2012 Syllabus

Maymester 2012 Study and Research in Discovery Bay, Jamaica

MSCI 477 Ecology of Coral Reefs

Instructor: Dr. Erin J. Burge 
E-mail: eburge@coastal.edu
Campus Phone: 349-6491 
Office: CSCC 151-F 

Dive Safety Officer: Steve Luff 
E-mail: sluff@coastal.edu 
Campus Phone: 349-4052 
Office: CMWS 116 

Graduate Student Assistant: Erin Cziraki 
E-mail: ekczirak@coastal.edu 
Phone: 843-340-7252
Office: CMWS 151-A 

This course is designed to highlight the organization, structure, productivity and biological diversity of the coral reef ecosystem, with special attention to their sensitivity to environmental and anthropogenic disturbances. 

This course is implemented as a “research travel” opportunity for marine science majors/minors.  Prerequisites include permission of the instructor, successful completion of MSCI 111/111L and MSCI 112/112L, and internationally recognized SCUBA certification (ie: NAUI, PADI, SSI etc.).  It is strongly recommended that students have also completed MSCI 302/302L.  As part of the research portion of this course students enroll for an additional 3 credit hours of MSCI 499, Directed Undergraduate Research.  Exceptional research projects may be adapted into honors theses, undergraduate publications or peer-reviewed publications.

STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of MSCI 477 Ecology of Coral Reefs, students should be able to:

1. Understand fundamental ecological concepts as they apply to coral reefs

2.  Integrate the basic biology and physiology of major reefal organisms into a picture of organismal interactions that structure reef communities

3. Develop an understanding of the ecological driving forces of coral reefs and their inhabitants

4. Understand how coral reef ecosystems, adjacent terrestrial environments and associated marine ecosystems are interconnected

5. Describe and predict potential anthropogenic impacts upon tropical marine ecosystems

6. Classify reef life based upon distinguishing characteristics and adaptations in multiple ways, including taxonomic, functional groups, and habitat/depth patterns related to the geophysical characteristics of the system

7. Experience and participate in modern coral reef monitoring and research techniques

Texts and materials:

REQUIRED Resource DVD of peer-reviewed literature and reports pertaining to Discovery Bay, Jamaica (~750 entries in 2012); supplied with course enrollment

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Humann, P and N DeLoach. 2002. The Reef Set: Reef Fish, Reef Creature and Reef Coral (3 Volumes) New World Publications. Summary: If there is one set of reef identification books to own then this one is it. Throughout the Caribbean there are no better books available. Each fish, creature, coral, grass or algae has it's own full color picture along with a line drawing that points out the defining characteristics of that particular species.

RECOMMENDED Sheppard, Charles R.C., Simon K. Davy and Graham M. Pilling. 2009. The Biology of Coral Reefs. Oxford University Press. ISBN10: 0198566352352 pages. Summary: This accessible text is intended for students, naturalists and professionals and assumes no previous knowledge of coral reef biology. It is particularly suitable for both senior undergraduate and graduate students (in departments of biology, geography, and environmental science) taking courses in coral reef ecology, marine biology, oceanography and conservation biology, as well as the many professional ecologists and conservation biologists requiring a concise overview of the topic. It is also of relevance and use to reef managers, recreational divers, and amateur naturalists. http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/LifeSciences/Ecology/TropicalBiology/?view=usa&ci=9780198566359

GRADING: Your grade will consist of:

1.       Participation in daily literature discussion (25%)

2.       Three organismal practicals (45%)

3.       Final exam (30%)

Course grading scale: A: ≥ 90; B+: < 90 to ≥ 88; B: < 88 to ≥ 80; C+: < 80 to ≥ 78; C: < 78 to ≥ 70; D+: < 70 to ≥ 68; D: < 68 to ≥ 60; F < 60

Readings are fundamental to this course and consistent and cogent participation in discussions is a major component of your grade. See the course schedule for required readings and obtain copies from the resource DVD. Students are encouraged to form small groups outside of class to review papers and associated materials.

ATTENDANCE POLICY: It is expected that students will participate fully in all classroom and field activities. See attached schedule for details.

All other course and travel details are accessible from the course website http://www.ecologyofcoralreefs.com


The variable nature of weather, boat trips, and our relative levels of exhaustion WILL necessitate changes to this schedule. Your flexibility, willingness to contribute, and careful attention to details will probably make this one of the most impactful academic experiences of your life.