Ecology for QBIC (PCB 3043)         

Spring 2014 - Tuesday and Thursday 12:30 – 1:45 pm AHC3 - 205


Course Instructor

PLTL Leaders

Lab Instructor

Dr. Suzanne Koptur

Mariajesus Soula, Alessandro Esquenazi, Kassandra Leniv

Julia Gehring

OE 232, ph. 305-348-3103; email:

office hours W 10:30 am to noon & by appt.

Link to PLTL

Link to Lab


            The goal of this course is for you to understand ideas and concepts of ecology, and be able to integrate information to formulate solutions and solve ecological problems in modern life.  We will emphasize connections with mathematical, physical, and chemical processes, as well as biological ones!  We will use our time together in class to do activities relevant to the subjects covered, and students are expected to prepare by viewing/reading online resources posted for each class, reading the textbook pages assigned, and participating in online activities scheduled for the week.  Readings should always be done before the class day for which they are assigned.  The best grades will be achieved by participating in all class activities, working the problems, doing/taking all on-line and in-class assessments, and turning in/presenting assignments on time. 


Learning goals:

            Students completing this course should gain foundational knowledge, including:  be able to recognize the worth and role of all organisms and non-living parts of ecosystems on the earth; how organisms adapt to environmental stresses; how organisms are modified in response to their environments; how life histories can be used to evaluate and compare strategies for reproduction and interactions with other species; how organisms and habitats compare in different biomes around the world, and how things have come to be the way they are; energy flow and nutrient cycles through food webs and communities; how communities can be compared in terms of species richness and diversity; the role humans have had in transforming natural ecosystems; the prospects for conservation of remaining biodiversity; and more.  Students will integrate and apply what they have learned to hypothetical and real-world situations, preparing them for challenges they may face in future courses, research, employment, and life.  Students will gain skills in problem solving, information retrieval and synthesis, writing, presentation, and working with others.  Hopefully, you will also become aware of the consequences of their/our/human actions on natural biota, and what can be done to ameliorate negative effects and promote ecosystem health. 

            In our class we will use small-group learning, and students will actively engage in games, contests, discussions, and various assessment techniques to facilitate their understanding of the material. 

Classroom activities and your out-of-class preparations will be assisted with a course website.   

We will also explore the quantitative aspects of ecology using exercises and models.  The PLTL session each week will focus on strengthening math and statistics ability, and the data analysis modules from the textbook.  The lab will complement the lecture class, with exercises in the field and lab to provide real data to analyze as well as solve how best to answer certain questions and test hypotheses.  We plan that all parts of the course will work together to give you a dynamic understanding of this science and its interfaces with mathematics and other sciences. 


            This course will involve continuous assessment, not all of the graded kind: some will be educative in nature, allowing the instructors to know if students have learned the material, and helping the students to learn more in the process of being assessed. One way this will be accomplished is with quizzes taken in class, first individually, then in groups.  Another way is with student journals, kept online, in which students review the things that are unclear, and the challenges they have faced.

            The writing component of the course has two additional parts:  pop quizzes (essays) in lecture, and group projects called jigsaws.  The five-minute essays will pop up in class throughout the semester, and the best 60% of them will be counted for a percentage of your final grade.  The jigsaws will be done in groups on assigned topics, in stages; we will have some training in library research to help you find references relevant to your topic.  It is advisable to start this projects early enough to find relevant references, read the scientific articles, as well as other relevant information found from other sources, and to put together your ideas.   Groups will present their findings in class, and also turn in their papers via to verify originality.  Students will review the work of other groups’ papers and presentations using peer-review capabilities of Turn-it-in.  Needless to say, plagiarism is unethical and will not be tolerated in this or any course activity.   


Individual/Group assessments


Final Exam


Best 60% of "pop" essay grades, and online journals


Jigsaws – two oral presentations


Data Analysis Modules


PLTL - participation, etc. 



Syllabus for QBIC Ecology (PCB 3043) - Spring 2014

TextbookRicklefs, R.E. 2008.  Economy of Nature, 6th edition, W.H Freeman and Company, New York.  Website resources:
plus: Harris, M., G. Taylor, and J. Taylor. 2005. CatchUp Math and Statistics for the Life Sciences.  Scion Publishing Ltd.

Week 1

Date/ day

Lecture Topic

Readings - Ricklefs chapter


7 Jan T

Pre-test and Introduction



9 Jan R

The Physical Environment - Water and Nutrients


Week 2

14 Jan T

The Physical Environment - Light, Energy, Heat



16 Jan R

Variation and Biomes

 4 & 5

Week 3

21 Jan T

Biomes Presentations - your trip to an exotic location in a designated biome!



23 Jan R

Evolution and Adaptation


Week 4

28 Jan T

Life Histories and Fitness

7      data analysis module # 1


30 Jan R

Sex and evolution


Week 5

4 Feb T

Family, Society, and Evolution



6 Feb R

 Population Structure   [jigsaw assigned]


Week 6

11 Feb T

Population Growth and Regulation

11      d.a.m. # 2


13 Feb R

Population Dynamics

12      d.a.m. # 3

Week 7

18 Feb T

Population Genetics and Evolution



20 Feb R

Species Interactions - Competition

14, 16 

Week 8

25 Feb T


15        d.a.m # 4


27 Feb R

Evolutionary responses and Coevolution


Week 9

4 Mar T

Jigsaw Presentations


6 Mar R

Jigsaw Presentations

Week 10

11 Mar T



13 Mar R


Week 11

18 Mar T

Community Structure



20 Mar R

Community Development


Week 12

25 Mar T


20   d.a.m. # 5


27 Mar R

Historical Biogeography


Week 13

1 Apr T

Energy in Ecosystems



3 Apr R

Elemental Cycles


Week 14

8 Apr T

Nutrient Regeneration



10 Apr R

Landscape Ecology


Week 15

15 Apr T

Extinction and Conservation



17 Apr R

Global Ecology


Week 16

22 Apr R

Final Exam 12-2 pm (Cumulative)