General Plant Ecology/ Plant Ecology

BOT 4601 and BOT 5605 - Fall 2019

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

Canvas link

Professor Learning Assistants

Dr. Suzanne Koptur

Nicole Jones

OE 232, ph. 305-348-3103, email

Amanda Rivera

office hrs T & R 10:30 am - noon, W 10:00 - 11:00, and by appt.

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 in-class 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, all on Saturday mornings. Attendance is strongly encouraged but not required. Students may economize by arranging to carpool and share rides to meet at the destinations.  Students will receive 1 extra credit % point for each field trip attendance.

There will be a number of other extra credit opportunities as well, including attending seminars, and/or helping with work-days in natural areas. To get credit, you must write a 1-page review/response to the activity, and give a hard copy to the professor. Each extra credit activity is worth 1% pt added to your grade, up to a maximum of 10 pts.

Learning Outcomes

This is a global learning course, and students will have experience interacting with students in other parts of the world via cooperative online international learning (COIL). 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 of the New World. 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, MA.

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




Week I - August 27 - T

Introduction - pretest - course goals rated by students


29 August - R

Photosynthesis and light


Wk 2 - 3 Sep - T

FIU CLOSED - Hurricane Dorian preparations

5 Sep - R

Water relations


Wk 3 - 10 September - T

Soil and nutrients


 12 Sep - R

Presentations - Plant Challenges

Wk 4 - 17 Sep - T

Exam 1

19 Sep - R

Annotation Project Introduction

Processes of Evolution - Population Biology



Wk 5 - 24 Sep T

Outcomes of Evolution; Habitats, plant adaptations, life forms 

Jigsaw Assigned - Plant Reproduction


26 Sep - R

Library class with Patricia Pereira Pujol

28 Sep - Sat

Field trip to The Barnacle Historic State Park in Coconut Grove - National Public Lands Day - 9 am - 1 pm

Wk 6 - 1 Oct - T

Vegetative and Sexual Reproduction


3 Oct - R           

 Plant life histories; Seeds and seedlings                         


Wk 7 -  8 Oct - T

Jigsaw presentations - Plant Reproduction


10 Oct - R

Jigsaw presentations - Plant Reproduction     

Wk 8 - 15 Oct - T

Exam 2


17 Oct - R

Community Properties -   Jigsaw assignment


19 Oct - Sat

Field trip to Shark Valley, Everglades National Park - 9 am - 1 pm

Wk 9 - 22 Oct - T

 Competition and other interactions, Herbivory and plant pathogens                                                        

10 & 11

24 Oct - R

2019 EPAC in Gville - prof away - no official class meeting, but time to work on presentations, classroom may be used   



Wk 10 - 29 Oct - T

  Disturbance and succession                                                             


31 Oct - R -

Diversity and Rarity


Wk 11 - 5 Nov -  T

 Jigsaw presentations - Interactions - groups introduce their international collaboration and deliver their  presentations - also available online for review   



7 Nov - R

Jigsaw presentations as above  


9 November - Saturday

Field Trip to Kampong of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, in Coconut Grove - arrive 9:30 am for 10 am tour, until 1 pm


Sunday & Monday all day

Exam 3 online - over chapters 9-14 and presentations

Wk 12 - 12 Nov - T

Ecosystem processes

Annotation project discussion



14 Nov - R

Communities in Landscapes;

Landscapes, metapopulations, fragmentation

15 & 16

Wk 13 - 19 Nov - T

Networks, islands, community interactions - guest lecture by Brittany Harris

Wednesday all day 20 Nov

Exam 4 - online - over chapters 14 - 16 


21 Nov - R

Climate and vegetation;

17 & 18

Wk 14 - 26 Nov - T

Regional and Global Diversity;  Paleoecology                                                                 

19 & 20

28 Nov - R - Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving holiday, no class meeting


Wk 15 - 3 Dec - T 

Global Change: Humans and Plants


5 Dec - R

Exam 5

Wk 16 - 10 Dec - T

Final exam (cumulative) 12 - 2 pm