Marine Population Ecology & Dynamics

Overview: This field and laboratory course explores fundamental theories in marine ecology at the population, community, and ecosystem levels of biological organization. Students will read relevant literature, mainly from temperate Pacific nearshore regions, to learn about the key ecological theories that have been developed in, and applied to, marine environments. Topics explored through these case studies will include biodiversity, food webs, introduced species, at-risk species, ecological subsidies, historical ecology, indirect effects, fisheries, and population modeling.

Research Skills: During field trips and in-lab experiments, students will learn many of the tools of marine ecologists (quadrat and transect sampling, biodiversity measurement, intertidal elevation measurement, local species identification, and natural history). Regular paper discussions will help students reinforce critical and efficient reading of the peer-reviewed scientific literature while a mock paper peer-review will enable students to hone their scientific assessment and communication skills. An assignment on population modeling will teach students how to construct and use a simple population model to make management decisions. Students will also gain some hands-on training in statistical analysis and graphing using R, a powerful, open-source statistical programming language now used by most practicing biologists.

Practical Skills: Many of the skills practiced in a research setting are transferrable to other areas. Students will hone their skills in critical thinking, creative problem solving, logical reasoning, effective collaboration, and clear visual and verbal communication.

Boat Use: You will be given the opportunity to drive boats if you choose to do so. Boat driving is recommended but not required for Marine Population Ecology and Dynamics. Students who wish to drive boats at BMSC must hold a PCOC and valid first aid certificate and will participate in an introductory boat check-out on the first day of orientation.

Physical Requirements: Although this course does not include any physical exertion or challenge beyond that expected in any of BMSC’s field courses including many trips to intertidal field sites involving getting on and off boats onto slippery rocks in sometimes wavy conditions.

Required Text: There is no required text.


Students write:

“The Matrix Modelling activity stood out as an excellent activity in my mind! I learned a lot from it and I felt like a real biologist.”

“Pachena salmon run field trip was very informative and exciting. The matrix modelling assignment definitely helped in my understanding of how to create and use models. I also found that using R for statistics in labs was useful for helping me learn the software in conjunction with our seminars and papers course.”

“All the field trips were great and totally relevant to the course.”