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BIOE 370: General Ecology

    GOALS:  This class is intended to provide the following:

1.     In-depth understanding of the major areas of population ecology, including demography, single-species population dynamics, density-dependent regulation of populations.

2.      In depth understanding of interactions between pairs of species, including competition, predation (and disease if time allows).

3.     An introduction to other areas of ecology, such as community ecology (diversity and stability, island biogeography, succession), ecosystem ecology (carbon cycles) behavioral ecology (territoriality, optimal foraging), and evolutionary ecology (life history trade-offs).

4.     The first three goals are content-oriented.  In addition,  the class has three process-oriented goals:

         Class Hours & Location: 2:10 - 3:00 MWF, 101 Roberts Hall

        Instructor: Dr. Scott Creel, 302 Lewis Hall, Phone: 994-7033  Email: 
         Office Hours: MW 10:30 -12:00  or by appointment. If these hours are not convenient, please talk to me after class to arrange another time and we will figure something out.  I almost  always have time for questions right after class.  You're also welcome to email questions (but if you email me just before a test, I might not read it in time).

         Text: Elements of Ecology, 8th edition by Smith & Smith  is required. Any other reading will will be posted via links to pdf files on this web page.

        Lecture notes: are available from the links below.  I will update these regularly throughout the semester.
                Overheads: the figures that I use in overheads are posted as pdf files in the links below.  I occasionally add new material at the last minute, to incorporate  new studies,  but most of the overheads are in the pdf file links.

         Grading: Exam 1: 25%, Exam 2: 25%, Exam 3: 25%. (Exam 3 will fall in finals week.  A small part of it will be comprehensive, but it will primarily cover  new material)  The tests will mainly be multiple choice questions and perhaps some short answer. For some material, the tests involve doing calculations, so bring your calculator on exam days

Problem sets and/or quizes on computer exercises:  25%  Several subjects will include short homework assignments. In these, you will use the methods described in lectures to test ideas with computer simulations of population dynamics or interactions between species. In some cases, a graded homework assignment or a short quiz will be based on the computer exercise.  Together, these homework assignments account for 25% of the grade.  Doing one optional HW assignment will allow you to drop your lowest HW grade.

       Computer Exercises:  Some homework assignments will use the software packages GenX and POPULUS to examine evolution, population growth, and interactions among species (such as interspecific competition and predation), in a series of computer labs. POPULUS has simple simulations that allow you to manipulate the variables in mathematical models of ecological processes, and see the results graphically.  GenX lets you manipulate evolutionary forces in two populations.  Both are free programs that you can download and run on your own computer,

Download POPULUS from the developer's (Don Alstad's) site at U Minnesota.
Download GenX from this link.  GenX was developed by Brad Swanson at Purdue.

You can also run both programs on any MSU networked computer without downloading and installing them.   Look for GenX.exe and for the run.bat file in the Populus  folder within the Biology 303 folder at \\hopper\labshare (which you can access using 'Map Network Drive' by right-clicking 'My Computer' on any networked machine).   To learn about access to software on the MSU local network, see this link:  Using Network Drives to Access Software on the MSU network. 

Course Outline, lecture notes and reading assignments:  Lecture titles will be linked to lecture notes.  We will post each lecture’s notes after the lecture.

Topic Subtopics Reading           

Introduction to Ecology
definition, levels of analysis, types of ecological
Rainfall and NPP example  from NASA earth observatory dataset

Evolutionary Ecology

Evolutionary forces, selection & response, heritability

proximate/ultimate causation example -bat sonar
Thomson's gazelle & cheetah example
adaptive radiation example - WP finch (evolved to fill an empty niche after colonizing island with no woodpeckers)
Fox color selection example (artificial selection by humans),

Maze-learning heritability in rats example

OH set 1

OH set 2


Evolutionary forces and population differentiaton: GenX simulation  This HW will be assigned and explained FRIDAY 1/17 in class. There is no specific item to turn in from this exercise.  Work through it until you have a good understanding of interactions between natural selection, genetic drift and isolation to prepare for a short QUIZ using GenX on WEDNESDAY 1/22 in class
" "

Quiz scores here

Abiotic processes

Global scale Global physical processes, biomes
OH set 3

Animation of Hadley cells, atmospheric pressure, and precipitation -  spatial and seasonal patterns of precipitation at the global scale

Animation of Coriolis effect on surface winds

Animal Physiological Ecology

Animal physiological ecology - some adaptive solutions to temperature and water limitation
OH set 4

Plant Physiological Ecology

Plant physiological ecology - adaptive solutions to abiotic problems of water and temperature

Short quiz in class FRIDAY 2/7 over abiotic processes (CH 2,6,7, OH set 3,4,5 and associated lectures).



