Methods in Field Ecology
Instructor: Dr. Kailen Mooney, University of California, Irvine
This course is designed as an introduction to the general methods of conducting ecological research in an outdoor setting. Students will gain essential skills for future coursework or research in ecology. The course will work with a variety of study systems and species. Emphasis will be placed on the scientific method generally, and more specifically how it is applied to the process of ecological research. In so doing students will gain skills in: developing ecological questions; formulating testable hypotheses; designing experiments; collecting and analyzing data; and presenting results in both oral and written formats. These skills will be learned through a hands-on process in which students conduct a series of collaborative investigations.
This course will be based around a series of 5 field studies that test core hypotheses in the science of ecology. These studies will span multiple scales of inquiry. At one extreme, we will investigate how individual species interact with, and adapt to their environment. At the other extreme, we will investigate how processes (e.g. disturbance, climate change) determine aspects of community composition (e.g. species diversity) and rates of ecosystem processes (e.g. leaf litter decomposition). Through these studies, students will be exposed to a broad spectrum of species types (e.g. microbes, plants, insects, vertebrates) and ecosystem types (e.g. meadows, forests, streams) and the different methods used in their study. The classroom work and assignments associated with each study will train students in hypothesis formulation, experimental design and statistical analysis, reading and discussion of scientific literature, and the oral and written presentation of results. The course will culminate with an overnight field trip to explore additional species and ecosystems in the southern Colorado Rockies.
Tentative dates for class meetings are the afternoon of June 12th (introduction) and all day June 13-14, 17-18, 25-26, and the overnight trip on July 2-3.
Karban, R., and Huntzinger, M. (2006) How to Do Ecology: A Concise Handbook. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press (Available in the Gothic General Store); Field notebook, hiking boots, water bottle, rain gear, sunscreen, bug spray, and sleeping bag and pad
Field guides, binoculars, hand lens
RMBL Community Members may sit in on any given course session, with advance permission from the instructor and space permitting.