The Importance of Biodiversity: Causes and Consequences of Ecological Change

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses

What determines biodiversity on planet earth?  This course will cover the area of ecology known as "community ecology."  We will examine classic theories and case studies on how so many species evolved on the planet, why so many species continue to coexist, and what biodiversity means for the planet (ecosystem services).  We will use textbooks and the primary literature to explore basic research in the field, including niche theory, intermediate disturbance hypothesis, and invasion ecology.  We will also use computer simulations to further explore some of the models that community ecologists use to understand ecological systems.  This work will draw on some basic applied mathematics, but students will not be tested on mathematics per se, just the mechanics of the models that we explore.  We will spend time discussing how to conduct a classic literature review, critically reviewing primary literature, learning about complementary approaches to scientific communication (blogs, videoblogs, radio), and discussing our ideas as a larger group.  Students will choose individual areas of interest and a conference oral or poster presentation will be required at the end of the course. Open.