context then, understand that I teach this course at a very high level.  The bottom line: I see Biology 308 as a demanding educational experience that will require a large time commitment from all of us!

Learning Philosophy:  At this point, I'm tending to favor an approach to learning that emphasizes self-teaching.   I see myself as your guide in your effort to learn ecology, but you are the major engineers of your learning.  To that extent, I place a great deal of emphasis on reading and reflection as the most important tools for advancing student learning.  You should come to class having read the assigned material and be prepared to ask questions and thus help guide the nature and trajectory of the lecture experience.

Course Learning Objectives:  Course Leaning Objectives extend directly from the Biology Department's Learning Goals.   In particular, the learning objectives for this course emphasize Biology Department Learning Goals 1, 3 & 4.   As a result of demonstrated clear commitment to the course's learning vehicles - that is readings, lecture presentations, laboratory experiences, and videos students should anticipate significant advancement in the knowledge-base & skill sets within the domain of Ecological Science.  More specifically students should demonstrate:

Course Resources:

Textbook:  Ecology: Economy of Nature (7th Edition, 2014) by Robert Ricklefs and Rick Relyea, ISBN: 978-1-4292-4995-9
Laboratory Text: Choosing and Using Statistics: A Biologist's Guide.  (3rd edition) 2011 by Calvin Dytham.  ISBN: 978-1-4051-9839-4

Online Materials:
  • Blackboard Site: The class web site on Blackboard ( will offer a number of important resources:
  • Course Announcements: I will post notices of any changes in schedule, assignments or course activities.  You should plan to check for new information at least weekly.   
  • Downloadable PowerPoints - All PowerPoints will be posted to the site either shortly before or just after the appropriate lecture.  If they don't appear quickly, e-mail me!
  • Additional Readings for Lecture and Lab:  (obviously these are materials that are available in electronic form)
  • Course Syllabus (this web page). You can think of this page as an  on-line syllabus. Note that at the top of this page I list the date of the last update: use that as a quick guide post to determine whether you are up to date on what is going on with the course.
  • Kahn Academy for help with statistics:
  • McGraw-Hill Connect Web Site for the text and course:
  • Starfish: MU's new system for academic and student experience communication.  
Course Policies
  • Attendance: Attendance to lectures is optional.  You're upper level students now so the choice of coming to lecture or not is yours.  I may be a bit biased, but my sense is that attending lectures aids in the learning process but hey, ... it's yours to call.    By contrast: laboratory ATTENDANCE IS MANDATORY.   There are many field trips and group work projects that cannot be re-created.  There will be no make-ups.  If attendance in lab is going to be a problem, don't take the class.
  •  E-Mail: I use email extensively to communicate with students regarding assignments, changes in schedule and meetings.   More broadly, email remains a critically important means of communication in the professional world and employers have complained to me that their new hires are often sloppy, irregular and unprofessional in their email communication.  Based on that concern for your professional development, I'm a hard ass in this area.  Points will be won and lost based on your timely monitoring of email.  Plan to check your email several times each day.  I suggest you go to CNS and pick up their instructions for receiving email on your phone. Bottom line: I will not accept "I didn't get the email" as an excuse for missed communication.
  • Cell Phones: I do want you to bring your cell phone to class - we're going to use them to help us improve learning.  However if you text for non-class related purposes, I will ask you to step outside the classroom.
  • Food: our classroom and lab room are both laboratories.  Because toxic chemicals are used in lab spaces, please do not bring food into class or lab. 

Grading:    The course will consist of both lecture and laboratory. Grades from the two parts will be combined with a participation mark in computing the final course grade. The final course grad will be determined based on the following breakdown: 70% lecture, 25% laboratory and 5% active participation.

