ENV BIOL 3121 - Concepts in Ecology III

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2024

This course addresses advanced ecological concepts, building upon Ecology II, and providing a common anchor to other Ecology courses in Year III. It deals with populations, communities and ecosystems, and examines various approaches to their studies, including experiments and models. Students are provided with both an understanding of theoretical ecology as well as a foundation for ecological applications. Details of the 4 day compulsory field trip communicated at start of the course.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code ENV BIOL 3121
    Course Concepts in Ecology III
    Coordinating Unit Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 5 hours per week, plus field trip
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Assumed Knowledge ENV BIOL 2502
    Assessment Exam, practical assignments
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Steven Delean

    Professor Andrew Lowe
    Associate Professor José ("Jope") M. Facelli
    Dr Steven Delean
    Associate Professor Damien Fordham
    Associate Professor Phill Cassey
    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
    1 understand central ecological concepts and analyse complex ecological problems using current conceptual frameworks
    2 search, find and critically read essential current literature in ecological journals and identify gaps in knowledge
    3 design studies to fill the current gaps in knowledge in ecological understanding, while working independently and in teams
    4 describe the utility and interpret the results of a variety of tools (experiments, field surveys and modelling) to study ecological systems
    5 report the findings of ecological studies in a clear, precise, and succinct way
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5

    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5

    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.

    2, 3, 4, 5

    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5

    Attribute 5: Intercultural and ethical competency

    Graduates are responsible and effective global citizens whose personal values and practices are consistent with their roles as responsible members of society.

    1, 3

    Attribute 7: Digital capabilities

    Graduates are well prepared for living, learning and working in a digital society.

    2, 4, 5

    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

    2, 3
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    No specific text covers the content of this course.
    Recommended Resources
    The basic information is found in the lectures. During lectures sources that cover the corresponding topics will be provided. In addition, several advanced ecological textbooks can be consulted as required. While lecture material will be available on-line, we consider attendance to the actual lectures an essential part of the learning experience, COVID restrictions willing.
    Online Learning
    MyUni: Teaching materials and course documentation will be posted on the MyUni website (http://myuni.adelaide.edu.au/).
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    This course is delivered by the following means:
    • Lectures: 2 x 1-hour lectures per week
    • Practicals: 1 x 3-hour practical per week (selected weeks only)
    • Field Trip: 1 x 4-day field trip in the mid-semester break
    The course uses a combination of lectures, practicals and field work. We consider attendance to the actual lectures an essential part of the learning experience, COVID restrictions willing.

    There is a component of group self-learning (preparation of a research proposal) and directed field work followed by independent reporting.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    A student enrolled in a 3 unit course, such as this, should expect to spend, on average 12 hours per week on the studies required. This includes both the formal contact time required to the course (e.g., lectures and practicals), as well as non-contact time (e.g., reading and revision).
    Learning Activities Summary
    Week 1 Lectures:
    Biotic interactions - Plant/animal interactions as models
    Herbivory - Individual effects/evolutionary perspectives

    No practical this week
    Week 2 Lectures:
    Herbivory - Community effects/ecosystem effects
    Grazing in arid lands of Australia

    Developing a Research Proposal I - Research question formulation
    Week 3 Lectures:
    Ecological complexity - Indirect effects, spatial heterogeneity
    Ecological complexity - Temporal effects; time lags and priority effects

    Developing a Research Proposal II - Group discussions on research questions and proposals
    Week 4 Lectures:
    Invasion biology I
    Invasion biology II

    Developing a Research Proposal III - Group interviews on proposed research
    Week 5 Lectures:
    Spatial distributions and sampling biodiversity
    Measuring biodiversity: concepts and patterns    

    No practical this week (work on Research Proposal assignment)
    Week 6 Lectures:
    Local patterns of species biodiversity
    Changes in species biodiversity in space and time

    No practical this week (prepare for field trip)
       Mid Semester Break Field Trip Camp
    Week 7 Lectures:
    Distributions of species - theoretical foundations
    Dynamics of geographic ranges

    No practical this week (collate/organise field trip data in preparation for week 8)
    Week 8 Lectures:
    Theory of island biogeography
    Islands as model systems

    Field trip data analyses and report discussion
    Week 9 Lectures:
    Metapopulations and metacommunities
    Frontiers in Macroecology

    No practical this week (work on Field Report Assignment)
    Week 10 Lectures:
    Global change ecology
    The structure of biodiversity

    No practical this week (work on Field Report Assignment)
    Week 11 Lectures:
    The Anthropocene and global biotic homogenization 1
    The Anthropocene and global biotic homogenization 2

    No practical this week (work on Field Report Assignment)
    Week 12 Lectures:
    Ecological harm
    Job opportunities, future options and honours in ecological research

    No practical this week
    Specific Course Requirements

    The 4-day field trip is an important component of the training in ecology, and hence, apart for exceptional circumstances attendance is mandatory. Students who cannot attend to the field camp will still be required to write up the same report as students who do participate in the camp, AND will be required to submit an additional essay to account for the time included in participating in the camp.

  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Task Type Percentage of total assessment for grading purposes Hurdle
    Outcomes being assessed/achieved Approximate Timing of Assessment
    Research Proposal Formative


    No 1, 2, 3 Week 6
    Field trip report Formative and Summative


    No 3, 4, 5 Week 12
    Exam Summative 50% No 1, 4 End of Semester
    Assessment Related Requirements
    The field trip is an important component of the training in ecology, and hence, apart for exceptional circumstances attendance is mandatory. Students who cannot attend to the field camp will still be required to write up the same report as students who do participate of the camp, AND will be required to produce an extra assignment to account for the time included in participating of the camp.
    Assessment Detail
    The course requires completion of three independent assessments:

    Research Proposal (25%)
    This is a group assignment (3-5 students per group) completed under direct guidance of teaching staff. It requires identifying an area of research, developing research questions and designing studies and experiments to answer the questions posed, then presenting this in the format of an application for research funding. The length of the assignemnt is ~10 pages.

    Field Trip Report (25%)
    An individual assignment in the format of a research manuscript (max 3000 words) based on data collected during the field trip camp in the Mid-Semester break. Students unable to attend the field trip will be provided with data to analyse in order to complete the assignment and will be set an additional assignment (essay) to make up for the learning missed on the field trip.

    Final Exam (50%)
    The final exam is 3 hours and questions cover all the sections of the course in proportion to the time devoted to them in lectures. A combination of short answer and essay style questions will be asked in the exam. Requires the student to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the topics covered during lectures.
    Extensions for Assessment Tasks
    Extensions of deadlines for assessment tasks may be granted in certain circumstances. Such situations would include compassionate and medical grounds of the severity that would justify the awarding of a supplementary examination. Evidence for sufficient grounds for extension must be provided when an extension is requested. Students are required to apply for an extension to the Course Coordinator before the assessment task is due. Extensions will not be provided on the grounds of poor prioritising of time. Information on assessment extensions can be found here.

    Late submission of assessments
    If an extension is not applied for, or not granted, then a penalty for late submission will apply. A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment for each calendar day that the assignment is late (i.e. weekends count as 2 days), up to a maximum of 50% of the available marks will be applied. This means that an assignment that is 5 or more days late without an approved extension can only receive a maximum of 50% of the marks available for that assignment.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy (http://www.adelaide.edu.au/policies/101/) course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

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