PCB 3043 Ecology


Course: PCB 3043 – Ecology Syllabus and Schedule (Fall 2017)

Location: MMC/Green Library 100                                                                               Day/Time: Tuesdays (T)/Thursdays (R) 8:00-9:15AM

Instructor: Dr. John Kominoski
Email: jkominos@fiu.edu;  Office: Owa Ehan 207;  https://kominoskilab.wordpress.com
Office Hours: Tuesdays/Thursdays 9:30-11:30AM

Course Syllabus: https://kominoskilab.wordpress.com/pcb-3043-ecology

Course website: https://fiu.blackboard.com/webapps/blackboard/execute/modulepage/view?course_ id=_79301_1&cmp_tab_id=_357082_1&editMode=true&mode=cpview

COURSE PREREQUISITES: General Biology I, II (BSC 1010, 1011)

ACCESSIBILITY & ACCOMMODATION: Students with disabilities: I will accommodate all students with disabilities. Please arrive early the first day class to explain how your disability can be accommodated in the best manner to facilitate your learning.

This course is web-assisted: All course materials and grades will be provided via the Blackboard website. Computers are available at multiple locations throughout the university for convenient viewing and downloading from the website, or you may do so remotely from your own computer at your convenience. I highly recommend saving the materials to your own computer as soon as they are made available, so that you don’t have to worry about server outages. If you have a question, check the syllabus and course website first. If you are unable to find an answer to your question, please visit me during office hours.


The objective of this course is for you to learn the basics of the science of ecology by studying the fundamentals of how organisms interact with their abiotic and biotic environment. The readings and lectures will lead you through a progression of ecological concepts from the level of the individual organism, to populations, communities and, finally, ecosystems so that you can:

  • Be familiar with fundamental ecological theories in order to understand and explain patterns observed in nature
  • Learn ecological terminology and be able to use it in the proper context in order to communicate intelligently about natural systems
  • Be aware of important ecologists and the historical development of the discipline in order to understand contemporary ecological issues in a modern context
  • Be able to critically evaluate primary ecological literature and interpret case studies in the context of ecological theory
  • Be able to apply ecological theory to formulate solutions to modern ecological problems
  • Be able to locate, read and summarize primary scientific papers and clearly convey ideas and criticisms in writing


TEXTBOOK (required): Smith, T. M. and R. L. Smith. 2012. Elements of Ecology. 8th Edition. ISBN-13: 978-0-321-73607-9.

The reading and video sequence is provided in the syllabus (below). The materials follow a logical progression that introduces you to basic ecological theory and important terminology in a historical context. The text also provides case studies that will help you understand real-world examples in the context of general ecological theory. Read the assigned textbook chapters, online readings, and watch the videos before class – it will improve your understanding of lectures, give you the background knowledge for in-class exercises, and help you be a more active participant in class discussions. It is your responsibility to come to class prepared.

iClicker (Required): 

You may purchase one of the following models at the FIU Bookstore:

  • original i>clicker
  • i>clicker +
  • i>clicker 2

The mobile application, REEF Polling WILL NOT be allowed.

Registration – You must register your clicker within the course in Blackboard as soon as possible. Do NOT register your clicker on iclicker.com: if you do, I will not be able to match your responses with your name and you will not receive credit.

HOWARD HUGHES MEDICAL INSTITUTE (HHMI) VIDEOS (Required): https://www.hhmi.org/order

Climate Change: How Do We Know We’re Not Wrong?: http://media.hhmi.org/hl/12Lect4.html

The Origin of Species: http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/origin-species

Learning from Past Extinctions: http://media.hhmi.org/hl/14Lect1.html

Humans, Biodiversity, and Habitat Loss: http://media.hhmi.org/hl/14Lect2.html

Ocean Species Respond to Climate Change: http://media.hhmi.org/hl/14Lect5.html

Africa’s Savanna Ecosystems: http://media.hhmi.org/hl/15Lect1.html                 

Patterns in Nature: http://media.hhmi.org/hl/15Lect2.html

Modeling Populations & Species Interactions: http://media.hhmi.org/hl/15Lect4.html

How Species Coexist: http://media.hhmi.org/hl/15Lect3.html

Communities as Ecological Networks: http://media.hhmi.org/hl/15Lect5.html

Conserving & Restoring Ecosystems: http://media.hhmi.org/hl/15Lect6.html                 

Trophic Cascades in Rivers: http://media.hhmi.org/hl/16Lect1.html                                 

Climate Stress & Coastal Food Webs: http://media.hhmi.org/hl/16Lect4.html   

NATURE KNOWLEDGE PROJECT (NKP) ONLINE READINGS (required): https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge 

Introduction to Population Demographics: https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/introduction-to-population-demographics-83032908

Density & Dispersion:                   https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/density-and-dispersion-19688035

Predation, Herbivory & Parasitism: https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/predation-herbivory-and-parasitism-13261134

Direct & Indirect Interactions:  https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/direct-and-indirect-interactions-15650000

Effects of Biogeography on Community Diversity:  https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/effects-of-biogeography-on-community-diversity-13260138

Terrestrial Primary Production: Fuel for Life:  https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/terrestrial-primary-production-fuel-for-life-17567411

The Conservation of Mass:               https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/the-conservation-of-mass-17395478

