Evolutionary Ecology - PCB 4673/5687 – Fall 2011

Lecture:  M,W,F 11 am in GL 132    


Dr. Suzanne Koptur

OE 232, ph. 305-348-3103

office hrs Wednesdays 12 - 2:45 pm; Thursdays 11 - 12:15 pm,  (or by appt.)


Course description:

We will examine the adaptations organisms make to their environments (all levels, from the individual, through the population, to the community).  Students will explore physiological and biological stresses and the subsequent adaptations of organisms under these forces.  Life history strategies, breeding systems, and multitrophic interactions will be given special attention.  A general background in ecology is assumed and knowledge of genetics will be reviewed (Prerequisite: PCB 3043, PCB 3063, or permission of instructor).  Basic principles and foundations of the field will be considered as well as current research.   Readings will come from a textbook (see syllabus that follows) and from books and articles from the older and current literature to expand the topics.  Lectures will be interspersed with group and discussion activities to maximize student participation in the learning process.

Each student will write three (5-8 pg.) papers (library research, with original synthesis, on topics chosen by mutual consent of student and professor; one of these may be a review of a classic book) during the semester, and participate in one or more group projects.  Papers and projects must be turned in by their due dates to receive credit, so plan accordingly.  There will be three exams during the semester and a final exam.  Grades will be determined as follows:  first three exams 10% each (30%), final exam 20%, each paper 10% (30%), project 10%, and class participation (in-class work and participating in discussions) 10%.  

All students are expected to do original work.  Plagiarism of any type will not be tolerated and will be basis for failing the course.  If you are unsure of what plagiarism is, and how to correctly use and cite reference materials, please check out the links on our library web page (my favorite is from Canada:   http://library.acadiau.ca/tutorials/plagiarism/ ).  We will be using the services of "TurnItIn" to check the proper use of materials in papers written for this course, as well as to provide feedback and peer review.

Course Policies: You are expected to be on time to class, and to stay the full period. You are expected to maintain high standards of academic honesty. Any student found in violation of these standards will earn an automatic F and be reported to the Deans Office, no exceptions made. In accordance with FIU's policy on academic honesty, as set forth in Section 2.44 of the Academic Affairs Policies and Procedures Manual (http://academic.fiu.edu/docs/aapolicies.htm), it is expected that students in Evolutionary Ecology will not submit the academic work of another as their own. Additional discussion of academic honesty and integrity may be found in the Manual of Student Conduct.

 Textbook:  Mayhew, Peter.  2006.  Discovering Evolutionary Ecology – bringing together ecology and evolution.  Oxford University Press (paperback).

Evolutionary Ecology Schedule of Events

Day/ date / Wk



M/ 22 Aug / 1st

Introduction to course - Evolution Truths?


W/24 Aug

Where two fields meet   - Lec 1 - Variation, Foundations of Evolution


F / 26 Aug

Haplochromine fish in-class activity


M / 29 Aug/ 2nd

Evolutionary Cover Stories  -  Lec 2 - Natural Selection and Genes


W / 31 Aug

 Sex and variation - consideration of other things possibly more interesting than sex (activity)


F / 2 Sep

 Library session 1 - meet in GL 280 

M / 5 Sep/ 3rd

 Labor Day Holiday - University CLOSED       


W/ 7 Sep

  Brave New Worlds - Lec 3 - Changes on Earth, and Animal Flight   [paper topics introduced]

F / 9 Sep

Library Session 2 - meet in GL 280

M / 12 Sep/ 4th

Traits, invariants, and theories of everything - Lec 4 - Age and size at Maturity


W / 14 Sep

 Senescence and Life Cycles in-class activity

F / 16 Sep

Virtual class – Origin of Species ch. 1 discussion, ectoparasite paper


M / 19 Sep/ 5th

Exam 1

W/ 21 Sep

 Sons, daughters, and distorters - Lec 5 - Sex, gender, sex ratios


F/ 23 Sep

Virtual class - Origin of Species ch. 2, and sex-ratio paper, Discussion

M/26 Sep/ 6th

Voyagers, residents, and sleepers  - Lec 6 - Dispersal and Population Structure


W/28 Sep

[First Paper Due] - printed out AND to Turnitin.com -  Migration in-class project

F/ 30 Sep

Virtual class - Origin of Species ch. 3, Discussion

M / 3 Oct/ 7th

Doing adaptive things    - Lec 7 - Mating Systems and sexual selection


W/ 5 Oct

Plasticity in-class project

F/ 7 Oct

Virtual class - Origin of Species ch. 4, Discussion

M / 10 Oct/ 8th

Exam 2


W / 12 Oct

Lec 8 -  Cooperation and Altruism  [Group Projects assigned]


F / 14 Oct

Virtual class - Origin of Species ch. 5, and group selection article, Discussion

M/17 Oct/ 9th

Evolution and numbers -  Lec 9 - Foraging


W/19 Oct

 optimal foraging in-class activity

F/21  Oct

 NO VIRTUAL CLASS TODAY - time for future papers and Group Project Work

M/ 24 Oct/ 10th

A world of specialists?   Lec 10 - Specialization/Generalization   [Second Paper Due]


W/ 26 Oct

The good, the bad, and the commensal -  Lec 11 - parasite/host interactions


F/ 28 Oct

NO VIRTUAL CLASS TODAY - group project work

M / 31 Oct/ 11th

Evolving together - Lec 12 - Coevolution and Mutualism


W/ 2 Nov

envisioning coevolution in-class activity


F/ 4 Nov

Virtual class - origin of species ch. 6 and 7, discussion


M / 7 Nov/ 12th

Birth of a species - Lec 13 - Speciation


W/ 9 Nov

Death of a species - Lec 14 - Inbreeding and Outbreeding 13

F/ 11 Nov

VETERANS Day - University closed


M / 14 Nov/ 13th

Exam 3


W/ 16 Nov

Big Evolution and Big Ecology - Lec 15 - Evolutionary Trees and Molecular Evolution

14, 15

F/ 18 Nov

virtual class - origin of species ch. 8 and 9, discussion

M / 21 Nov/ 14th

Combining in Diversity [Third Paper Due]


W/ 23 Nov

catch up day


F/ 25 Nov

THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY – no class meeting


M / 28 Nov/ 15th

Group project presentations [group papers due]


W/  30 Nov

Group project presentations

F / 2 Dec

Group project presentations

W / 7 Dec

Final exam 9:45 - 11:45 am