General Ecology

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Lab (Tutorial): Understanding Experimental Design
This innovative lab was developed as part of an NSF cyberlearning grant to SimBio. It uses an engaging simulated disease system and instant personalized feedback to help students overcome confusions and provide reinforcement on how to design experiments and to summarize and interpret results. Concepts covered include systematic variation, control treatments, replication, and scope of inference.
Level: Intro
Key Concepts: control treatments | data interpretation | experiments | hypothesis-testing | replication | scope of inference
Courses: Aquatic Ecology | Ecology | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Intro Bio: Majors | Intro Bio: Non-majors
Chapter: Behavioral Ecology
Examines the adaptive value of a wide variety of behaviors and explores a range of models that lend insight into how these behaviors evolved. Topics include cost-benefit models, optimal foraging, game theory, conflict, sexual selection, cooperation and the "problem with altruism".
Level: Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: altruism | conflict | cooperation | cost-benefit models | game theory | optimal foraging | Sexual selection
Courses: Ecology | Evolution
Chapter: Population Growth
Explores geometric, exponential and logistic growth, density-dependent vs. independent controls, and more advanced topics in population growth. Simulated agricultural systems form the basis for problem-solving throughout the chapter.
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Level: Intro, Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Density Dependence vs. Independence | Doubling Time | Exponential Growth | Geometric Growth | Logistic Growth
Courses: Ecology | Environmental Science | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics
Chapter: Life History
Fundamental life history trade-offs set the stage for students to explore demography and life tables. Simulated experiments include several interesting model organisms, including humans.
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Level: Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Demographics and Age Structure | Growth Rates | Life Cycles | Life History Trade-offs | Life Table Parameters
Courses: Conservation Biology | Ecology
Chapter: Community Dynamics
Focuses on stories and simulations within Yellowstone National Park to explore succession and disturbance, food chains and food webs, and related topics.
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Level: Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Community Stability | Disturbance | Succession | trophic dynamics
Courses: Ecology
Chapter: Competition
Covers intraspecific and interspecific competition, including niches, logistic growth, Lotka-Volterra equations, and isoclines. Allows students to dynamically explore relevant quantitative models, including manipulating phase plane plots of the Lotka-Volterra competition equations.
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Level: Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Intraspecific and Interspecific Competition | Logistic Growth | Lotka-Volterra Equations | Niche | resource limitation
Courses: Ecology
Chapter: Evolution for Ecology
Introduces evolution, natural selection, and selection and drift in quantitative traits, developed specifically for use in ecology classes. Uses examples with both basic and applied ecology interest, including sticklebacks and pest resistance to Bt cotton.
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Level: Intro, Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Evolution | Natural Selection | population genetics
Courses: Ecology | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics
Chapter: Predation, Herbivory and Parasitism
Introduces exploitative interactions between species. Includes classifications of each type of interaction and prey responses to exploitation, Lotka-Volterra predation equations, functional responses, and an exploration of the Red Queen hypothesis.
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Level: Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Classifying Exploitative Interactions | Functional Responses | Lotka-Volterra Equations | Predator-prey dynamics | Red queen hypothesis
Courses: Ecology
Chapter: Nutrient Cycling
Examines ecosystem and global cycling of nutrients, focusing on nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon. Introduces fluxes and pools, different components of the nitrogen cycle, the carbon cycle and how anthropogenic CO2 emissions are changing it, acid rain, and other related topics. A simulated watershed with both forest and lake habitats lets students explore how human activities can impact nutrient balance.
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Level: Intro, Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Acid Rain | Carbon Cycle | Nitrogen Cycle | Phosphorus Cycle | watersheds
Courses: Ecology | Environmental Science
Chapter: Biogeography

Covers large-scale and global patterns of biodiversity, and how these are related to landscapes. Includes coverage of air and water circulation, biomes, measures of diversity, species-area curves and island biogeography, paleoecology and geologic-time impacts on diversity. Topics are discussed in the context of how they inform conservation biology.


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Level: Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Biomes | Dispersal | Historical Biogeography | Island Biogeography | species diversity measures | species-area curves
Courses: Ecology
Chapter: Decomposition

Decomposition uses data from the LTER network, as well as from human forensics, to explore how life after death impacts ecological systems. Includes sections on the decomposer community, litter quality, environmental effects on decomposition rates, and interactions between decomposition and climate.

