NS 107 - Ecology  
Spring, Summer  


This course is a survey of concepts in ecology with emphasis on ecosystem ecology, biogeography, and evolution.  Topics include ecosystem energetics, nutrient cycling, global weather and climate, biomes and natural communities, natural selection, diversity of life, and ecological relationships.  We begin with a broad survey of ecological concepts at play in all ecosystems and apply these to specific terrestrial biomes such as tundra, boreal forest, temperate forest, temperate grassland, desert, chaparral, tropical savanna, and tropical rainforest.  We conclude with an investigation into evolutionary theory and its applications to biodiversity. 

Ecology and Lab 

Spring 2013


Instructor: Laura Beebe -586-2296 (home) lbeebe@sterlingcollege.edu


Required Text:     Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare: An Ecologist’s Perspective by  Paul Colinvaux

                                  Elements of Ecology, by Thomas Smith and Robert Smith

Additional Text: Supplemental handouts will be given periodically


Format: 1.30 hrs lecture/3.15 hrs field sessions and discussions per week 

Course Objectives:

Students will develop knowledge and skills in the following areas:

  • understanding of energy flow, primary productivity, ecological limiting factors  (light, temperature, moisture, nutrients),ecological efficiency, trophic levels, and food pyramids for a variety of ecosystems
  • understanding nutrient cycling, particularly the basic dynamics of the carbon and nitrogen cycles, and nutrient characteristics according to biomes
  • understanding of global climatic regimes and how climate influences ecological limiting factors, soils and vegetation
  • understanding of biomes, community concepts and their ecological dynamics, including tundra, boreal forest, temperate forest, temperate                                             grasslands, deserts, chaparral, tropical savanna, and tropical rainforest
  • understanding of ecological succession and implications for productivity and diversity
  • understanding of evolutionary theory, including natural selection and ecological fitness, species concepts, allopatry and sympatry,                                                           selection pressures, etc.
  • understanding of ecological relationships such as predator prey, parasitism, commensalism and mutualism
  • understanding of ecological adaptations of organisms to specific environments
  • understanding of concepts of biodiversity and trends in diversity
  • an introduction to biogeographic concepts and implications for conservation


  • Active, informed participation         30%

                (including all lectures, discussions, quizzes, field trips, etc., on time, alert, well-read and ready to engage)

  • Tests (3 worth 10% each)                 30%
  • Assignments (4 worth 10% each)    40%

Students are expected to turn assignments in at the start of class on the days assigned. Missing assignments will receive a reduction of a whole letter grade for each day the work is late.

Attendance Policy:   

Students are expected to contact the instructor prior to a class absence. It is the responsibility of the student to make up missed content and turn in assignments. Students who miss more than 3 classes for any reason during the course of the semester will receive a reduced final grade by one full letter for each additional class missed. For example:   a student misses 4 classes and ends the semester with a B- , the final adjusted grade would be a C-.