Introduction to Ecology, BI271, Lecture B

Homepage and syllabus for Introduction to Ecology, BI271, Lecture B

BI271 Lecutre B, 4 credit hours, fall semester 2017

Ecology is the study of the spatial and temporal patterns of the distribution and abundance of organisms, including causes and consequences. Studying these patterns provides us with the scientific foundation for understanding natural processes and environmental problems. This course will examine ecological interactions at a wide range of scales from the molecular level, through individuals, populations, communities, ecosystems, and ultimately to the biosphere. We will study how these interactions produce the patterns and processes we observe around the world. In the field-based laboratory we will learn to generate testable ecological hypotheses, develop experimental designs to test our hypotheses, and use statistical inference to quantiatively assess the outcome of our experiments, while gaining first-hand familiarity with local ecological communities.

Professor information

Dr. Christopher M. Moore
Email: (Note I have a 24-hour email policy)
Office: Olin 216
Office phone: 207-859-5745

Titles and names

Students are often curious about how to address their professors. I am comfortable with Dr. Moore, Professor Moore, or Chris. What’s most important to me is that we create a culture of mutual respect in the classroom. As a sign of respect to you I will, by default, address you as Ms. and Mr. followed by your last name. Should you have preferred way of being addressed (first name, nickname, etc.), please communicate that to me.

Meeting dates, times, and location

MWF, 9—9:50 AM, in Lovejoy 215


Ecology, 3rd ed., 2013, by Michael L. Cain, William D. Bowman, and Sally D. Hacker, published by Sinauer Associates, Inc.
(Note that the 4th ed. published by Oxford University Press in 2017 will suffice)

Learning Goals for Introduction to Ecology

A. Learn the vocabulary and conceptual framework for the science of ecology.
B. Mature in ability to assess scientific literature, with a special emphasis on data interpretation.
C. Apply concepts and principles to topical ecological issues having implications for policy or management.
D. Gain direct experience with generating hypotheses, developing experimental designs and applying statistical analyses to ecological data.
E. Gain first-hand familiarity with local ecological communities.

Concepts to be addressed in Introduction to Ecology

IntroductionDefinitions, scientific method, graphing, data interpretation
BiogeographyClimate, biomes, island-biogeography, species-area relationships
Evolutionary ecologyEvolution, adaptation, life history
Population ecologyPopulation growth and regulation, demography, metapopulations, stochasticity
Species interactionsMutualism, competition, predator-prey, host-parasite
Community ecologyCommunity structure, food webs, community metrics, succession, metacommunities
Ecosystem ecologyEnergy flow, decomposition, primary and secondary production
Nutrient cyclesGlobal nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon cycles, human influences, land-atmosphere-ocean interactions



Lecture, 0.70 of the course grade

ItemProportion of courseProportion of lecture (rounded)
Problem sets (3)0.09 (0.03 each)0.13 (0.04 each)
Paper critiques (3)0.09 (0.03 each)0.13 (0.04 each)
Examination I0.120.14
Examination II0.180.26
Examination III0.220.32
  • Problem sets will include several quantitative and conceptual problems that are designed to help you apply and more deeply understand some of the concepts covered in the lecture material. There will be one probem set per Unit, and they will be disributed in lecture and due at the beginning of lecture, two meetings later.
  • Paper critiques are designed to help you more thoroughly understand the primary mode of scientific vetting and communication: peer-reviewed journal articles. There will be three paper critiques of three different papers throughout the semester, with each subsequent critique designed to be more challenging by asking you to more thoroughly understand and substantively criticize the article.
  • Examinations are a method used to gauge your understanding of the lecture material while simultaneously rewarding those who have mastered it.

Laboratory, 0.30 of the course grade

AssignmentProportion of courseProportion of laboratory
Bog Assignment0.0150.05
Coast Assignment    0.030              0.10                             
Leaf litter assignment0.045               0.15                            
Edge effects lab report0.090               0.30                              
Demographics assignment0.030               0.10                              
Research project presentation0.075         0.25                              
Participation      0.015              0.05                              


Role will not be taken, but regular attendance is necessary for you to succeed in this course.

Lecture schedule (1 introduction, 32 lectures, 3 reviews, 3 examinations)

Colby College is supportive of the religious practices of its students, faculty, and staff and is committed to ensuring that all students are able to observe their religious beliefs without academic penalty. If you observe a religious holiday that will impact your work in this course, please see me at the beginning of the term. We will then work to find a reasonable accommodation that will allow you to complete the academic work.

*(1) CBH means we are reading from the textbook, Cain, Bowman, and Hacker (2) “Weekly reading” should be read before the Monday where it’s listed. I will have the readings posted one week before we begin covering the material, at the latest.

