Biology 5131 - 2009


Dr. Douglas Morris

Office: CB4017

Lab: CB3019


Office Hours:

Monday: 15:00-16:00 & Wednesday 15:00-16:00 (5 January - 1 April 2009 only)

Other Times by Appointment

Classes: Monday (or possibly Wednesday): Time and location to be determined.


Introduction Course Objectives
Evaluation Class Project
Report Due Date Report Style
Final Term Report Class Discussions
Tentative Timetable Scientific Review
Theory and Evolution on the Web


This seminar/reading course is designed for the student who wants an introduction to theoretical ecology and a sampling of current problems and approaches. Course instruction will concentrate on student readings and reviews of the contemporary literature. Background lectures may supplement readings. The course will emphasize concepts as well as empirical and experimental approaches to theoretical ecology. Students are expected to complete all readings and assignments, to take turns as discussion leaders, and to participate fully in all discussions.

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Course Objectives:

1. To help students think about conceptual issues in ecology and evolution.

2. To introduce students to a broad array of relevant and contemporary issues in the study of theoretical ecology.

3. To expose students to the set of essential concepts, theories, and models required to be "literate" in the study of evolution and ecology.

4. To inspire students to question and discuss current concepts in evolution and ecology.

5. To assist students in developing the skills, discipline, confidence, and study habits necessary for self-instruction in this and other areas of biology.

6. To use contemporary theory to inform conservation and management.

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Presentations, reports, and discussion - 30%; Class project - 50%; Presentation of class project - 20%. There may be one or more in-class quizzes that do not contribute to the course grade.

Performance will be evaluated regularly. The evaluation will be based on the student's grasp of important issues, logical reasoning, non-trivial criticisms of the material, and the ability to solve ecological problems. Students are encouraged to share their ideas and their questions.

All students will be required to lead discussions, to evaluate their own performance and that of their peers, and to review and critique contemporary literature. Students will work collaboratively on the class project which will take the place of a final examination.

Written or oral reports may be assigned at intervals during the course. Evaluation of these reports will be based on the student's ability to synthesize a field of enquiry, to apply that synthesis to a particular problem, or to develop significant new insights into ecological theory. The reports should not, in general, be restatements of review papers. Rather they will require the student to apply what is known (and what is not known) to an unresolved question. Evaluation will be devoted equally to clarity of presentation, rigour of treatment, and suitability of the report to the assignment.

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Class Project:

All students will participate in the class project assessing the reliability of current Ontario Parks conservation priorities to maximize the conservation of Ontario's biodiversity. Students will share perspectives on, and analysis of, data provided by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Much of the class time will be dedicated to the design and analysis of this important project. Discussion of approach and preparation of the data for analysis should be completed before reading week. A final report, written in a style for "Conservation Biology" is due no later than 1 April 2009. A report submitted after the deadline of 1 April 2009 will not be accepted for grading. Authorship on the manuscript will reflect student contributions. All students are expected to contribute equally. Authorship should be either ordered alphabetically or randomly. If contributions are unequal, however, the order of authorship must reflect the relative contribution by each author, and students must submit an addendum explaining each author's respective contribution. If the final report is of suitable merit, it will be revised and submitted for publication to an appropriate journal.

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Report Due Date:

The class project report (MS) is due no later than 12:00 1 April 2009. A report submitted later than 1 April 2009, will not be accepted for grading.

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Report Style:

Be concise. Use the active voice. Organize your thoughts before you begin writing. Omit needless or redundant words. Express your thoughts as clearly as possible even if it means re-writing the report.

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Students must present the results of their class project to the course instructor and representatives from the Ontario Ministry of Natuarl Resources. This presentation can take the form of either a formal PowerPoint seminar or an overview of an electronic version of a scientific poster that summarizes the class project. Students are responsible for all aspects including content and design, and in the case of a formal poster, printing, laminating, and display.

The scope of the seminar or poster, and the poster's display, will be discussed in class.

Students should familiarize themselves with conference instructions on the preparation of scientific talks and posters. General rules for posters include the following:

If the poster is selected for display, you will need to edit it as required, then print and laminate a final version. You may be required to sign a release allowing your poster to be displayed. The final laminated poster, and its location, must be approved for display by the course instructor. Posters displayed in the Centennial Building will form part of a permanent collection of educational materials in the Department of Biology.

Please note: The term report is a term project and not a final examination. Students will be ineligible to write a special examination as outlined in general regulation VII in the Lakehead University Calendar.

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Students are required to lead and to participate in weekly discussions. Typically, discussions will consist of a student-led over-view/review of a current sample of the literature (independent study) as well as a workshop aimed at the class project. Please ensure that you have completed and critically evaluated each reading assignment before the discussion period.

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Tentative Timetable 2009

Jan. 5 Introduction to term project

Jan. 12 Biodiversity

Jan. 19 Habitat selection

Jan. 26 Metapopulations and metacommunities

Feb. 2 Direct interactions

Feb. 9 Indirect interactions

Feb. 16 - Feb. 20 Study Week - No Classes

Feb. 23 Diversity and stability

Mar. 2 Attendance at climate change symposium - no scheduled class

Mar. 9 Review of climate change and conservation of biodiversity (no reading)

Mar. 16 Evolution and conservation

Mar. 23 Attendance at guest lecture by Ehab Abouheif, McGill University (no class)

March 30/April 1 Presentation and submission of final report

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Scientific Review:

As part of your independent studies, you may be asked to write a scientific review of a recent paper or manuscript in the field of conceptual/evolutionary ecology. Your written review should include the following:

Your review should be concise, candid, and non-offensive. Criticize the science, not the author(s). Include positive as well as negative criticisms. Ask yourself, is this review fair, does it tell the editor how to evaluate publication, would I respect these comments if I received this review, and would it be okay if the authors knew my identity? If your answer to any of these questions is "no", revise the review.

Your review should begin with the name of the authors, the title of the article, and its reference number. Follow with a short paragraph placing the work into the context of the discipline and research field, then follow this with a paragraph or two giving an over-view of the paper to demonstrate that you understand the main ideas and approaches. Do not indicate whether the paper should be published or not (this is the responsibility of the editor - your specific comments to the editor would be included in your cover letter). Follow the introductory paragraph with 2-3 paragraphs highlighting the main strengths/weaknesses in the paper. Finish your review with specific suggestions for improvement (you can also highlight passages that are especially relevant or exciting), then type and sign your name at the end.

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Theory and Evolution on the Web

Do you belong to a scientific society? Maybe you should join the CSEE/SCEE.

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