Fall 2021 - BISC 420 D100

Community Ecology (3)

Class Number: 3655

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 8:30 AM – 9:20 AM
    AQ 3154, Burnaby

    Th 8:30 AM – 10:20 AM
    EDB 7618, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 17, 2021
    3:30 PM – 6:30 PM
    AQ 3154, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    BISC 204 or GEOG 215; with a grade of C- or better.



This course will examine the importance of species interactions that occur in ecological communities and the role of biotic and abiotic, natural and anthropogenic processes that underpin large-scale patterns of biodiversity. The course will provide a strong conceptual framework in community ecology with a focus on hypothesis development, alternative methodological approaches, the interpretation of data, and the synthesis of information across studies. Students who have completed BISC 304 or BISC 404 may not take BISC 420 for further credit.


How are ecological communities constructed, how does biodiversity influence how communities function, and how do human activities alter community structure and ecosystem function? In this course, we will explore patterns of biodiversity, examine interactions between species that provide the building blocks for complex ecological networks, and investigate how species loss and community change impact ecosystem function.

The course covers:
the Big Picture: communities and patterns of biological diversity.

The Fine Details: species interactions and community theory, food chains and foodwebs, complexity and ecosystem function/stability, succession and community assembly rules.

The Changing Environment: changes to landscapes, the loss of species and reassembly/restoration of communities.


  • Midterm 1: 12%
  • Midterm 2: 12%
  • Final: 40%
  • Presentation (3 x 7%): 21%
  • Paper Summaries (3 x 3%): 9%
  • Tutorial Participation: 6%


Mode of Teaching:

Lectures and tutorials will be conducted in person.


  • Midterm 1 Th Oct 14 830-1020 – AQ 3154
  • Midterm 2 Th Nov 18 830-1020 – EDB 7618
  • Final – in person - TBD


Effective immediately, the Department of Biological Sciences is adopting a mandatory mask policy for all areas under Biology’s control and in spaces elsewhere where Biology faculty teach, applying to everyone regardless of vaccination status.




Required - Community Ecology 2nd Edition (2019). Gary G. Mittelbach and Brian J. McGill. Oxford

Available electronically through the library. The book can be read online and chapters can be downloaded as pdfs.

ISBN: 9780198835851

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.