Ecology: Syllabus (Fall 2006)

The syllabus and materials on this site are for Prof. Chaky's Fall 2006 Ecology classes at Pratt Institute, and might not reflect the course expectations for the current semester. Consult the MyPratt registration system for details on the current semester's Ecology classes.

Course description:

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.

Instructor information:

Dr. Damon A. Chaky
Associate Professor, Department of Math and Science

URL: http://pratt.edu/~dchaky
E-mail: dchaky@pratt.edu
Phone: 718-636-3764
    x 3764 from the Brooklyn campus

E-mail is the best (and preferred) way to reach me for a question or to schedule an appointment outside of class.

Course goals:

  • To acquire an "ecological literacy" about how the natural world works
  • To develop an understanding of how scientific methods are used to construct ecological knowledge
  • To gain a greater appreciation of why it is important to study the interaction of living organisms on Earth
  • To become familiar with some of the major ecological challenges facing the Earth today, and the important research which needs to be done to address these concerns

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Learning objectives:

By the end of this course, you should be able to...

  • understand and describe the major ideas of natural selection, population and community ecology, biodiversity, and sustainability
  • interpret observations of life in a New York City microenvironment using principles of community ecology and succession
  • address issues of ecological concern using qualitative and quantitative arguments
  • identify specific ways in which natural or anthropogenic activity might influence terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
  • identify the major mass extinctions in Earth's history and their possible causes
  • analyze the assertion that we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction at the present time
  • describe and debate some of the major ecological issues relating to the current and future human condition, e.g. ecosystem services, agricultural systems, the management of reserves, and human genetics.

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Course content:

To protect copyright, you will need to authenticate with a username and password to gain access to readings and some assignment materials.

 
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 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

FINAL EXAM

 

Remember: There will be a short quiz at the beginning of class each week!

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Course Requirements:

Textbooks, readings, and materials:

  • You do not have to purchase any reading material for this course. All required readings will be available through a password-protected area of the course website.
     
    Course readings will include book chapters, 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. These articles will be posted as PDFs to the main course site.
     
  • 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(s), paper(s), assignment(s):

  • Weekly readings (available on the website) are to be read BEFORE coming to class.
  • There will be a short quiz at the BEGINNING of class each week to test your understanding of the readings AND the previous week's material.
  • This course includes a semester-long research project, which requires three brief observation reports.
  • A midterm paper based on the research project.
  • A trip report for a visit to AMNH.
  • Some classroom activities (e.g. case studies) may require brief reflection papers to be turned in the following week.
  • A comprehensive final exam

Assessment and Grading:

  • 15% Weekly quizzes
  • 15% Participation and Attendance
  • 40% Research Project
    • 1st observation report is worth 5% of the course grade
    • 2nd observation report is worth 5% of the course grade
    • Midterm Paper on research project is worth 25% of the course grade
    • 3rd observation report is worth 5% of the course grade
  • 5% Museum trip report
  • 5% Reflection papers
  • 20% Final exam

There are NO opportunities for extra credit.

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Policies:

  • Students must adhere to all Institute-wide policies listed in the Bulletin under "Community Standards," which includes policies on attendance, academic integrity, plagiarism, computer, and network use. Please see http://www.pratt.edu/policies (click on Judicial Procedures) for policies and procedures for handling academic conduct issues.
  • Those who require special accommodations for disabilities must obtain clearance from the Office of Disability Services at the beginning of the semester. Please contact Mai McDonald, Disability Services Coordinator, in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, Main Building, Lower Level: 718-636-3711. See http://www.pratt.edu/disabilityservices/ for more information
  • On-time attendance at each class meeting is expected. Partial attendance, i.e. lateness or early departure, will each count as one-half an absence if not excused in advance, and will impact the Participation component of the course grade.
  • It is expected that students will check the course website to download readings, check guidelines for assignments, and check course announcements. To protect copyright, you will need to authenticate with a username and password to gain access to readings and some assignment materials.
  • It is expected that students will obtain a Pratt e-mail address and check this mailbox for official course communication.
  • Late assignments will be reduced by one full grade per each day late. Late assignments will only be accepted at the discretion of the instructor (i.e., in very unusual circumstances and/or arranged well in advance).

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