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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, 339 LEON JOHNSON HALL.

        Instructor: Dr. Scott Creel, 311-A Lewis Hall (end of the short hallway on the SE corner), 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, 9th edition by Smith & Smith  is required. Any other reading will will be posted via links to pdf files on this web page.

        Overheads and other materials used in lectures: the figures that I use in class are posted as pdf files in the links below, unless they come directly from the textbook assignments.  I occasionally add new material at the last minute, to incorporate  new studies,  but most of the overheads will be in the pdfs.  I recommend that you print these out ahead of time and bring them to lecture so that you can make notes on them.  (I also post notes that I use to prepare lectures but these are not intended to replace your own notes. They are just intended to be a supplemental resource.  I don't recommend printing these out to take the place of class notes, but do recommend using them for out-of-class review.)

         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 (for example, changes in the size of two populations that compete for limited resourcces), 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 (GenX is not available for Mac). 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. Access and use will be explained in class before we use each software package.

Download POPULUS from the developer's (Don Alstad's) site at the University of Minnesota. It runs under Java on any operating system.
Download GenX from this link.  GenX was developed by Brad Swanson at Purdue University.  It runs only on PCs with Windows.

Course Outline, overheads, supplemental 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
Definitions of ecology, levels of ecological analysis, and types of ecological explanation

Rainfall and NPP example  from NASA earth observatory dataset, using MODIS satellite data.

Evolutionary Ecology


Evolutionary forces, selection & response, heritability

proximate/ultimate causation example - bat sonar 1, 2, 3, 4
Thomson's gazelle & cheetah example
adaptive radiation example - WP finch (evolved to fill an empty niche after colonizing island with no woodpeckers)

Florida panther genetic drift example

Biston betularia color selection example

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   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.   HW will be explained and assigned  in class. Quiz over this assignment will be in class on FRIDAY 1/29
" "

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

Animal Physiological Ecology

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

Polar bear emissivity
Knut Schmidt Nielsen
Charles Blagden
OH set 4

Plant Physiological Ecology

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

Short quiz in class over abiotic processes (CH 2,6,7, OH set 3,4,5 and associated lectures) Wed 2/10/16

OH set 5

Supplemental figures for plant physiological ecology

Study Guide for Animal and Plant Physiological Ecology

Climate Change

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

NASA - decadal global temperature anomaly
Keeling Curve, Vostok and other ice core data from NOAA
Ice core temperature reconstruction

GCM structure overview
GCM visualization from NCAR CCSM model
(IPCC GCM  emission scenarios)

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

SUMMARY of ecological responses to climate change

Parmesan & Yohe (2003) global fingerprint

OH set 6

Life history

Basic life tables, population growth and life history trade-offs (using reproductive value)
life history introduction
survivorship, fecundity, Ro, T, r

HW2 (optional, score replaces lowest other HW/quiz grade)

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 Help session in class Wednesday: I will answer any questions, so come prepared if there is something you'd like reviewed or explained.

Exam one  will be Friday February 26th

Study Guide for Exam 1
(also see Physiological Ecology study guide posted above)

Also, demography will be on Exam 2 this year

Population growth

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

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

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

Populus example of linear density-dependent growth, including dynamics of time-lagged density-dependence.
Nonlinear density dependence - theta logistic example

Short quiz in class  over models of density-dependent population growth emphasizing understanding of the 4 plots in the Populus exercise with the Pearl Verhulst model.

 Interspecific competition

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

POPULUS EXERCISE: COMPETITION    Short in class quiz in class WED March 30
CHAPTER 13 (sections 13.1 - 13.5)
OH set 9

African wild dog case study

Ecological Niches niche principles and  4 case studies
CHAPTER 12 (as background)
CHAPTER 13 (section 13.6 -13.11)
OH set 11


Help Session (answering questions) will be on the monday just before.

Study guide
Also see questions 14 onward from study guide 1, over demography


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

POPULUS EXERCISE: PREDATION  Brief  in class quiz on WED April 20th over this exercise.  Basic Lotka Volterra model and the effects of adding: (1) density dependent prey population growth, (2)  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?
Simpson and Shannon example

PDB Hypothesis example

Diversity and stability

Island biogeography


CHAPTER 19 (section 19.6-19.9)
OH set 18

OH set 19

Final is in the regular room at 6:00 PM on THURSDAY MAY 5th

Study guide for final