Note: this syllabus will evolve with the course (i.e. it is subject to change)




The objectives of this course are: 1) to expose you to the process of science in ecology, 2) to develop your skills in scientific writing, 3) to expose you to the scientific review process, and critical thinking in science, and 4) to develop oral presentation skills. The course will introduce you to several field techniques, research design, and data analysis and interpretation. You will utilize several computer software applications, including Excel, SAS, and Word. You will also utilize statistical analysis, including t-tests, Analysis of Variance, Regression, and Chi-square. BIOL 394 is not a course in field methodology, computer applications, statistics, or graphic arts; however, these techniques are necessary in the preparation of raw data for scientific paper development and oral presentations.

You will participate in three faculty led field/laboratory exercises and one independent project. In addition, you will complete one statistical analysis assignment, write a research proposal, write two scientific papers, write reviews of a proposal and a paper, and give two oral presentations.



It will be very important to read assigned journal articles and other readings (see references below) before attending lab. The information is there to give you a good background for lectures and discussions. Class participation is part of your grade.



Dr. Lee Dyer is the professor for BIOL 394. Office hours are Thursday 2-4PM (FA 141). He can be reached at 784-1360.

The teaching assistants will identify themselves in the laboratory and will provide information on how you can contact them.



We will always meet first in FA 254, and then move to the field on those few days that we are going out. For field days please come prepared to go into the field with clothing appropriate for daily weather conditions. University vehicles will be provided and we will make a concerted effort to be back at the University by the end of the scheduled class period. You will be provided with a copy of the laboratory handout before the exercise is conducted. You will be expected to participate in all laboratory exercises, and individually collected data will be pooled for distribution to all students. All equipment will be furnished by the Biology Department.



Grading is approximately as follows: Participation and misc. assignments - 100; Papers - 100 each; Reviews - 100 each; Oral presentations - 100 each; Total = 700 points

Final grades will be based on a grand mean of scores received on exams and assignments, and I will use a standard percentage system: A = 90 - 100%; B = 80 - 89%; C = 70 - 79%; D = 60 - 69%; F = less than 60%.



Academic dishonesty is completely unacceptable and is defined as cheating, plagiarism or otherwise obtaining grades under false pretenses. Plagiarism is defined as submitting the language, ideas, thoughts or work of another as one's own work. To help prevent plagiarism, all papers will be scanned for comparison and future reference.







January 19

Introduction and Process of Science



January 26

Statistics and computer software


Hurlbert (1984)

February 2

Statistics discussion and Scientific papers


Anderson (2008)

February 9

Natural history, observation, formulating questions in ecology


Handout and Blackburn (2004)

February 16

Scientific papers; Faculty field problem I: Competition



February 23

Faculty field problem II: Diversity


Jost (2006)

March 2

Faculty field problem III: Parameterizing and verifying a model;

Individual meetings for independent projects


Wellborn (2000); Kay (2002)

March 9

Individual meetings for independent projects

March 23

Individual meetings for independent projects


Proposals due

March 30

Independent projects: no lab meetings


Reviews due for proposals

April 6

Independent projects: no lab meetings


Paper 1 due for all projects

April 13

Independent projects: no lab meetings


Reviews due for papers

April 20

Field Ecology Symposium I - group projects



April 27

Field Ecology Symposium II - independent projects

Paper 2 due


Anderson, G. 2008. How to Write A Paper in Scientific Journal Style and Format. Bates College, Lewiston, ME:

Blackburn, T. M. 2004. Method in macroecology. Basic and Applied Ecology 5:401-412.

Cox, G. W. 2001. General Ecology Laboratory Manual. McGraw-Hill, Dubuque, IA (optional).

Dyer, L.A. 2009. Sample grant proposal to the National Science Foundation.

Ecology – instructions for authors:

Ecology – reviewer guidelines:

Gotelli, N. J. E., A. M. 2004. A Primer of Ecological Statistics. Sinauer, Sunderland, MA (optional).

Hurlbert, S. H. 1984. Pseudoreplication and the design of ecological field experiments. Ecological Monographs 54:187-211.

Jost, L. 2006. Entropy and diversity. Oikos 113: 363-375.

Kay, A. 2002. Applying optimal foraging theory to assess nutrient availability ratios for ants. Ecology 83:1935-1944.

Krebs, C. J. 1999. Ecological Methodology. Benjamin/Cummings, Menlo Park, CA (optional).

Wellborn, G. A. 2000. Testing concepts of animal foraging behavior: An experiment using seed trays. The American Biology Teacher 62:46-49.