 Lecture and laboratory grades will be based on the following:

1) Lecture:

  • Two exams  administered during the course of the semester.  Each exam contributes 30% towards the final lecture grade.
2) Laboratory:  
  • Weekly work - including (60%):
    • Exercise worksheets & other between lab assignment work
    • Active participation in all aspects of laboratory activities

  • Laboratory final (40%)

A word about Course Reading: Understand that there is important material in the text that I do not cover during lectures.  Therefore, expect that tests will have questions drawn broadly from the lecture, text reading, and other materials I've assigned - don't limit your preparation to material directly discussed in class!

Strategies for Success:
  • Keep up with the reading!  We move pretty fast in this course and you're going to find there's a great deal of reading that can pile up pretty fast.  Understand you are responsible for all assigned reading: text, lecture notes, and other assigned materials.
  • Again, I strongly suggest you take notes on the text, other reading, PowerPoints, and even your own class notes as you go (hence my little program of open notes on exams).  Doing so will help deeply increase your understanding of the text material and I promise you you'll be much better prepared for the exams.
  • Here's a really effective study strategy that will make the most of the resources I provide you:
  • Well Prior to class: read the chapter and take handwritten notes on the material.  Doing so will help you identify points or concepts that are unclear.
  • After class: review the posted PowerPoint slides as well as your class notes.
In the end, you are going to teach yourself this material through reading and reflection! I hope using the text, your notes from lecture and PowerPoint slides in combination will allow you to identify what you understand and what material needs further clarification. In structuring the course in this fashion, I'm trying to prepare you for the fact that you are coming to the end of the stage in your life when you should associate learning with teaching. Before long the learning you will need to do (and there will be plenty up the road) will have to be self-designed. Mainly, you'll find that reading and reflection will be your tools.

In that spirit, I want to emphasize once again that you should see text and other material reading as critical components to your learning in this course!

Classroom Schedule






Course Introduction: Overview of Syllabus & Course Mapping
Introduction to Ecology, Evolution and the Scientific Method - Chapter 1

Introduction to Ecology, Evolution and the Scientific Method - Chapter 1

Introduction to Ecology, Evolution and the Scientific Method - Chapter 1
Review of Evolution and Adaptation - Chapter 7




Population Distributions - Chapter 11
Population Distributions - Chapter 11

Population Distributions - Chapter 11




Population Growth and Regulation - Classic Ricklefs

Population Growth and Regulation - Classic Ricklefs

Population Growth and Regulation - Classic Ricklefs




Population Growth and Regulation - Classic Ricklefs

Population Growth and Regulation - Classic Ricklefs

Population Growth and Regulation - Classic Ricklefs




Population Growth and Regulation - Chapter 12

Population Growth and Regulation - Chapter 12

Population Growth and Regulation - Chapter 12




Population Dynamics over Space & Time - Chapter 13

Population Dynamics over Space & Time - Chapter 13

Population Dynamics over Space & Time - Chapter 13




Fall Break

Competition - Chapter 16

Competition - Chapter 16




Competition (16) to Predation and Herbivory - Chapter 15

redation and Herbivory - Chapter 14

Predation and Herbivory - Chapter 14

 9 10/24


 Parasitism and Infectious Diseases - Chapter 15

Parasitism and Infectious Diseases - Chapter 15

Parasitism and Infectious Diseases - Chapter 15




Community Structure - Chapter 18

Community Structure - Chapter 18

Community Structure - Chapter 18




Community Succession - Chapter 19

Community Succession - Chapter 19
Community Succession - Chapter 19 - worksheet




Climates and Soils - Chapter 5

Climates and Soils - Chapter 5

Climates and Soils - Chapter 5





Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving Break




Life Histories  - Chapter 8

Life Histories  - Chapter 8

Life Histories - Chapter 8 & Reproductive Strategies Chapter 9




Reproductive Strategies - Chapter 9

Reproductive Strategies - Chapter 9

Final Thoughts & Course Evaluations & Gen. Ed. Assessment


Final Exam:  


Laboratory Schedule:

1 9/01
Preparation: Download and read Dytham: Chapters 1 & 2 Also download and read:
  • P&B* - Ecological Investigation & Sampling Design,
  • Helpful Hints for Using Excel,
  • P&B - Lab1- Forest Floor Plant Dispersion. 
Finally, complete the BB Journal Post. 

