BIOL 204 - Introduction to Ecology

An introduction to the major divisions of ecology, including evolutionary and behavioural ecology, population and community ecology, and conservation biology/global change.  The course emphasizes an understanding of inter- and intra- specific interactions as well as spatial and temporal environmental patterns.   Theory will be applied to field situations and professional literature reviews.


Credits:  3


Hours: 60 (Lecture Hours: 45; Seminars and Tutorials: 15)


Total Weeks:  15


BIOL 101 Introductory Biology I and BIOL 102 Introductory Biology II

OR permission of instructor.


Non-Course Prerequisites:




Course Content:
Describe the requirements and processes that operate to improve the match between organisms and their environment
- Evolutionary and behavioural ecology
- Genetic variability, natural selection, evolution
- Optimal foraging, territoriality, sex & mating systems, group living, life histories
- Additional topics on Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology
- Seminar topic: Alfred Wallace Line, Charles Darwin and the Galapagos, The Ruff Project
- Field seminar topic: bat ecology in the Peace River area
Describe the intra- and inter- specific biotic interactions among and relate to population demographics
- Dispersion, movement, estimating population size, life tables, mortality and survivorship curves, population growth, population regulation –intrinsic vs extrinsic, bottom-up vs top-down effects
- Interactions: competition, niche concepts, predation (functional and numerical responses), defenses against carnivores and herbivores, symbiosis
- Seminar topic: Isle Royale Moose/Wolf interactions, Snowshoe hare/Lynx cycle in Kluane
- Field seminar topic: Aerial/Ground Telemetry on ungulates in the Peace River area (*contingent on approval from BC Hydro)
Outline nutrient cycling and the transfer and storage of energy in the major ecological communities
- Succession, trophic levels, nutrient cycling
- Keystone species and major communities (estuaries, intertidal, kelp forests, pelagic, deep sea, coral reefs, lakes, tundra, taiga, temperate rainforests, temperate deciduous forests, grasslands, deserts, tropical forests)
- Seminar topic: Yellowstone/Banff trophic cascades involving elk, willow and many other species
- Field seminar topic: Fish Creek Community Forest
Describe factors and interactions affecting biodiversity in ecosystems (community ecology)
- Biodiversity- global patterns in species abundance, causes for global trends (evapotranspiration, spatial heterogeneity, geological history, complexity, stability)
- Island biogeography – island size, distance to source, species turnover, equilibrium & tripartit theory
- Seminar topic: Fire in Wood Buffalo National Park, Fire in the NWT, Fire in the Tuchodi and guest lecture with Ross Peck (*contingent on mutually agreeable date with R. Peck)
- Field seminar topic: Beatton Hills fire regime
Describe human factors impacting ecosystems and theories in conservation biology
- Population growth, habitat loss, fragmentation, atmospheric contaminants, global temperature changes, aquatic pollution, ocean acidification, terrestrial and marine harvest, introduced exotic species, extinctions
- History, ecological footprint, International categories of protection on the land and sea, benefits and limitations of protected areas, SLOSS, minimum viable population(MVP), critical habitats, hotspots, endemic species, park design, restoration
- Seminar topic: Billion dollar caribou and guest lecture with Brad/Diane Culling (*contingent on mutually agreeable date with the Cullings), Vancouver Island Marmots, Canada's most endangered species.


Learning Outcomes:
Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
- Describe the ecosystem concept, its components & biological organization
- Outline major components of various ecosystems
- Explain how energy and nutrients cycle through ecosystems
- Describe demographics and determinants of population size
- Describe factors in population regulation
- Describe the effects of landscape scale factors on population size and movement
- Explain the interaction among competitive exclusion, ecological niches, and biological diversity
- Describe the role of disturbance and changes that occur with successional change
- Identify local keystone species and their role in ecosystem stability
- Describe human interactions with the environment and conservation approaches
- Critically evaluate information for accuracy, relevance and importance
- Conduct simple ecological measurements and sample ecological studies (including simple statistical operations)
- Transfer knowledge and training to new situations
- Search for information in professional literature


Grading System: Letters


Passing Grade: D (40% on final exam and 50% overall percentage for the class)


Percentage of Individual Work:  100


Textbooks are subject to change.  Please contact the bookstore at your local campus for current book lists.