Biol 4120 Principles of Ecology

  Fall 2014


Principles of Ecology



Dafeng Hui, Ph.D.

Office: Harned Hall 320

Phone: 963- 5777


Web:  /faculty/dhui

This web site: /faculty/dhui/biol4120


Office hours: MWF 11:30 am - 2:00 pm; T Th 9:00-1:00 pm; or by appointment

Prerequisites: BIOL111 & 112 (Intro to Biology I and II), BIOL212 (Genetics), BIOL211 (Cell Biology)

Textbook:  The Economy of Nature, 6th Edition, Robert E. Ricklefs, 2008. Freeman & Company, W.H., ISBN: 0716786974/9780716786979

Lab textbook: Ecology on Campus, 1st ed., Kingsolver, Robert. 2006. Person/Benjamin Cummings, Inc. ISBN10: 0805382143, ISBN13: 9780805382143.


Class Times/Places:







10:20 - 11:15 AM

202 Harned Hall



1:00-4:00 PM

212 Harned Hall



1:00-4:00 PM

212 Harned Hall



Course Description:


Credit Hours:  4 credit hours

Catalog Description. Fundamental ecological principles with special reference to levels of organization, population and community properties, structural adaptation, functional adjustments, and other factors affecting the distribution of organisms.

Course Objectives: This course is designed to present an introduction to current theories and practices in ecology. Students are introduced 1) to the various questions (in a broad sense) asked by ecologists, 2) to the ideas (theories, models) from which hypotheses are suggested to answer the questions, and 3) to the ways in which ecologists go about gathering data to refute or support the proposed hypotheses.


This course is intended for the collegiate senior year. Thus, you have had extensive experience in taking and successfully completing college courses. With this assumption, material is presented in three ways, with considerable overlap. The primary source for you is the textbook. Your second source of information is lecture, which is supplemented with material on the website from Dr. Hui (this website).

There is another helpful website at Nature Education (

Not all of the information in the text can be presented in lecture but you are responsible for all of the information in the text and anything added in lecture. The lectures are intended to give an overview of the material and cover material from the book that bears repetition and close reading: complex ideas and mathematical formalizations of ecological ideas and hypotheses.

Assignments (including laboratory exercises and the optional paper) should be turned in through email (Please do NOT use Dr. Hui’s mytsu email account, use

Laboratory Attendance:  Attendance is required at both lecture and laboratory.  If you miss a laboratory and do not have a doctor's or other approved excuse (approved at the discretion of the laboratory instructor), the assignment for that laboratory will receive a grade of 0.  Since there are fewer than ten assignments, a 0 is a very significant penalty and should be avoided.  Attendance during laboratory periods where presentations are given is also mandatory and penalties will accompany unexcused absences.

There is a penalty for unexcused lecture absence. Your total grade will be reduced by 0.5 point for each absence you have.

Grading:   Four period-long examinations during laboratory classes on the days noted in the laboratory schedule and one comprehensive final.  Examinations will cover only the material covered since the previous examination and will be in objective/essay/problem format except the final, which will be comprehensive and will stress terminology.

In addition to examinations and the final, there will be a presentation on a subject chosen by the student and approved by the instructor. Presentations will be given at the end of the semester during laboratory meetings. It is advisable to use Microsoft PowerPoint or another presentation authoring program.

This is also an optional written assignment. It must be turned in by the end of the 12th week of the semester (see schedule below). This optional paper will be no more than two typed, single-spaced pages long but must be a well-organized essay that explains the science behind a current environmental or ecological issue. The paper should include an introduction (rationale of the study, hypotheses generated or questions addressed in the paper), materials and methods (the materials and methods used and procedures) , results (results of the study) and discussion and conclusion (major conclusions and the implication of the study). For this assignment, you need to cite at least two (2) referred publications. The grade on the paper will be substituted for an examination grade (exclusive of the final examination).   

Extra-point opportunities will be provided, including quiz, video review etc.  These points will be added to your four exams.

Laboratory assignments will be described during the laboratory periods and are due on the dates listed in the laboratory schedule. There is a penalty of three points for each day that a lab is past due. Up to 10% of a lab grade will be optionally (at the discretion of the lab instructor) may be determined on the day on which the laboratory assignment is due.

