The fundamentals of ecology

This course provides a background in the fundamental principles of ecological science, including concepts of natural selection, population and community ecology, biodiversity, and sustainability. Students will acquire an "ecological literacy" about how the natural world works, and develop an understanding of how scientific methods are used to construct ecological knowledge. The course will also explore some of the major ecological challenges facing the Earth today, and the important research that needs to be done to address these concerns.

Course goals

By taking this course, students will...

Student learning objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to...

Course calendar

The calendar below is an example of how the course has been structured in the past. Like most non-studio three-credit classes at Pratt, the course meets for a total of 45 in-class hours— one weekly session of 3 hours for each of 15 weeks.

  • Week 1

    Basic Ecological Concepts

  • Week 2

    Behaviors, Niches and Natural Selection: Ecology at the level of the individual

    FIRST SITE OBSERVATION DUE

  • Week 3

    Population Ecology I: Food Webs and Ecological Efficiency

  • Week 4

    Population Ecology II: Population Stability, Resource Competition, Extinction

  • Week 5

    Population Ecology III: Genetic Diversity<

  • Week 6

    Community Ecology I: Terrestrial Biomes, Forest Succession

  • Week 7

    Community Ecology II: Island Ecology, Introduced Species

    SECOND SITE OBSERVATION DUE

    OPTIONAL FIRST DRAFT OF MIDTERM PAPER DUE

  • Week 8

    Self-guided trip to the American Museum of Natural History

    CLASS WILL NOT MEET

  • Week 9

    Biodiversity; Ecological/Wildlife Preserves

    AMNH TRIP REPORT DUE

  • Week 10

    Aquatic Ecosystems; Ecosystem Services

    MIDTERM PAPER/PROJECT DUE

  • Week 11

    Mass Extinctions

  • Week 12

    Climate Change

  • Week 13

    Sustainability and Pollution

    THIRD SITE OBSERVATION DUE

  • Week 14

    Human Ecology, Human Genetics and Society

  • Week 15

    COMPREHENSIVE FINAL EXAM

Textbooks, readings and materials

Students do not have to purchase any reading material for this course. All required readings will be posted as PDFs or made otherwise accessible through the course website.

Course readings will include book chapters, government reports, articles from peer-reviewed journals (e.g., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Nature), mass-market science periodicals (e.g. Scientific American), and recent articles in the popular press.

There will be a small fee and subway fare associated with a self-guided trip to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

Projects, papers, assignments

Assessment and grading

Final course letter grades are based on 100%–90% for A-range, 89%–80% for B-range, etc.

There are NO opportunities for extra credit.

Course policies

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