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BIOL/NR 2220- General Ecology

Spring 2007
Instructor: Dr. Michelle A. Baker
Text: Molles. Ecology: Concepts and Applications

Note, this is the 3rd edition of the text. Older editions will work for most of the content. The new 4th edition is out and can be used as well. Syllabus for 2007 is based on 3rd edition.


Course Objectives

There are three broad goals for this course.

  1. Improve ecological literacy by learning the basic facts, principles and concepts of the field of ecology
  2. Improve scientific literacy by learning how ecologists construct knowledge
  3. Improve analytical and writing skills through analysis and interpretation of ecological data


There will be four examinations and four assignments (Case Studies) during this course. The first three exams will be worth 100 points, and the lowest score will be dropped. The final exam will be 150 points. Because you can drop the lowest of 3 exam scores, there will be no make up exams.

All exams should be considered comprehensive because information in each unit builds on previous material. Questions will be drawn from information presented in lecture, contained in the text and case studies, and provided in class notes which are available to you online through the course website. Exams will be short answer, multiple choice, true/false, and/or fill-in-the-blank. You may bring a calculator. No notes, books, cell phones, palm pilots or any other materials will be allowed during the exams. If you are an ESL student, please contact me to make arrangements for use of foreign language dictionaries and translators. You must have prior permission to use such a device.

Corresponding to each exam, there will be a Case Study assignment designed to improve your data interpretation skills. The Case Study is something to be done independently, though you are encouraged to discuss the case studies with fellow classmates. Each case study will be worth 25 points (total = 100 points).

Case studies will be due in class

Case Study #1: What’s Killing Coral Reefs
Case Study #2: What are Impacts of Introduced Species
Case Study #3: Isle Royale Trophic Interactions
Case Study #4: The Global Carbon Cycle/Ecological Footprint

Extra Credit

There is no extra credit offered in this course. However, during the semester, I will periodically request student feedback using one-minute papers.
Students completing these will receive one bonus point.
The following scale will be used to determine your final grade:
Total points = 350 (exams) + 100 (case studies)= 450 points

Points out of 450
Percent Letter Grade
417-450 93-100 A
 390-404 87-89 B+
C +
269 (or less)
less than 60

To figure out your grade on an individual exam, just use the percent column.

Study Tips

Different people learn in different ways. How you study rather than how much you study will have a huge impact on your grade in this course. If you
use all of the resources available to you and take an active role in the learning process you will likely do much better. Don’t just sit in class like a mushroom!
Some specific tips are:

  1. Spend 15 minutes to skim through each reading assignment before class.
  2. Download the lecture outline and bring it to class so that you can take notes more easily.
  3. Review the lecture notes and read the assigned reading.
  4. Do the study questions at the end of each chapter.
  5. Visit the textbook’s web site for more information.
  6. Draw a concept map for each chapter.
  7. Try to draw diagrams from lecture and the book from memory.
  8. Make flashcards of important terms.
  9. Call up a friend and try to explain what you learned in class.
  10. Above all, if there is something you don’t understand ASK QUESTIONS! You are not in this class alone, ask the professor or one of your classmates.


You are adults and I won’t be taking roll call. Material for exams will come largely from the lecture, so it is in your best interest to come to class.

Disabled students

Reasonable accommodation will be provided for students with disabilities. Please meet with me the first week of class to tell me about your needs and we can make arrangements.

Academic Honesty

Cheating will not be tolerated. Cheating is defined by the university as “intentionally using or attempting to use or providing others with unauthorized information, materials, or study aids in any academic exercise or activity.” If you are caught cheating, disciplinary action can include a reprimand and grade alteration. Repeated offenses can lead to probation, suspension, or expulsion from the university. If you are having problems, don’t cheat, ask for help!


Day Topic Readings

UNIT 1 - Natural History and Ecology of Individuals
1 Introduction
Chapter 1
2 Natural History
Chapter 2 - 3
3 Temperature Reltions
Chapter 4
4 Water Relations
Chapter 5
5 Energy and Nutrient Relations
Chapter 6
6 Exam Review - Case Study #1

7 Exam #1 (100 points)
Ch. 1 - 6
   Unit 2 - Populations  
 8  Population Genetics and Natural Selection  Chapter 8
 9  Population Distribution and Abundance  Chapter 9
 10  Population Dynamics  Chapter 10
 11  Population Growth  Chapter 11
 12  Life Histories  Chapter 12
 13  Exam Review - Case Study #2 Due  
 14  Exam # 2 (100 points)  Ch. 8 - 12
  Unit 3 - Community Ecology
 15  Interactions - Competition  Chapter 13
 16  Interactions - Exploitation  Chapter 14
 17  Mutualism  Chapter 15
18   Species Abundance and Diversity  Chapter 16
 19  Food Webs  Chapter 17
 20  Biogeography  Chapter 22
 21  Exam Review - Case Study #3 Due  
Exam #3 (100 points)
Ch. 13 - 17, 22

Unit 4 - Ecosystems, landscapes and Global Change

Primary Production and Energy Flow
Chapter 18
Nutrient Cycling
Chapter 19
Succession and Stability
Chapter 20
Landscape Ecology
Chapter 21
Global Ecology
Chapter 23
Global Change
Chapter 23
Exam Review - Case Study #4 Due

FINAL Exam #4 (150 points)
Ch. 1 - 23
Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . factpetersen. (2008, February 20). Syllabus. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License