All dates for both homework and lecture examinations are subject to change but this will be announced in class. The overall grade for the course will be based on the standard TSU point-to-grade scale. The distribution of points is:














Policy on plagiarism and cheating: Cheating on exams or plagiarizing on a paper will result in a 0 grade for that exam or paper. The Department Chair and Dean will be informed of the occurrence. To plagiarize is 1. to appropriate and pass off as one's own (the writings, ideas, etc., of another). 2. To appropriate and use passages, ideas, etc. from another's text or product (Funk and Wagnells Standard Dictionary of the English Language, 1965). All papers will be kept by the instructor.

Accommodating those with disabilities:

The Biology Department, in conjunction with the Office of Disabled Student Services, makes reasonable accommodation for qualified students with medically documented disabilities. If you need an accommodation, please contact Dan Steely of TSU's Disabled Student Services Office at 963-7400 (phone) or 963-5051 (fax), preferably in the first week of class.






Schedule of Lectures and Reading:



Schedule of Lectures and Reading:





Lecture Notes





Ecology as a Science

The Physical Environment: water and nutrient

Lecture 1

PPT Slides

Lecture 2

PPT Slides

Chapters 1 and 2




The Physical Environment: water and nutrient

The Physical Environment: Light, energy and heat


Lecture 2

Lecture 3

PPT Slide 


Chapter 2

Chapter 3




Variation in the environment: Climate, water and soil

Lecture 4

PPT Slide


Chapter 4

Sample exam example




The Biome concept in Ecology

Evolution and Adaptation

Life History

Lecture 5

PPT Slide

Lecture 6

PPT Slide 

Chapters 5,6, 9




Population Characteristics

Population Growth

Lecture 7

PPT Slide

Lecture 8

PPT Slide

Chapter 10




Population Regulation

Lecture 9

PPT Slide

Chapter 11




Population Dynamics

Lecture 10

PPT Slide

Chapter 12




Fall Break






Population Dynamics

Lecture 10

Chapter 12




Specific Interaction

Lecture 1

PPT Slide 

Chapter 14 




Species Interaction:


Lecture 12

PPT Slide

Chapters 15&16




Species Interaction:

Mutualism and Parasitism

Lecture 13

PPT Slide

Chapter 17




Community Ecology:

Community Structure

Ecological Succession

Lecture 14

PPT Slide

Lecture 15

PPT Slide

Chapters 18 &19




Community Ecology: Biodiversity

Ecosystems Ecology: Energy in the Ecosystem

Lecture 16

PPT Slide

Lecture 17

PPT Slide

Chapter 20-22




Ecosystem Ecology: Pathways of Elements

Lecture 18

PPT Slide

Lecture 19

PPT Slide

Chapters 23& 24










Ecosystem Ecology: Nutrient Cycling

Ecological Applications

Lecture 20

PPT Slide

Chapter 21 notes

Chapter 24

Chapter 27




Exam 4  <Review Guide>

Final Exam (10:20AM,





*Course Evaluation: Nov. 18 – Dec. 5.


**Final Examination is comprehensive. Lecturer reserves the right to make changes on the dates and contents of lecture.


 Link to Coriolis  Effect;  Video to global wind circulation

Link to Populus software website 





Principles of Ecology Lab, Fall 2013

Tuesday / Thursday, 1pm – 4pm

Harned Hall Room 212


Instructor: Dafeng Hui



Lab manual: Ecology on Campus, 1st ed., Kingsolver, Robert. 2006. Person/Benjamin Cummings, Inc. ISBN10: 0805382143, ISBN13: 9780805382143.


Please order a copy of the lab manual now if you have not already done so. It is available in the TSU bookstore, but is also available (and might be cheaper) online from several different retailers (try searching by ISBN number).  You will need this lab manual for next week’s lab and will be using it throughout the semester. If you purchase a used book, be sure it does not have markings on the pages.


Lab preparation:


You are expected to come to each lab prepared for that day’s experiment, having read the introductory material for that chapter (page numbers are listed in the Lab Schedule for reference). Please bring a calculator to all labs, along with your lab manual and a pencil.


Lab attendance:


You are expected to attend all scheduled labs. If you miss a lab, you will need to provide me with a written excuse (medical or academic, etc) in order to make up that lab. At the end of the semester, I will assign a make-up lab assignment for students who need to perform a make-up lab. This make-up assignment only takes the place of one make-up lab: if you have more than one excused absence from lab during the semester, you will need to see me to arrange additional make-up lab time. Unexcused absences from lab will count as a zero.


During lab time, you need to be focused on your work. Please do not use cell phones or text messaging during lab. Students who are not focused on lab work (i.e. text messaging, etc.) may be asked to leave and given a zero for that lab grade.


For your safety, do not bring any food or drink into the lab.


