Ecology for QBIC (PCB 3043)          Canvas Link

Spring 2019 - Tuesday and Thursday 9:30 - 10:45 am in SIPA 220

Course Instructor

Learning Assistants:

Kelcey Homilus

Anais Iglesias

Sofia Ocampo

Journal Club Instructor

Lab Instructor


Dr. Suzanne Koptur

PLTL Leaders:


Maria Cleopatra Pimienta

 Tanja Zerulla

office: OE 232, ph. 305-348-3103;


Link to PackBack


office hours: T, R 11 am - 12:30 pm;

W 10:30 - 11:30 am; and by appt.

Link to PLTL

Link to Journal Club

Link to Lab

Learning goals:

            Students completing this course should gain foundational knowledge, including:  the worth and role of all organisms and non-living parts of ecosystems on the earth; how organisms adapt to environmental stresses; how organisms are modified in response to their environments; how life histories can be used to evaluate and compare strategies for reproduction and interactions with other species; how organisms and habitats compare in different biomes around the world, and how things have come to be the way they are; energy flow and nutrient cycles through food webs and communities; how communities can be compared in terms of species richness and diversity; the role humans have had in transforming natural ecosystems; the prospects for conservation of remaining biodiversity; and more.  Students will integrate and apply what they have learned to hypothetical and real-world situations, preparing them for challenges they may face in future courses, research, employment, and life.  Students will gain skills in problem solving, information retrieval and synthesis, writing, presentation, and working with others.  Hopefully, you will also become aware of the consequences of their/our/human actions on natural biota, and what can be done to ameliorate negative effects and promote ecosystem health. 

            In our class we will use small-group learning, and students will actively engage in contests, discussions, games, problem solving, and various assessment techniques to facilitate their understanding of the material.  Course content will be presented in our textbook and recorded lectures and videos available on our course website.  Some activities, and your out-of-class preparation, will be assisted with this course website, where lectures by the professor and other resources are held.  There will also be readiness quizzes and other assignments to be completed online to augment your learning. 

PackBack:  For the first time this semester, we will use PackBack, an online learning community tool, to facilitate weekly discussions on the topics of the week. Participation is a requirement for this course, and the Packback Questions platform will be used for online discussion about class topics. Packback Questions is an online curiosity community where you can be fearlessly curious and ask BIG questions about how what we’re studying relates to life and the real world. My goals for using Packback are for us to hear more about, and discuss, some topics that are not  covered in depth in my lectures, yet are important, interesting, and relevant.  I also hope to increase participation by students who often prefer to sit back in person, as there are many hidden diamonds we might otherwise not see.

Your participation on Packback will count towards 10 percent of your final grade. In order to receive your points per week, you must post 1 Question and 2 Answers per week, relevant to our class subject matter that week (i.e., focused on the chapters and topics covered that week).   Before you start posting, be sure to read the Community Guidelines found in the tutorial on Packback. If your post doesn’t follow the Packback Community Guidelines, there is a chance it will be removed and you won’t receive points for that post. There will be a Sunday 11:59 PM deadline for submissions in your community each week. Note : it takes 24 hours for the Packback team to moderate a post and send a coaching email. If by any reason your post is moderated because it does NOT meet the Community Guidelines, you will need to edit and re-publish your post to receive credit for the week. This is why it is important that you complete your Packback questions and responses a few days before the deadline, in case your post needs repairs.

How to Register on Packback: You will receive a welcome email from prompting you to finish registration.   Packback has already created an account for you with your school email, all you need to do is reset your password. This email may be directed to spam or filtered out, so make sure you do a thorough scan of your inbox if you can't find the email.

Writing in Ecology: In addition to packback discussions, the writing component of the course has two additional parts:  pop quizzes (essays) in lecture, and two group projects called jigsaws.  The five-minute essays will pop up in class throughout the semester, and the best 80% of them will be counted for a percentage of your final grade.  The jigsaws will be done in groups on assigned topics, in stages; we will have some training in library research to help you find references relevant to your topics, and you should start projects early enough to find relevant references, read the scientific articles, as well as other relevant information found from other sources, and to put together your ideas.   Groups will present their findings in class, and also turn in their words via to verify originality.  Students will review the work of other groups’ presentations and also report their group members contributions to their final products.  Needless to say, plagiarism is unethical and will not be tolerated in this or any course activity.     

