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BISC 830:  Community Ecology and Macroecology                                


Instructors:  Elizabeth Elle (eelle[at]sfu.ca) and Nick Dulvy (nick_dulvy[at]sfu.ca)

Course Content

An introduction to the kinds of interactions that occur in ecological communities (both pairwise, like competition and predation, and the more complicated interaction networks of real communities) and the large-scale patterns that occur over geographic scales (community assembly, species diversity patterns, and macroecology).  We are aiming at graduate students early in their careers, with the goal of providing a firm grounding in the concepts of community and macroecology. This course is seen as a complement to BISC 838 (Population Ecology), though with a fairly different format.

Course format:  lectures by EE and ND, and discussion of related papers the week after lecture. The readings will consist of a historical/foundation paper assigned by instructors and recent papers (within 5 years) chosen by the 2-3 discussion leaders (this means you!) for that week.  Papers chosen by the discussant along with 3-5 insightful questions must be circulated to the class by email, by end of day on Tuesdays.  For each class with a reading, students will prepare a short (500 word) summary in the style of The Economist (an educated but general audience), highlighting the major concepts in one of the recent papers (not the classic).  Finally, students will write a short (10 pages double spaced max) review paper similar to a TREE Review or Opinion, on a topic of their choice (topic approved by instructors).  

Information on Assignments is HERE.  
We will meet Fridays from 9:30 - 12:30 in AQ4115.
Course email list:  bisc-830[at]sfu.ca

Schedule and Classic Readings (Contemporary Readings to be chosen by students)

Readings are listed on the week we will discuss them.

September 12 or 13 (TBA):   Course intro, format, expectations, writing (EE + ND) ppt
                                             Interaction Types and Interaction Strength (EE) ppt

Discussion of format of Economist articles.  Read at least one (preferably both) of the articles posted on the assignments page, and skim, at least, the associated paper from a scientific journal.  


September 20:  
Discussion of format of two TREE papers, one Review and one Opinion.          

Trebilco, R., Baum, J. K., Salomon, A. K. and Dulvy, N.K. 2013 Ecosystem ecology: size-based constraints on the pyramids of life.  Trends In Ecology & Evolution. 28: 423–431 pdf

 Stuart, Y. B.  and Losos, J. B.  2013.  Ecological character displacement:  glass half full or half empty?  Trends In Ecology & Evolution 28: 402-408. pdf

Lecture:  Competition:  mechanisms, models, evidence (EE)  ppt


September 27:   write-up due

Classic paper on Competition:     Connell, J. H. 1961. The influence of interspecific competition and other factors on the distribution of the barnacle Chthamalus stellatus. Ecology 42: 710-723.   PDF 

Lecture:  Predation: predator-prey dynamics, food webs  (EE)  ppt

Also:  how to do peer review (EE + ND)


October 4:   write-up due


Classic on Predation:  Brooks, J. L. and S. I. Dodson. 1965. Predation, body size, and composition of plankton. Science 150: 28-35  PDF

OPTIONAL:   Hairston, N. G., F. E. Smith, and L. B. Slobodkin.  1960.  Community structure, population control, and competition.  The American Naturalist 94:  421-425. (The famous "why the world is green" paper).     PDF      

Lecture:  Predation: trophic cascades  (ND)  ppt


October 11:   write up due.  PLUS come prepared to discuss your TREE topic with ND and EE

Classic on trophic cascades:  Estes, J. A., and J. F. Palmisano. 1974. Sea otters - their role in structuring nearshore communities. Science 185:1058-1060.  PDF

You will do peer review of your write-ups while ND and EE discuss topics with individuals.  If you wish you can revise your writeup and submit after thanksgiving, Tuesday 9 AM

Lecture:  Mutualisms and Indirect Effects (EE) ppt


October 18:  write-up due  

Classic on mutualism:  Davidson, D. W., R. S. Inouye, J. H. Brown.  1984.  Granivory in a desert ecosystem:  experimental evidence for indirect facilitation of ants by rodents.  Ecology 65: 1780-1786.  PDF

Lecture:  Community Assembly and Disassembly (EE)  ppt


October 25:   No Discussion.  BRING OUTLINE OF TREE PAPER FOR DISCUSSION.  EE away.

Lecture:  Macroecology (ND)

Lecture:  Diversity:  Measures and Gradients (ND)
Optional background reading on this lecture topic:  from Magurran, AE.  2004.  Measuring Biological Diversity.  Blackwell.  PDF


1 November:   write-up due (only one modern paper).  ND away.  No lecture;  discussions of papers and your TREE outline.


Classic on macroecology:  Brown, J. H., and B. A. Maurer. 1989. Macroecology: The Division of Food and Space Among Species on Continents. Science 243:1145-1150. PDF

OPTIONAL:  Lawton, J. H.  1999.  Are there general laws in ecology?  Oikos 84: 177-192. PDF

Classic on assembly:  Simberloff, D. S. and E. O. Wilson. 1969. Experimental zoogeography of islands: the colonization of empty islands. Ecology 50: 278-296.  PDF:      

OPTIONAL  intro to "Ecological Assembly Rules:  Perspectives, advances, retreats: by Keddy and Weiher.  PDF



NO readings or discussion of papers

Lecture:  Diversity:  Neutrality and Beyond (ND)


November 15:  no write-up or readings, continue working on reviews, time for peer feedback if needed


Lecture:  Life histories and metabolic theory of ecology (ND)


November 22:  write-up due  
Classic on metabolic theory:  Damuth, J. 1981. Population density and body size in mammals. Nature 290:699-700. PDF

Also:  Summary/Feedback on course


Final Deadlines:

29 November:
  TREE Papers Due BY NOON;  assigned for peer review by 5 PM

5 December:  Peer review of papers returned to instructors by 5 PM; AE recommendations within ~ 24 hours

13 December:  Revised TREE paper due to both instructors by 5 PM

NOTE:  these paper deadlines have to be firm or we will not be able to assign grades!!  Plan your writing time accordingly