Lab reports:


In each lab period, you will be entering data directly into your lab manual. When you finish the experimental portion of the lab, you will complete the calculations and questions in your lab manual on your own time, and turn in the completed lab the following week. You must write your name on the lab and staple it before turning it in. Any lab reports not submitted on the day they are due (as stated in the lab schedule below) will be considered late. Late labs may be submitted the following week (one week late) for a deduction of 15%. Late labs will not be accepted more than one week after the due date. Failure to turn in a lab report will result in a zero for that report.




Throughout the semester, you will take short quizzes (4 or 5 questions) on the material covered in the previous week’s lab. Quiz questions will be directly based on the reading material for the previous week’s lab and will focus on the most important concepts of the lab. Quizzes will be administered at the very beginning of lab period, so please be on time. If you miss a quiz with an excused absence (see above) then you can make up that quiz by submitting a 2 page, single spaced summary (in your own words!) of the appropriate chapter in your lab manual, including brief definitions of all key terms. This summary is due the week after the quiz you missed. Quizzes missed because of unexcused absence will be graded as zero.




Your final grade in this lab class counts as 25% of your final grade in the Principles of Ecology class. Student presentations at the end of the semester count for an additional 10% of your final class grade. Your lab grade will be determined by:


Lab attendance           30%

Lab reports                  50%

Quizzes                       20%


Lab Schedule


Lab Dates

Textbook chapters

Lab Topic

Kingsolver Lab Manual Chapter

Quiz / Assignment due



Intro, expectations, syllabus


-Report can be turned in either in Lab Manual Format or this format.



Describing a Population, p. 1

1B: Needle length in conifers, p. 12




Ecological Data analysis 

Link to online data wet sites

1. EcoTrends:

2. LTER:

Long-Term Ecological Research Network (LTER)


AmeriFlux network:

4.NEON:, a recent report in Science


Big-Data: Experimental methods (PPT)


Lab Report:  Instruction

Describing a Population lab report due,

quiz over Describing a Population (Chapter 1)



Exam One Review Guide

Sample exam example  

Ecological Data Analysis lab report due


Population size estimation lab due



Population size estimation, p. 51


3A: Mark-recapture simulation, p. 56

No quiz



Population growth, p. 65

4A: Calculating r from a published data set

Quiz over population size estimation (Chapter 3)

10/8,10   Exam Two Review Guide   Population growth lab due
10/15,17   Fall Break
Thursday class, Video review



Predators and Prey

 11C: Simulating functional response of a predator,          

p. 267

Quiz over population growth (Chapter 4)



Preparation for presentations

Powerpoint Slides and Grading

<PPT and grading>

How to prepare presentation <PPT>

Wetland productivity Quiz




Exam Three

Review Guide






Wetland: Aquatic Environments, p. 361

TSU wetlands visit & productivity experiment

Predators and Prey lab due, quiz over predators and prey (Chapter 11) 



Aquatic Environments, p. 361


Water Quality & Dissolved Oxygen

16A: Dissolved Oxygen and Temperature,    

p 369

Protocol for measurements: <DO>,<Ammonia> <Nitrate>

Lab report: Water quality




Student Presentations (1-3pm) & make-up lab (3-5pm)

Student projects

<Presentation topics from previous semester>

Water quality Report Due



Student Presentations


<Exam 4 Review Guide>


<Exam 4 with Keys>


Make-up labs due


Course Evaluation: 11/18-12/5/2013

There will be no final examination. Instructor reserves the right to make changes on the dates and contents of lab sessions.


Disclaimer: The instructor reserves the right to change the occurrence, timing and content of lectures, laboratory exercises, and examinations.




Disclaimer and acknowledgement: The instructor reserves the right to change the occurrence, timing and content of lectures, laboratory exercises, and examinations. The policy and current schedule are mostly followed / provided by Dr. Ganter at Tennessee State University. The slides posted here are for students use for the course of Principles of Ecology. Some of these slides are modified from the slides downloaded from websites. I would like to thank these professors, especially Dr. Ganter at TSU, Dr. Ralph Kirby at National Yang-Ming University, Dr. Robert St. Clair at University of Alberta, Dr. Grant Gentry at Tulane University, and Dr. Yan Dong at State University of New York at Oswego. Some lab slides are adopted from Dr. Solomon Dobrowski from UC Davis, Kelly from UK. Figures and tables used in the lecture slides are mostly provided by the Media Manager for the exclusive use by adopters of Elements of Ecology by Smith and Smith, 6th Edition.


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