In Lab Logistics: Fill out Waviers for Field Work and Travel
Presentation: Science & Ecology
Discussion:  How to use the text in your learning.  Understanding Graphs. The structure of scientific papers.  
Ecological Investigation & Sampling - Lab document and PowerPoint discussion.
Exercise:  A walk in the Hollow.  Is there pattern in the distribution of forest floor plants? How do we distinguish pattern from randomness?
Homework Exercise: Descriptive statistics.  Note: information on calculating the sums of squares can be found in Brower et  al. 1996.

P&B* = print and bring
2 9/08 Preparation:
  • P&B - Symondson et al. 2002 [4435]* (see full citation at bottom of page), (Maybe replace in future with paper from early issue of Ecology)
  • Dytham: 32-37, 84-86.
  • P&B - Lab 02 Intro to Descriptive Statistics and Software
  • Complete homework from week 1 - submit as paper copy or via email
  • Bring your laptop with Excel
Presentation: Statistics - tools for understanding patterns and relationships (two sample, chi-square, linear regression) & software tools you can use (Excel & SPSS) (Travel to BSC 410)
Exercise: Analyzing the forest floor plant dispersion data.
3 9/15 Preparation:
  • P&B - Intro to Inferential Statistics
  • P&B - Population Estimation Exercise
  • P&B - Bowers et al. 1996
  • Journal post on Bowers et al. 1996
Excel Demonstration: Inferential Statistics I
Presentation: Demographic Modeling: Why Math is an Ecologist's Friend

Exercise: Road-Testing the Lincoln-Peterson Method with Marked Beans
Reading: Bowers et al. 1996 (alt, JD check out 6390" or 6392")
4 9/22 Preparation:
Excel Demonstration: Inferential Statistics II
Example Poisson & Matrix problems
Demonstration: Program MARK and/or Program Distance
Field Exercise: Gathering Survival Data: Life Table data gathering - local cemetery
Analysis: Preparing the data for analysis
Life Table Worksheets (based on page 289 Life Table and 6745")
Reading For Future: Barkalow et al 1979 - 6745"


Lecture Exam I

7 10/13 Post-Test - Individual meetings with students
DVD: Walking With Ghosts
Due: Analysis of Cemetery Data. see also 3877"
Preparation:  Dytham - Chapters 4 & 7
Field Trip:  Quadrat Sampling of Plant Population Density: The trade-offs in field sampling - size of samples vs. number of samples.
8 10/20 Lecture catch-up first hour
Finish Growth equation worksheet
Forest Tree Identification?  dichotomous key work
9 10/27 Preparation: Dytham - Chapter 8
Field Exercise: Forest tree transect sampling in the University Hollow.
Laboratory: group data compilation
10 11/03
Exercise: Analysis of Forest Tree Data
Library Research Presentation: Library Search Tools
Assignment: Group Journal Analysis Assignment:
Work on Group Journal Presentation
1 pm Library - room 007
12 11/17 Oral Presentations on Group Paper Research

Next steps on Analysis of Forest Tree data
13 11/24 Thanksgiving Break

14 12/01
Lecture Exam II
Laboratory Final Exam Posted on Blackboard
12/08 Laboratory Final Due (open book, open note take home)

Symondson, W.O.C., D.M. Glen, A.R. Ives, C.J. Langdon, and C.W. Wiltshire. 2002 Dynamics of the reltionship between a generalizt predator and slugs over five years. Ecology 83(1):137-147.

Additional Modules Video: The Trials of Life: Finding Food (adaptations and trade-offs)

DVD: Traveling with Ghosts - The Lynx and Hare Story
Presentations on Library Research
Exercise: TIEE - Ecological Society of America?
 Rain Plan: Video: "Extinction!" or  "Finding Food"  or GUD
Exercise: How models guide us - GUD & Forgaing     

Field Trip to Reservoir - Tree ID (2014) and ecological study design


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