BIO 373 Syllabus

BIO 373 Spring 2003


Course description

Ecology is the scientific study of the complex interrelationships between organisms and their environments. This course surveys the major developments in the field of ecology and prepares students for further advanced study at the graduate or professional level. However, the course should appeal to anyone with a basic science background and an interest in learning about nature. The course will emphasize synthesis and critical thinking. Students will not only learn about the basic workings of living organisms and the physical environment, but also how to use ecological theory to organize their understanding of biology and natural history. Critical thinking and communication skills will be developed through presentations, class discussions and short essay questions. Students will also gain some basic skills in theoretical modeling and statistical analysis through tutorial exercises.


Timothy H. Keitt

Office: 502 Patterson

Office hours:

M 10:00am-11:30am
T 2:00-3:30pm
or by appointment


Naiara Pinto

Office: 439 Patterson

Office hours:

W 9:00am-10:30am
F 9:00am-10:30am
or by appointment

Meeting schedule

Lecture T-Th 11:00am-12:30pm BUR 112

49015 T 9:00am-10:00am EJC 1.214

49020 TH 9:00am-10:00am PAR 8b

49025 M 2:00pm-3:00pm UTC 4.120

49030 T 2:00pm-3:00pm PAR 8a

Textbook and web resources

Ricklefs'The Economy of Nature (ISBN 0-7167-3883-X) is required for the course. Additional learning materials are also available online at Readings from the primary scientific literature will also be assigned for certain topics.

Please check the course web site at regularly for updates to the schedule and important announcements.

Information regarding the tutorial sessions can be found at

Students are also encouraged to take Field Ecology (BIO 373L). See

Grades and policies

The instructors will try to grade and return assignments and exams as quickly as possible, usually by the following class period. Delays may occur owing to extenuating circumstances.

All grades are final and will not be changed, except in the case of outright grading errors. For example, if on a multiple choice question, a student marked the correct choice, but was not given credit, then the grade will be adjusted. The instructors will not accept grade appeals in person ? appeals must be presented to the instructors in writing, along with the student's work, within one week after the assignment was returned. After that time, appeals will be returned unread. The appeal must detail exactly what error was made: specify the question, give your answer and the answer on the key and explain why your answer is correct. Do not expect grades for essay questions to be adjusted unless your answer perfectly matches the answer given in the key.

Under no circumstances will students be allowed extra credit assignments during or after the semester. Only work done during the course will be counted towards a students grade. Do not even approach the instructors to ask for special consideration or opportunities to earn extra credit. Major life difficulties that may impair your ability to perform in the course should be taken up with your academic advisor and remediation pursued through the University.

Attendance in the lecture and tutorial sessions is mandatory. Students that miss an exam or assignment will receive zero points for the missed work, except in the case of University approved absences, such as approved religious holidays. Please refer to written policy in the Undergraduate Catalog or on the University web pages. University policy requires that students give two weeks prior written notice before an approved absence. For the final exam, students must give notice at the beginning of the semester. In the case of missed exams, either a makeup will be given, or that exam will be dropped from the final grade.

Satisfactory performance on all assignments will result in a passing or better grade. However, exams will be challenging and we will likely curve grades upward. Improvement in test scores over the semester will be taken into account when assigning final grades. For example, student on the borderline between a C and B may receive a B given good attendance, participation and improvement in later test scores. Grade adjustments are purely at the discretion of the instructors. Asking for a better grade will not get you one.

Grade breakdown:

Exams: 3 at 20% each

Tutorial assignments 30%

In-class presentation 10%

All exams and assignments will be cumulative.

Academic misconduct: We expect you to behave with integrity and to follow University policies regarding academic honesty. The University policy on academic misconduct is available in the Undergraduate Catalog and on the University web pages. Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students caught cheating will receive zero credit on that assignment and will be reported to the Dean's office.

Useful web links

Math review (derivatives and integrals): Visual calculus

Lecture schedule

Below is a tentative schedule of lecture topics. We will provide updates if the schedule changes. Additional readings will be assigned during the semester; be sure to attend lectures and tutorial sessions. Read the assignments before coming to class!

[2/20 -- Please note the change in lecture schedule. I will not be on campus for 1 week in April. Norma Fowler will lecture on special topics that week. The schedule will resume the following week with remaining lectures delayed by one week relative to the given schedule.]

Jan 14 Course business and introduction: What is ecology? (Reading: Chapter 1)

Jan16 The physical context of ecology (Reading: Chapter 2)

Jan 21 Physiological adaptations (Reading: Chapter 3)

Jan 23 Global patterns in the environment (Reading: Chapters 4 & 5)

Jan 28 Ecosystem energetics (Reading: Chapter 6)

Jan 30 Nutrient cycling and regeneration (Reading: Chapters 7 & 8) [The science paper on anaerobic sediments is here and some more information is here.]

Feb 4 Adaptation to a variable environment (Reading: Chapter 9)

Feb 6 Greenhouse gases and global change (Exam review, questions)

Feb 11 * Exam 1 *

Feb 13 Life history theory (Reading: Chapter 10)

Feb 18 Sexual selection and mating systems (Reading: Chapter 11)

Feb 20 Behavioral ecology and Introduction to populations (Reading: Chapter 12 (parts) & 13)

Feb 25 Population growth and density dependence (Reading: Chapter 14)

Feb 27 Population dynamics and evolution in space and time (Reading: Chapter 15 & 16 (parts))

Mar 4 Class canceled owing to weather

Mar 6 Diversity and biogeography (Reading: Chapter 23 & 24)

Mar 8-16 Spring Break

Mar 18 Extinction and conservation (Reading: Chapter 25)

Mar 20 * Exam 2 *

Mar 25 Predation and herbivory (Reading: Chapter 17)

Mar 27 Predator-prey dynamics (Reading: Chapter 18)

Apr 1 Competitive interactions (Reading: Chapter 19)

Apr 3 Coevolution (Reading: Chapter 20)

Apr 8 Community ecology I (Reading: Chapter 21)

Apr 10 Community ecology II (Reading: Chapter 22)

Apr 15 Special topic (or guest lecture)

Apr 17 Special topic (or guest lecture)

Apr 22 Special topic (or guest lecture)

Apr 24 Student presentations

Apr 29 Student presentations

May 1 Student presentations

May 13 * Exam 3 * (9am; Room TBA; Not in regular lecture room!)