General Plant Ecology/ Plant Ecology

BOT 4601 and BOT 5605 - Fall 2018

lecture: T,R at 12:30 pm - 1:45 pm in Student Academic Success Center 352

Blackboard Learn

Professor Learning Assistants

Dr. Suzanne Koptur

Kelcey Homilus

OE 232, ph. 305-348-3103

Diana Jean

office hrs T & R 10:30 am - noon, W 10:30 - 11:30, and by appt.

Imeņa Valdes

Lab TA: Andrea Salas

 Course Description

This course will examine the ecology of plants at different levels: individual, population, and community. Our focus will be on the interactions of plants with each other, with other organisms, and with their environment. A general background in ecology is assumed (Prerequisite: PCB 3043, a general ecology class, or permission of instructor). Basic principles and foundations of the field will be considered as well as current research. Readings will come from a textbook (see syllabus that follows), articles from the literature, and various other internet resources to expand the topics. Our textbook highlights recent advances in research as well as historic studies that have laid the foundation of this important  field of biological science. Students are expected to watch the on-line lectures and other material, and do the readings prior to each class, familiarizing themselves with the content, and coming to class to work on activities that will put the knowledge to use.  By maximizing student participation in the learning process, class members will gain competencies in all aspects of plant ecology. 

There will be five exams during the semester and a final exam. There will be many activities, including group projects with presentations and literature annotation (each student will work on three projects). Lecture grades will be determined as follows: each exam 10% (the best 5 of 6 --> 50% total), projects 30%, and class participation 20% (in-class work (individual and group) 10%; take-home/online 10%).

There will be three field trips, not mandatory, but students participating will receive extra credit. There will be a number of other extra credit opportunities as well, including attending lectures and helping with work-days in natural areas, writing responses and turning them in.

Learning Outcomes

Students completing the lecture course will attain familiarity with the ecology of plants around the world, with special attention to plants of south Florida and tropical environments. Students will be able to understand the many environmental forces that determine the occurrence of species, various forms of the plant body, and the performance and reproductive success of plants in different situations. 

After this course, students should be able to: appreciate and explain why all life depends on plants; discuss and illustrate how plants adapt to environmental stresses; explain how basic plant parts have been modified for a variety of functions and purposes; compare plant strategies for reproduction, competition, and interactions with other species (plant and animal) using the details of plant life cycles and life histories; recognize different habitats based on the plants present and/or their adaptations; measure species richness, evenness, and diversity, and compare habitats and communities; assess the "quality" of habitats and valuate them; make informed recommendations for plantings in urban/suburban environments ("the right plant in the right place");  trace and appreciate all the connections and human activities that depend on plants. 

In addition, students may appreciate that humans have caused threats to many plants and their habitats, the perils faced by diverse plants in different habitats, and be cognizant of actions taken to conserve species, their genetic diversity, and environments.  Students will know how to utilize the scientific literature, especially peer-reviewed journals, important and relevant books, websites, botanical and ecological organizations, to answer questions and meet future challenges. 

Finally, students will be able to use their knowledge in planting their own yards and neighborhoods, making gardens, working with others in community gardens and habitat restoration projects.  They will be able to think like scientists, exhibiting skepticism about claims made by others, and display a "show me" attitude in requiring data and analyses to back up claims made by others/ agencies/ companies/governments. 


Students pursuing lab activities will gain experience in field and lab research in plant ecology, be able to collect and analyze data, and interpret findings in written and oral presentations. They will succeed in working in teams, monitoring the growth of experimental plants, and measuring the outcome of manipulative experiments in the field. All these skills will prepare them for future work in natural areas management, research, or teaching in science.

FIU Code of Ethics and our course:

You are expected to be on time to class, and to stay the full period. If you are late, please come in, entering quietly and taking a seat, or joining in the activity taking place. You are expected to maintain high standards of academic honesty, avoiding plagiarism, and turning in or presenting work that is original and citing sources when used. Any student found in violation of these standards will earn an automatic F and be reported to the Deans Office, no exceptions made. In accordance with FIU's policy on academic honesty, as set forth in Section 2.44 of the Academic Affairs Policies and Procedures Manual (, it is expected that students in Plant Ecology will not submit the academic work of another person or persons as their own (both individual students and groups). Additional discussion of academic honesty and integrity may be found in the Manual of Student Conduct.   We will use in this course.

Lecture Schedule

required textbook: Gurevitch, J., S.M. Scheiner, and G.A. Fox. 2006. The Ecology of Plants (2nd ed.). Sinauer Associates, Inc. Sunderland, Massachusetts.

recommended: Hammer, R. 2003. Everglades wildflowers. Falcon guides.




Week I - August 21 - T

Introduction - pretest - course goals rated by students


23 August - R

Photosynthesis and light


Wk 2 - 28 Aug - T

Water relations


30 Aug - R

Soil and nutrients


Wk 3 - 4 September - T

Presentations - Plant Challenges

 6 September

Annotation Project introduction

Wk 4 - 11 September - T

Processes of Evolution - Population Biology    

13 Sep - R Exam 1  

Wk 5 - 18 Sep T

Jigsaw assigned (Plant Repro)


20 Sep - R

Outcomes of Evolution; Habitats, plant adaptations, life forms  6

Wk 6 - 25 Sep - T

Library class with Patricia Pereira Pujol


27 Sep - R           

 Vegetative and Sexual Reproduction; Plant life histories; Seeds and seedlings                         

7 & 8

Wk 7 -  2 Oct - T

Jigsaw presentations - Plant Reproduction


4 Oct - R

Jigsaw presentations - Plant Reproduction     


6 October - Saturday

Field trip to Kampong in Coconut Grove 9 am - 1 pm

Wk 8 - 9 Oct - T

Exam 2


11 Oct - R

Community Properties -   Jigsaw assignment


Wk 9 - 16 Oct - T

 Competition and other interactions, Herbivory and plant pathogens                                                        

10 & 11

18 Oct - R

 Jigsaw presentations  - Plant-plant Interactions                                                                                             


20 October - Saturday Field trip to Barnacle State Park  9 am - 1 pm  

Wk 10 - 23 Oct - T

 Jigsaw presentations  - Interactions                                                                          


25 Oct - R -

Exam 3 online 12-2 pm


Wk 11 - 30 Oct -  T

Disturbance and succession                                                                       


1 Nov - R

 Diversity and Rarity; ecosystem processes                                                                           

 13 & 14

Wk 12 - 6 Nov - T

Continue Diversity and Rarity; Annotation project discussion

8 Nov - R

Communities in Landscapes; Landscapes, metapopulations, fragmentation

 15 & 16

10 November - Saturday

Field trip to Shark Valley   9 am - 1 pm

Wk 13 - 13 Nov - T

Exam 4  

15 Nov - R

Climate and vegetation; Biomes 17 & 18

Wk 14 - 20 Nov - T

 Regional and Global Diversity;  Paleoecology                                                                 

19 & 20

22 Nov - R - Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving holiday, no class meeting


Wk 15 - 27 Nov - T 

Global Change: Humans and Plants


29 Nov - R

Exam 5  

Wk 16 - 4 Dec - T

Final exam 12 - 2 pm