IV. ASSESSMENT:                                                                                                                

Assessment in this course will be based on your performance on exams and a writing assignment, with points assigned in the following manner:

Exams (3)                                                                              300 points (60% of total)

Final Exam                                                                             100 points (20% of total)

Participation (attendance, in-class activities)                            100 points (20% of total)

Total Possible                                                                         500 points


EXTRA CREDIT (20 points, maximum) by participating in ONE of the following:

  1. Peer Led Team Learning:  PLTL is offered for this course.  Extra credit will be offered for completing an entire semester of PLTL for Ecology.  See PLTL website for registration details.  http://loadpltl.fiu.edu/pltl/student/resources/pltl/
  2. Medium Blog: Unique & Changing Ecology of South Florida:  As an alternative to PLTL, students can earn extra credit by maintaining a weekly blog (at least one entry each week) highlighting unique and changing ecology of South Florida.  Register at Medium.com and start your entries by the week of 28 August 2017.  Once  you’ve started a blog, add the link to your blog here in the “Medium.com Weekly Ecology Blogs” Discussion Forum in our PCB 3043 Blackboard website for others to read and enjoy.


DAILY IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES: Each day in class we will work through an exercise from the textbook or online sources (see class schedule and list of pre-class assignments for daily in-class activities). Students must come to class having completed the pre-class assignment for each activity.  iClickers will be used to assess student’s preparedness for the in-class activities.  In-class activities will be graded.

EXAMS: Exams will have a combination of multiple choice, true-or-false, and short essay questions. Multiple choice and true-or-false questions will mainly evaluate your assimilation of factual information, whereas the short essay questions will evaluate your ability to integrate facts and theory to solve novel problems. The best way to prepare for exams is to come to class, participate in daily in-class activities, study your notes, and keep up with reading and video assignments. Testable material for each exam includes: textbook and online readings, videos, and lecture material.

Exams 1 – 3 will be unit exams while the final exam (exam 4) will be partly comprehensive (50% from unit 4 and 50% comprehensive). There are no make-up exams.  Lowest exam grade will be dropped.  A missed exam will count as a lowest exam grade and will be dropped, only once.  There are no make-up exams.

PARTICIPATION:  Attendance is required. You cannot learn and do well without attending class. Missed daily active learning exercises will be counted off against the 20% of your total grade. Students are allowed two missed daily active learning exercises.

V. HONOR CODE:  FIU students are bound by an academic honor code that includes serious sanctions for academic dishonesty (including but not limited to plagiarism and cheating). I will follow the university code (www.fiu.edu/~jms, follow link to student code of conduct) when a student is suspected of academic dishonesty.

VI. SEXUAL HARASSMENT POLICY:  FIU’s sexual harassment policy is available at: http://www.fiu.edu/~eop/EOPSexH.pdf

VII. THINGS TO READ & DO PRIOR TO EACH CLASS:  Any unforeseen changes in the assignment and exam schedule will be announced in class and updated on the course website.  Copies of lectures are available online via the course website in Blackboard at the end of each week and prior to the next exam. 


Lecture Topic


Daily In-Class Activity (prep before class)

T- 22 Aug



Textbook: Quantifying Ecology 1.2

R- 24 Aug

Biomes & Climate


T- 29 Aug

Terrestrial Ecosystems


Textbook: Quantifying Ecology 4.1

R- 31 Aug

Aquatic Ecosystems


T- 05 Sept

Terrestrial Adaptations

6 &7

Textbook: Quantifying Ecology 6.1

R- 07 Sept

Aquatic Adaptations

6 &7

T- 12 Sept


Exam administered online via Blackboard from 8:00 to 9:15AM

R- 14 Sept

Ecological Genetics


T- 19 Sept

Life Histories & Adaptations


Textbook: Quantifying Ecology 10.1

R- 21 Sept

Population Structure


T- 26 Sept

Population Growth


R- 28 Sept

Population Dynamics (Metapopulations)

11 & 12


T- 03 Oct


Exam administered online via Blackboard from 8:00 to 9:15AM

R- 05 Oct

Species Interactions – Competition

13 & 14

T- 10 Oct



R- 12 Oct



Textbook: Quantifying Ecology 15.1

T- 17 Oct



R- 19 Oct



Textbook: Quantifying Ecology 16.1

T- 24 Oct

Community Structure

17 & 18

Textbook: Quantifying Ecology 17.1

R- 26 Oct

Community Dynamics


T- 31 Nov


Exam administered online via Blackboard from 8:00 to 9:15AM

R- 02 Nov

Biodiversity Patterns


T- 07 Nov

Landscape Ecology


Textbook:           Field Studies pp. 386-387

R- 09 Nov

Primary Productivity


T- 14 Nov



Textbook: Quantifying Ecology 22.1

R- 16 Nov

Ecosystem Productivity

21 & 22

T- 21 Nov

Nutrient Cycles

22 & 23

Textbook:  Ecological Issues pp. 457

R- 23 Nov

Thanksgiving Day – No Class

T- 28 Nov

Human Ecology & Global Change

28 & 30

R- 30 Nov

Conservation & Restoration


T- 05 Dec

Finals Week

R-07 Dec

FINAL EXAM 7:30-9:30AM

Exam administered online via Blackboard from 7:30 to 9:30AM