Napeequa Valley



 Spring Semester 2008

10:00-10:50 am M,W,F

 Wilson Hall, 1-126

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Instructor and Contact Information




Office Hours


Philip Higuera
709 Leon Johnson Hall



1: Jan. 16th-Feb 15th



M, W, 1:00-2:00 PM


Christy Briles
710 Leon Johnson Hall cbriles[at]


2: Feb 20th-March 28th



M, W, 1:00-2:00 PM


Dave McWethy
709 Leon Johnson Hall



3: April 2nd-May 5th



M, W, 1:00-2:00 PM

Course Description

Biogeographers study patterns of life across space and through time. How are organisms distributed and why? How and why have these patterns changed in the past, and how will they change in the future? To answer these questions the field calls upon many other disciplines including biology, ecology, paleontology, and geology. Throughout the term we will study (1) the spatial and temporal patterns of life on Earth, and (2) the biological and physical processes responsible for creating these patterns. We will also study how scientists investigate biogeographic questions and emphasize biogeography’s role in addressing questions and concerns of future climate change and human impacts. 

Course Goals

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  1. Evaluate the factors affecting the distribution of species and communities across space and through time
  2. Interpret and critique biogeographic data presented in the media or scientific literature
  3. Develop testable hypotheses and evaluate data to address biogeographic questions
  4. Evaluate the impacts of climate change and human activities on the distribution of species in future ecosystems


GEOG 210 or GEOG 303 or BIOL 100.

Required Text

Assessment and Evaluation

Three exams, in-class, closed-book, not cumulative

Friday, 15 Feb. (in class)
Monday, 31 March (in class)
Monday, 5 May, 4:00-5:50

               Location TBA


25% each

Take-home and/or in-class assignments




10% total

Attendance and in-class participation

Entire term

15% total


Policies and Student Responsibilities

·  Attendance is expected and will be noted. If you know you will miss a class, let the active instructor prior to class, and if you miss a class due to uncontrollable circumstances, let the active instructor know as soon as possible.

·  Late assignments will not be accepted unless under extenuating circumstances. Please notify the active instructor prior to the due date if this applies to you.

·  Academic integrity: Please note the seriousness with which Montana State University treats academic misconduct of any form, particularly plagiarism. For more information see: 

·  E-mail policy: Coming to office hours is the best way to get questions answered, but we will make ever effort to answer questions posed over e-mail within two weekdays of receipt. In order to do this, you must follow these instructions:

   - place GEOG 302 in the subject line

   - sign your message with your full name


Course Schedule (Updated 22 January, 2008)




Readings / Assignments


1: Jan. 16, 18


Introduction: Course outline and syllabus; the science of Biogeography, scientific inference.



Lomolino et al. 2006. The Science of Biogeography

Cox and Moore, Chapter 2

Assignment 1 Due on Friday

2: Jan. 23, 25

Biogeographic Patterns I - Species distributions: Scientific inference; reading scientific literature - cont.

Patterns of distributions; limiting factors; environmental gradients; species interactions


Cox and Moore, Chapter 4 (p. 73-101 only)

Notes and tips for reading primary literature

Callaway et al. 2002.

Positive interactions among alpine plants increase with stress. Nature

3: Jan. 28, 30, Feb. 1

Biogeographic Patterns II - Communities and Ecosystems: Communities, ecosystems, and biomes; climatic controls of biomes; concepts of succession, stability, and resilience; climate change data analysis


Cox and More, Chapter 5

Climate change exercise handout - see Assignment 2


4: Feb. 4, 6, 8

Disturbance Biogeography: Disturbance regimes; disturbance and community composition; fire regimes in Western U.S. forests


Agee 1993. The Natural Fire Regime


Sprugel and Bormann 1981. Natural Disturbance and the Steady-State in High-Altitude Balsam Fir Forests. Science 211:390-393.



5: Feb. 11, 13, 15

Disturbance Biogeography, Review, Exam 1: 1988 Yellowstone fires; exam review; exam



Turner et al. 2003. Surprises and lessons from the 1988 Yellowstone fires. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 1:351-358.

6: Feb. 20, 22

Evolution and Speciation: Theory of Evolution; Adaptive Radiation; Maintenance of species and modes of speciation

Cox and Moore, Chapter 6, 13


Gould, S.J., 1980. Exerpts from the Panda's Thumb.

7: Feb. 25, 27, 29

Extinctions and Colonization: Continental Drift; The Great American Interchange; Climate Change; Vicariance and Dispersal

Cox and Moore, Chapter 8, 14



8: Mar. 3, 5, 7

Quaternary Paleoecology I: Vegetation history of the western US; megafauna extinction debate

Cox and Moore, Chapter 10


Marshall, 1988.  Land Mammals and the Great American Interchange.





  9: Mar. 17, 19, 21
 Quaternary Paleoecology II:
 Climate change and historical human  impacts on ecosystems
 Cox and Moore, Chapter 10, 11
 exercise handout (TBA)

10: Mar. 24, 26, 28

Origins of Modern Biogeographic Realms: Wallace Realms; historical mechanisms for biological diversity; review


Cox and Moore, Chapter 9


Barnosky et al., 2004. Megafaunal Extinctions (not required but provides a good overview of what I went over in class)

Firestone et al., 2007.  Another hypothesis for the extinction of the Megafauna and YD cool event. (Not required but very interesting).

11: Mar. 31, April 2, 4

Island Biogeography, EXAM 2: Characteristics of Islands, Equilibrium Theory of Island Biogeography

Read pages: 117-158

of Chapter "So Huge a Bignes" in Song of the Dodo.

12: April 7, 9, 11

Island Biogeography Lab Exercise: In-class lab exercise, lab-group presentations

Island Biogeography Lab Description (pdf)

Island Biogeography Lab Assignment (pdf)

Lab template (Excel spreadsheet)

Pages 159-258

"So Huge a Bignes" in Song of the Dodo

*Read Lab Directions/Assignment pdfs

Cox and Moore, Chapter 7, pages: 172-176

13: April 14, 16, 18

Island Biogeography and the Design of Nature Reserves: Applying the theory of island biogeography to the design of nature reserves.

Period 26 April 7th (pdf)

Period 27 April 9th (pdf)

Period 28 April 14th (pdf)

*Group Lab Presentations on Wed. the 16th

Newmark 1987. A land-bridge island perspective on mammalian extinctions in western North American parks, Nature 325: 430–432 (pdf)

14: April 21, 23, 25

Biogeography Case Studies: A look at examples from New Zealand and the western United States

Period 29 April 23rd (pdf)

Period 30 April 25th (pdf)

*NO CLASS April 21st*

*Ind. Lab Assignment due Wed. the 23rd

Read pages: 258-383  Chapter "Rarity unto Death" in Song of the Dodo

15: April 28, 30, May 2

Climate Change, Invasive Species and Human Impacts, Exam Review: Predicting the impacts of climate change, human impacts and invasive species on future species distributions; review for Exam 3.

Period 31 April 29th (pdf)
Period 32 April 30th (pdf)


Summary of IPCC report (pdf)

Exam review question period Friday

16: May 5

Exam 3: 4:00-5:50 pm

Location: Wilson 1-126



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Updated 23 April, 2008