MeetingDateDayUnitLectureWeekly reading*AssignmentsLecture material
19/6WCourse introductionCourse introductionSyllabus, CBH: pp. 8–16 pdf
29/8FAutecologyThe domain of ecology  pdf
39/11M EvolutionCBH: pp. 136–148, paper Mut&Sel.R, Drift.R
49/13W Evolutionary ecology Paper critique I assigned, paperpdf
59/15F The ecological niche  pdf
69/18M Physiological ecology: animalsCBH: chs. 4,5  
79/20W Physiological ecology: plants   
89/22F Spatial distributions (e.g., Habitat selection, dispersal, geographic range) Paper critique I due 
99/25M Behavior: individual (e.g., foraging, communiation) and group (e.g., mating, sociality)CBH: 186–199, ch. 7Problem set I assigned 
109/27W Phenotypic plasticity   
119/29F Life history   
1210/2M Examination I review Problem set I due 
1310/4W Examination I   
1410/6FPopulation ecologyPopulation growth   
1510/9M Population limitation   
1610/11W Stage and age structured populations   
1710/13F Metapopulations Paper critique II assigned 
 10/16M Fall recess (no class)   
1810/18W Deterministic and stochastic dynamics   
1910/20F Mutualism   
2010/23M Competition   
2110/25W Predator-prey Paper critique II due 
2210/27F Plant-herbivore/host-parasite Problem set II assigned 
2310/30M Ecological epidemiology   
2411/1W Coevolution   
2511/3F Examination II review Problem set II due 
2611/6M Examination II   
2711/8WCommunities and ecosystemsBiodiversity (evolution, measurements, concepts, biogeography)   
2811/10F Community statics (e.g., measurement, definitions) Paper critique III assigned 
2911/13M Community dynamics: assembly (e.g., niche, neutral)   
3011/15W Community dynamics: metacommunities   
3111/17F Macroecology   
3211/20M Trophic ecology (including food webs, top-down and bottom-up regulation)   
 11/22W Thanksgiving recess (no class)   
 11/24F Thanksgiving recess (no class)   
3311/27M Energy flows   
3411/29W Carbon cycling   
3512/1F Nitrogen cycling   
3612/4M Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning   
3712/6W Ecology in the Anthropocene   
3812/8F Examination III review   
3912/17 @ 6 PMSu Examination III   

Academic integrity

Honesty, integrity, and personal responsibility are cornerstones of a Colby education and provide the foundation for scholarly inquiry, intellectual discourse, and an open and welcoming campus community. These values are articulated in the Colby Affirmation and are central to this course. You are expected to demonstrate academic honesty in all aspects of this course. If you are clear about course expectations, give credit to those whose work you rely on, and submit your best work, you are highly unlikely to commit an act of academic dishonesty.

Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to: violating clearly stated rules for taking an exam or completing homework; plagiarism (including material from sources without a citation and quotation marks around any borrowed words); claiming another’s work or a modification of another’s work as one’s own; buying or attempting to buy papers or projects for a course; fabricating information or citations; knowingly assisting others in acts of academic dishonesty; misrepresentations to faculty within the context of a course; and submitting the same work, including an essay that you wrote, in more than one course without the permission of the instructors.

Academic dishonesty is a serious offense against the college. Sanctions for academic dishonesty are assigned by an academic review board and may include failure on the assignment, failure in the course, or suspension or expulsion from the College.

Athletic participation

While Colby College is supportive of athletic participation by its students, academics takes priority over athletics. Both NCAA and Colby rules prohibit missing class for practices. In the case of overlapping commitments between class and athletic competitions, the student must meet with the professor as soon as possible to discuss these overlaps. The student may request permission to miss class and make up the missed work; the instructor has final authority either to grant or to withhold permission

Sexual misconduct/Title IX statement

Colby College prohibits and will not tolerate sexual misconduct or gender-based discrimination of any kind. Colby is legally obligated to investigate sexual misconduct (including, but not limited to sexual assault and sexual harassment).

If you wish to speak confidentially about an incident of sexual misconduct, please contact Colby Counseling Services (207-859-4490) or the Director of the Gender and Sexual Diversity Program, Emily Schusterbauer (207-859-4093).

Students should be aware that faculty members are considered responsible employees; as such, if you disclose an incident of sexual misconduct to a faculty member, they have an obligation to report it to Colby’s Title IX Coordinator. “Disclosure” may include communication in-person, via email/phone/text, or through class assignments.

To learn more about sexual misconduct or report an incident, visit