Clickers: We will also use clickers in class to review content and promote group interactions. You may use any model of clicker, the oldest is fine. The phone app will not work well in our classroom, so please get a real clicker and bring it to class every day. Please register your clicker in our course using the link in the menu.

Homework Problems:  We will explore the quantitative aspects of ecology using exercises and models.  Our textbook has graphing data and analysis problems, which will be assigned to complete outside of class and we will go over them in class. 

Peer Led Teaching and Learning (PLTL): The PLTL session each week will focus on strengthening comprehension and recall of important things covered week by week, and is part of the lecture class grade. 

The lab (optional, but recommended) and journal club (a class that QBIC students must take) are graded separately, but will complement the lecture class, with exercises in the field and lab to provide real data to analyze as well as solve how best to answer certain questions and test hypotheses.  We plan that all parts of the course will work together to give you a dynamic understanding of this science and its interfaces with mathematics, statistics, and other sciences. 

Grading: This course will involve continuous assessment, not all of the graded kind: some will be educative in nature, allowing the instructors to know if students have learned the material, and helping the students to learn more in the process of being assessed. One way this will be accomplished is with exams taken in class, first individually, then in groups.  Another way is with student assessments of their own learning gains, and some other in-class surveys. 

Individual/Group assessments - in class exams (four highest scores - 30%) and online quizzes (10%)


Final Exam


PackBack performance

Best 80% of "pop" essay grades, clicker questions, and in-class activities


Jigsaws – two presentations with written components


PLTL - attendance, participation, and performance



Syllabus for QBIC Ecology (PCB 3043) - Spring 2019

Textbook:  Ricklefs, R.E. and R. Relyea. 2014.  Ecology: The Economy of Nature, 7th edition, W.H Freeman and Company, New York.   

 Schedule of events


Date/ day

Lecture Topic

Readings - R&R chapter

 Week 1

8 Jan T

Pre-test and Introduction



10 Jan R

The Physical Environment - Water and Nutrients


Week 2

15 Jan T

The Physical Environment - Light, Energy, Heat



17 Jan R

Variation in Climate and Soils

 4 & 5

Week 3

22 Jan T


[Jigsaw Assignment: Reproductive Strategies and Social Behavior]



24 Jan R

Exam 1  


Week 4

29 Jan T

Library day with Patricia Pereira-Pujol

GL 280


31 Jan R

Evolution and Adaptation 

Week 5

5 Feb T

Life Histories and Fitness



7 Feb R

Reproductive Strategies and Social Behavior

9, 10

Week 6

12 Feb T

Jigsaw Presentations



14 Feb R

Jigsaw Presentations

Week 7

19 Feb T

Exam 2


21 Feb R

 Population Distribution, Growth, Regulation  

[Jigsaw assigned: Species Interactions]

11, 12     

Week 8

26 Feb T

Population Dynamics   

12, 13


28 Feb R

Predation and Herbivory; Parasitism and Infectious Diseases

14, 15

Week 9

5 Mar T

Exam 3


7 Mar R



Week 10

12 Mar T




14 Mar R



Week 11

19 Mar T




21 Mar R

class time to work with your group on Jigsaw presentations


Week 12

26 Mar T

Jigsaw Presentations


28 Mar R

Jigsaw Presentations  

Week 13

2 Apr T

Exam 4


4 Apr R

Community Structure and Community Succession 

 18, 19

Week 14

9 Apr T

Energy and Elements in Ecosystems

 20, 21


11 Apr R

Landscape Ecology, Biogeography, and Biodiversity


Week 15

16 Apr T

Conservation of Biodiversity



18 Apr R

Exam 5


Week 16

23 Apr T

Final Exam (Cumulative)