ENV BIOL 3121 - Concepts in Ecology III

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2016

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. It provides both an understanding of theoretical ecology as well as a foundation for ecological applications. Details of 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 School of Biological Sciences
    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
    Course Description 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. It provides both an understanding of theoretical ecology as well as a foundation for ecological applications.
    Details of field trip communicated at start of the course.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Jose M Facelli

    A/Prof José M. Facelli

    Course Timetable

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

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    A successful student should be able to:

    1 understand and apply the central ecological concepts;
    2 search, find and read essential current literature in ecological journals;
    3 analyse complex ecological problems using current conceptual frameworks;
    4 critically analyse the literature and identify gaps in knowledge;
    5 design studies to fill the current gaps in knowledge in our ecological understanding, working independently and in teams;
    6 use of a variety of tools (experiments, field surveys and modelling) to study ecological systems;
    7 report results 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)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    1, 2, 3
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    3, 4, 5
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    5, 7
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ,7
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
    3, 4
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    No single textbook covers the content of this course.

    Reading lists will be provided by lecturers.
    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 should be consulted as required.
    Online Learning
    MyUni: Teaching materials and course documentation will be posted on the MyUni website (http://myuni.adelaide.edu.au/).
    Participation in MyUni groups and Discussion Boards is required.
  • 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: there is a 3-day field trip in the mid-semester break
    The course uses a combination of lectures, practicals and field work. Attendance at lectures is highly recommended. There is a component of group self-learning (preparation of a research proposal) directed practicals (computer modelling) 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
    Autecology, the ecological niche and habitat selection
    Life history and phenotypic selection
    Week 2 Lectures
    Age and stage structured population dynamics
    Density dependence and single species population dynamics

    Practical: asking ecological quations
    Week 3 Lectures
    Age and stage structured population dynamics
    Density dependence and single species population dynamics

    Practical: Developing a Research Proposal I
    Week 4 Lectures
    Herbivory: plant perspective

    Practical: Developing a Research Proposal I
    Week 5 Lectures
    Herbivory: animal perspective
    Herbivory: Ecosystem effects
    Week 6 Lectures
    Grazing in arid lands of Australia
    Ecological complexity: indirect effects, spatial heterogeneity
       Mid Semester Break  Camp
    Week 7 Lectures
    Mechanisms that maintain
    Diversity Ecology of biological invasions
    Week 8 Lectures
    Ecological and evolutionary relationships governing species distributions 1
    Ecological and evolutionary relationships governing species distributions 2
    Week 9 Lectures
    Changes in species distributions: invasive species and climate change 1
    Changes in species distributions: invasive species and climate
    change 2
    Week 10 Lectures
    Models: Population processes 1
    Models: Population processes 2

    Practical: Modelling I
    Week 11 Lectures
    Models: Ecosystem processes 1
    Models: Ecosystem processes 2

    Practical: Modelling II
    Week 12 Lectures
    Models: Ecosystem processes 3
    Models: Ecosystem processes 4

    Practical: Modelling III
    Specific Course Requirements

    There is a 3-day field trip in the mid-semester break.
    Because of limitations of the facilities available a maximum of 55 students can participate of the camp. Students unable to take part of the field activites will receive alternative assigments to comply with the learning objectives and assessment requirements.

    Small Group Discovery Experience
    The course includes two core activities that provide Small Group Discovery Experience.

    The preparation of the research proposal requires that students working in groups of 3-5 read current ecological literature critically to detect gaps in knowledge, and under the direct supervision of the lecturers design a research project that should be implemented to provide the critical information needed.

    During the field camp, groups of students 4-6 working under supervision of lecturers develop a single research question, and devise a sampling strategy to collect suitable data to answer the question. Students then analyse the data and report their results individually.
  • 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
    Field trip report Summative/Formative


    No 1,2,3,4
    Research Proposal Formative 15% No 1,2,4
    Modelling Practicals  Formative/Summative 10% No 2,3,4
    Exam Summative 50% No 1,2,3,4
    Assessment Related Requirements
    Completion of practical assigments is compulsory –this includes attendance, conduct of required practical work.
    Assessment Detail
    The PRACTICAL COMPONENT has three independents parts:

    Research Proposal (15%)
    This is a group (n = 3-5) assignment completed under direct guidance of the lecturers, and assessed individually. It requires identifying an area of research, developing research questions and designing studies and experiments to answer the questions posed.

    Field Trip Report (25%)
    An individual assignment in the format of a research manuscript based on data collected during the field camp in the Mid-Semester break. Alternative assigments are available for students unable to participate of the field trip.

    Modelling Computer Practicals (10%)
    Assesses the performance of individual students in the last three practicals devoted to the use of computer tools to understand and explore ecological concepts. 

    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. 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 allowed for reasonable causes. Such situations would include compassionate and medical grounds of the severity that would justify the awarding of a supplementary examination. Evidence for the grounds 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. The assessment extension application form can be obtained from: http://www.sciences.adelaide.edu.au/current/

    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 days late or more 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.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.