BIOLOGY 373L ECOLOGY FIELD LABORATORY
BIOLOGY 373L ECOLOGY FIELD LABORATORY
(detailed update will be issued to each class)
a writing component course
Time: 9-12 and 2-5 each Wednesday
Place: Brackenridge Field Laboratory (BFL), Room 119 and outdoors, 2907 Lake Austin Blvd. (John Crutchfield, Resident Manager 471-2114)
Web address: BFL http://www.utexas.edu/research/bfl/
Staff: Professor: Lawrence E. Gilbert, Patterson Laboratories 440, 512-471-4705
T.A.: Catalina Estrada, Office: Patterson Laboratories 445, 471-8240
Recommended resource book: General Ecology Laboratory Manual G.W. Cox
Informal class website: http://www.sbs.utexas.edu/bio373l/index.htm
Course Description: Biology 373L was first offered in fall 2000. It is still evolving through feedback from participants. One important goal of the course is to provide students with hands-on experience with important sub-disciplines of ecology through group and individual projects and observations conducted primarily on the 90 acres of BFL. Because familiarity with organisms and their habitats is fundamental to making astute observations, asking non-trivial questions and developing ecological hypotheses, we spend considerable time doing collecting and identifications of common species and observations of habits and habitats of the biota. Field problems will acquaint students with approaches to studying distribution and abundance of sedentary and mobile organisms, behavioral ecology, community ecology and diversity, and ecosystem processes. In the early part of the course we will incorporate some of the most basic and useful tools for mapping, measuring and monitoring ecological phenomena and cover basic methods of analysis. Later students will be expected to apply some of these approaches to their independent projects. Data collected by previous courses will be available so that students can add to past knowledge about the field station.
The morning period will include lectures and discussions (typically in the field) on the week’s topic(s). First draft write-ups of assignments and field problems will be due on or before the beginning following week's class meeting. Missing deadlines will cost 10% of the grade per week. In the case of projects that extend over several weeks, progress reports will be submitted weekly until data collection is completed. Formats for write-ups will be provided and we ask that students use those as templates to ensure that all required parts of research reports are addressed properly. The types of assignments or responsibilities are as follows:
1. Write-ups of class field problems or field experiments.
2. Write-ups of statistical exercises in lab.
3. Write-ups of independent projects.
4. Write-ups of field trips.
5. Keeping an accurate and neat field notebook.
6. Return of keys checked-out course equipment, zip discs, CDs, memory cards, lab books.
7. Participation in keeping lab tidy, recording entry to area and lab during off hours.
Evaluation: There will be no final exam. Rather each student will prepare a power point presentation based on his or her independent project. On the last class day students will present a Power Point talk about their project to the class. Grades are based on the subjective and objective assessments of the staff. In addition to reading all your work, Gilbert and Plowes will both be working with you all day each Wednesday at BFL, or on field trips. We will be available for consulting in the field as needed to help with independent projects. Your participation and sincere effort will be very obvious to us. The quality of work you hand in will be largely a function of your personal commitment to learning to do field ecology. Our policy is to allow re-writes of poorly written assignments based on the critiques of the staff. We assign comments but not grades to written work. At any time we can let you know what final grade we would assign up to that point. Approximately 50% of you grade will be base on performance in organized class projects and 50% based on your independent work.
Some insights we gained from the previous classes were these. 1) Everyone was interested and certainly capable of "A" work. However, the people who earned A's in our final judgment apparently had been spending 3-6 hours at BFL weekly beyond class hours and some time in the library doing background literature searches to improve research write-ups. In other words, they clearly had developed the tendency to educate themselves using the course as a stimulus, seed crystal or resource. In some cases our prejudices based on early impressions were overturned as people got higher or lower grades based on performance not just potential. 2) Most people do not autonomously seek background information to improve and expand their reports. The “A” students tended to go that extra mile (i.e., the library, not just the internet!). 3) Since other courses you are taking have exams and other types of deadline pressure, some people tend to let this course slip until there is no hope of catching up. That is the basis for our policy of tightening up deadlines.
Weather: Because we are studying outdoors in a real ecosystem, the best laid plans for particular field problems can be overturned by the elements. But even when we are forced to switch plans for the week's project, we still will be operating in the weather we find that week. Therefore, be personally prepared for any contingency. Given the weather patterns so far in 2003, we suggest you get some rubber boots to leave at BFL and bring a fold-up umbrella or rain poncho anytime the weather forecasts suggest rain. Don't under-estimate how cold you can get working outdoors all day. Always come prepared for current outdoor conditions. Please refer to the following web site the day before class so that you can come prepared: www.nws.noaa.gov
Information on dropping the course from the College of Natural Sciences (we will follow these guidelines):" The University establishes drop deadlines and the College of Natural Sciences adheres to those published deadlines (see your Course Schedule).
The class schedule below is tentative because
it depends on weather and organisms.
We will notify you ASAP if there are any changes.
Note the dates of field
trips. We might consider another later in the course if the group is
caught up on work.
The work of the course necessarily involves projects running in parallel and overlapping to some extent so that we can set things up one week and harvest data another. This gets confusing unless you constantly refer to the schedule below. If we fail to bug you about a deadline, it’s still there in writing. Note that after a listing of a week’s activity in the second column, we tell you what you need to prepare for the next week. Once things are rolling you will be doing statistical analysis and a first draft of the most recent project and finishing revisions on a paper from two weeks before. Also there is typically a third assignment such as a paragraph description of some aspect of your acre etc.
the schedule and write the assignments on your calendar as a reminder.
Assignments due week N are found on the right hand column of week
N-1. Below is a
tentative list. We will
modify assignments according to how well the group is progressing.
We will alter specific
projects according to weather and opportunity.
We will alter specific projects according to weather and opportunity.
TYPICAL SCHEDULE: SEE ACTUAL TIMETABLE ISSUED FOR EACH CLASS