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Undergraduate Degree Programs

These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

Biology (BIOL)

BIOL 436 Population Ecology and Global Climate Change (3) Ecological responses of individuals, populations, and communities to environmental variation, with emphasis on climate change.

BIOL 436 Population Ecology and Global Climate Change (3)

In this course, students will be presented with a close look at the factors shaping the characteristics of populations and their dynamics in time and space, with emphasis on the responses of populations to climatic fluctuation and global climate change. The course begins with an introduction to the basic concepts necessary for understanding the responses of individuals, populations, and communities to climate change in the recent past (the past 2 centuries), present, and future. These concepts include: the science of climate change, how temperature trends are estimated, the data used in assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, large-scale climate systems such as the North Atlantic Oscillation and the El Ni´┐Żo Southern Oscillation, the basic characteristics of populations, how population densities are estimated, and the types of population data used in studies of population responses to climate change. In this first section of the course, students are also introduced to natural selection and the concepts of adaptation and vulnerability, which sets the stage for distinguishing between adaptive ecological responses to climate change vs. susceptibilities to climate change.

After presenting these basic concepts, the course then moves on to examine single-species population dynamics. This section of the course teaches students about the different types of population growth, including unlimited growth, density-dependent population dynamics, and density-independent population dynamics. Here, we take a close look at case studies documenting population responses to large-scale climatic fluctuation, and case studies that demonstrate interactions between the opposing influences of density dependence and climate on population dynamics. This section of the course also introduces students to some of the analytical difficulties inherent in quantifying the contribution of climatic fluctuation to local population dynamics. This section finishes with lectures on the phenomenon of spatial synchrony in population dynamics and the implications of global climate change for widespread population decline and extinction risk.

The final section of the course focuses on multi-species dynamics. Lectures in this section introduce students to inter-specific competition through examination of case studies involving desert rodents and ants; then move on to predation, with case studies of wolf predation illustrating the different types of functional and numerical responses, predator-prey cycles, and cascading effects of predators on population dynamics at lower trophic levels including herbivores and plants; and parasite-host dynamics, including discussion of the role of parasites as specialized predators in host population dynamics. This section also includes discBIOL 436 Population Ecology and Global Climate Change (3)

General Education: None
Diversity: None
Bachelor of Arts: None
Effective: Spring 2004
Prerequisite: BIOL 220

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.


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Course descriptions are stored in LionPATH, the University-wide student information system. Please visit the LionPATH Course Catalog to access current course descriptions. At that point, you will be leaving the University Bulletin website.

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