Course Coordinator: 
David Armitage
Fundamentals of Ecology

The field of ecology is guided by one central question: What are the processes that determine the distribution and abundance of organisms? This course will introduce you to the fundamental theory and problems in ecology through reading, discussion, and lecture. Special attention will be paid to the principles governing population dynamics over time and space, theories of community assembly and species coexistence, and processes of material cycling through ecosystems. Beyond the specific subject matter, training in ecology can prepare one’s mind to appreciate the causal feedbacks, scale dependencies, and contingencies of the complex social world we inhabit.

• Differentiate and critique major theories of population and community ecology. • Develop and analyze simple population dynamic models. • Critically evaluate primary literature using evidence-based methods and modern statistics. • Cogently summarize a scientific controversy through writing.
Course Content: 
  1. Autecology
  2. Single species population dynamics
  3. Consumer-resource interactions
  4. Competition, mutualism, and disease
  5. Ecological networks and trophic structure
  6. Community assembly & succession
  7. Spatial processes
  8. Nonequilibrium ecology
  9. Biodiversity and macroecology
  10. Material cycling through ecosystems
  11. Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning
Course Type: 
A final letter grade will be given as an equal combination of the numeric grade from problem sets, your written assignment, and your contribution to in-class discussion.
Text Book: 
Community Ecology (2nd edition). Mittelbach, GG & McGill, BJ. 2019. Oxford University Press
Reference Book: 
Additional required reading in the form of journal articles and book chapters will be made available by the instructor.
Prior Knowledge: 

Undergraduate-level coursework in general biology and calculus are recommended but not required.