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Level: Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Decomposition | Decomposer Classification | Decomposition Rate | Decomposition Triangle | Litter Quality
Courses: Ecology
Chapter: Ecosystem Ecology
Our growing ecological footprint and reliance on ecosystem services provide context to learn about the flow of energy through ecosystems, beginning with primary production and respiration and then exploring secondary production, including consumer and detrital food chains, transfer efficiencies, and energy flow diagrams, with applications to biofuels production and to sustainability.
Table of Contents
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Level: Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Ecological Footprint | Ecosystem | Energy | Energy Flow | Fish Farming | GPP | Net Primary Production | NPP | primary production | respiration | secondary production | trophic pyramid
Courses: Ecology | Environmental Science
Chapter: Physiological Ecology
Uses a variety of different plant and animal examples to explore aspects of organism physiology that affect ecology. The chapter has a particular focus on temperature and water, with a discussion of how those two factors affect the types of plant communities seen around the globe, and a section on the heat and water balance equations. One section explores the difference between adaptation and acclimation in a physiological context. A final section discusses different types of photosynthesis, water balance, and heterotrophic ingestion.
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Level: Sophomore/Junior, Advanced
Key Concepts: Adaptation vs. Acclimation | Climate Diagrams | Heat and Water Balance Equations | Heterotrophic Metabolism | Law of the Minimum | potential evapotranspiration | transpiration and water potential | types of photosynthesis
Courses: Ecology
Lab (Tutorial): Keystone Predator - New in 2017!
Like the popular workbook-style version of Keystone Predator, the fun experiments in this updated tutorial-style lab lead to powerful "Eureka!" moments for students about the importance of interactions and connections among species in ecological communities. The addition of onscreen instructions, instant-feedback, and some new tools and self-assessments make this lab even more engaging. This is a great introductory lab in that it explores basic ecological concepts and asks students to think critically, synthesizing experimental data to make predictions. Instructors teaching more advanced courses and/or looking for more open-ended challenges will appreciate the new optional "playground" at the end that lets students tinker with the underlying model.
Level: Intro, Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Competition | Direct and Indirect Effects | Ecological Communities | Food Webs | Invasive Species | Keystone Species
Courses: Applied Ecology | Aquatic Ecology | Community Ecology | Conservation Biology | Ecology | Ecosystems | Environmental Science | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Intro Bio: Majors | Intro Bio: Non-majors | Marine Biology
Lab (Tutorial): Isle Royale
This very popular lab has been revised to include onscreen instructions, feedback for students, and a new graphing exercise. The lab explores important population biology concepts, including exponential and logistic growth and carrying capacity, using the classic predator-prey system of moose and wolves on an island in Lake Superior. An unexpected twist at the end creates a great topic for discussion.
Level: Intro
Key Concepts: undefined
Courses: Applied Ecology | Community Ecology | Conservation Biology | Ecology | Ecosystems | Environmental Science | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Intro Bio: Majors | Intro Bio: Non-majors | Population Biology
Lab (Workbook): Isle Royale Demo video available
This popular laboratory explores basic population biology concepts including exponential and logistic growth and carrying capacity. It is based on the textbook example of a predator-prey system involving wolves and moose on an island in Lake Superior. Students start out by characterizing the growth of a colonizing population of moose in the absence of predators. Next they introduce wolves, and study the resulting predator-prey cycles. Do predators increase or decrease the health of their prey populations? Students investigate this question by sampling the energy stores of moose with and without wolves present. Finally, they try changing the plant growth rate to see how primary productivity influences population dynamics.
View Sample Screen
Level: Intro
Key Concepts: Carrying Capacity | Population growth | Predator-prey Dynamics
Courses: Ecology | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Intro Bio: Non-majors | Population Biology
Reviews:
"We plan to continue to use EcoBeaker software in our Biology 101 labs next year. Student and TA feedback was very positive on both these labs [Isle Royale and Nutrient Pollution]."
Bruce Fall, University of Minnesota, 1,000 Student Introductory Biology Course
"Our experience with [the Isle Royale and Darwinian Snails labs] last Spring in our majors introductory course was excellent."
Dr. Lawrence Blumer, Morehouse College
"Our intro ecology course did the new Isle Royale lab this week and all of the instructors agreed that the new version is GREAT - so thanks for the great educational tool!!!! We all love how you worked global climate change into the new version and we also love the t-test at the end."
Billy Flint, James Madison University
Lab (Tutorial): Understanding Population Growth Models
Students experiment with simulations of engaging creatures whose populations are undergoing exponential and logistic growth. Through guided exploration, students discover what is meant by N, r, K, and dN/dt in population growth models, and apply the models to make predictions. This module was developed as a pre-lab for Isle Royale or a supplement for courses that cover intro-level population biology.
Level: Intro
Key Concepts: Carrying Capacity | Exponential Growth | Logistic Growth | population growth models | Populations
Courses: Applied Ecology | Community Ecology | Conservation Biology | Ecology | Ecosystems | Environmental Science | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Intro Bio: Majors | Intro Bio: Non-majors
Lab (Workbook): Liebig's Barrel and Limiting Nutrients
In this lab, students grow three different algal species in isolation in media containing nitrogen, phosphorous, and silica. They must first figure out which nutrient is limiting for each algal species, and what happens when the concentration of that limiting nutrient is changed. Then based on individual growth trajectories, students predict what will happen when different combinations species are grown together. Finally, student can manipulate death rates along with nutrients to explore R* competition and the paradox of the plankton.
View sample screen
Level: Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Competition | Limiting Nutrients | Nutrient Ratios
Courses: Aquatic Ecology | Ecology | Ecosystems | Environmental Science
Lab (Workbook): The Barnacle Zone (formerly Barnacles and Tides)
This is a recreation of the classic experiments of Connell on why the barnacles Chthamalus and Balanus have distinct distributions in the rocky intertidal zone of Scotland. Students first observe the distributions, then try to tease apart the causes through a series of removal and transplant experiments. In the more advanced section of the lab, students can add a predatory snail, creating a new distribution. This is a popular lab, especially for asking students to design and carry out experiments.
View sample screen
Level: Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Abiotic and Biotic Factors | Competition | Niches
Courses: Aquatic Ecology | Community Ecology | Ecology | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Marine Biology
Lab (Workbook): Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis
Using a model of succession from grasses to trees, students start out by observing a successional sequence without disturbance. Then they get to start setting fires. By systematically varying the size and frequency of fires, they recreate the standard textbook graph of the intermediate disturbance hypothesis showing that species diversity is highest at intermediate levels of disturbance. In an open-ended advanced section of the lab, students can alter the susceptibility of different species to burning and their succession rate to see how these factors influence diversity. This lab is often cited as a favorite by both instructors and students for its content, and also for the graphics that display red fire rushing through the forest. Although the ideas are typically introduced in upper-level ecology courses, the lab is straightforward and emphasizes data collection and graphing, making it applicable for courses for students without a scientific background.
View sample screen
Level: Intro, Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Disturbance | Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis | Scientific modeling | Succession
Courses: Community Ecology | Ecology | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Intro Bio: Non-majors

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