OH set 5

Climate Change

Carbon cycles, radiation budgets, anthropogenic effects, abiotic & ecological response

Keeling Curve, Vostok and other ice core data from NOAA

Ecological responses to climate change: figures and examples used in class:
Climate envelope approach: one, two.
Fitter & Fitter 2002 - plant phenology (see fig 1 & table 1)
Diamond et al 2011 - butterfly phenology
Burkle et al 2013 Plant bee phenological mismatch

global fingerprint

wolverine example - not assigned

IPCC GCM  emission scenarios) - not assigned

OH set 6

Life history

Basic life tables, population growth and life history trade-offs (using reproductive value)

survivorship, fecundity, Ro, T, r

Key for HW2

Life history trade off examples
CHAPTER 8  (as background)
CHAPTER 9 (section 9.2 onward)
CHAPTER 10 (sections 10.1 - 10.6)

OH set 7

EXAM 1 Exam one  will be Friday February 21st.  
Study Guide for Exam 1

Class grades as of 2/24/14.  Approximate grade cut-offs, if this distribution of scores did not change by the end of the semester, would be:

A: 86/87
B: 77
C: 65
D: 57

Population growth

Exponential vs density dependent growth exponential and density - dependent 
growth, limitation and regulation

population growth examples
CHAPTER 9 (section 9.1)
OH set 8

Verhulst-Pearl, linear density dependence New wildebeest example.  Part 2

Nonlinear density dependence - theta logistic example


 Interspecific competition

Lotka Volterra
Interspecific competition, competition coefficients, Lotka-Volterra Model

POPULUS EXERCISE: COMPETITION    Short in class quiz over the Lotka-Volterra model of interspecific competition will in class on FRIDAY 3/21.
CHAPTER 14 (sections 14.1 - 14.5)
OH set 9

African wild dog case study

Ecological Niches niche principles and  4 case studies
CHAPTER 13 (as background)
CHAPTER 14 (section 14.6 -14.11)
OH set 11

Test date is set: WEDNESDAY 3/26 in class

Grades as of 4/1/2014 (one HW/quiz and Final exam remaining).  I've updated the grades to drop your low HW/quiz if you did the optional HW, and calculated the grade distribution including Exam 2.

The mean score is now 80.4.  The guaranteed highest  cutoffs are:

90 = A  (33 students)
80 = B  (36, cumulative 69)
70 = C  (41, cumulative 110)
60 = D  (12, cumulative, 122)
50 = F  (7, cumulative 129)

These might move down after the final by a point or so, but will not move up.

Study guide
(updated on Monday 3/17)


dingo and red kangaroo example

compensation vs additivity, harvest models and Lotka-Volterra model

Creel & Rotella 2010, Sparkman 2011 examples
2011 USWFS N Rockies wolf annual report
- for figures examining additive/compensatory harvest mortality

Collapse of N.Atlantic cod -risk of FQ harvest & tragedy of the commons

Huffaker 1958 mite experiments with predator - prey cycles - for figures only

lynx hare example
OH set 12

OH set 13

Harvest models, compensation vs additivity, Lotka - Volterra

Functional & numeric response
functional and numeric responses, empirical
data on predator-prey cycles

Some things just have to be seen to be believed

POPULUS EXERCISE: PREDATION  Brief  in class quiz on this exercise WEDNESDAY April 9th.  Basic Lotka Volterra model and the effects of adding: (1) density dependent prey population growth, (2) realistic functional response by predators.
                                    OH set 14

Wolf-Elk case study Risk effects - the effects of predators on prey other than direct predation

Community and Ecosystem structure and function
Describing communities
What determines community diversity?
Diversity and stability

Island biogeogrpahy


CHAPTER 20 through
page 385
OH set 18

OH set 19

Final is in the regular room at 8:00 AM on TUESDAY 29 APR

Study guide for final

Final Grades: the mean score on the final exam was 75.5, and the mean class grade was 80.0.