The overarching fundamental goal of university education is to facilitate the student's rise from dependent to independent learning.
416: Terrestrial Ecosystems
Advanced undergraduate-level course in the Dept. of Biology (Next scheduled for Fall term 2019)
The ecosystem approach to ecology treats organisms and the physical aspects of their environment as components of a single integrated system. Terrestrial ecosystem functioning is governed by interactions amongst animals, plants and soil organisms, as well as exchanges of energy and resources with the atmosphere, soil and aquatic environments and rock substrates. This advanced undergraduate level ecology course is focused on plant-soil interactions as being a primary factor in determining patterns of terrestrial ecosystem structure and functioning around the world. The course will attempt to synthesize recent advances arising from the ecosystem approach with established ecological theory to describe and explain ecosystem-level patterns and processes in the terrestrial environment. Since human activities are now having increasingly pervasive and dominant effects on natural ecosystems, the course will include an examination of global change issues in the context of landscape-level dynamics in space and time, and whole Earth biogeochemistry.
Pre-requisites: BIOL 300 (or GPHY 317). One-way exclusion: May not be taken with or after BIOL510.
Course web page: BIOL 416
303: Community and Ecosystem Ecology
(Discontinued in 2018, and replaced by BIOL 300 taught by Dr. Paul Martin)
Community and ecosystem ecology addresses many of the mechanisms underlying biological patterns of abundance, diversity, and spatial and temporal distributions of biota and habitats. This course introduces students to the major concepts, themes and current issues within ecology at the community and ecosystem levels. Course content will be interesting and informative – our primary intention is to stimulate your own thinking on ecological ideas. Concepts will be illustrated with exciting, cutting edge examples from published research, case studies and student lab and field practicals.
Course web page: BIOL 303
510: Biogeochemistry and Global Change
(Next scheduled for Winter term 2020)
This ecology course will examine a range of different global change issues including land-use change, climate change, atmospheric nitrogen deposition and environmental pollution. The aim of the course is to develop students understanding of the biogeochemical aspects of global change issues. Introductory lectures will provide an overview of this rapidly developing science, and will highlight the controls and interactions between the biogeochemical cycles of carbon and major nutrients in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Subsequently, students will lead informal discussions on a global change issue of particular interest to them. This course is mainly for final year undergraduates and is specifically aimed at enhancing their capacity for critical thinking and independent learning. By the end of the course, students should be able to apply fundamental biogeochemical perspectives toward understanding and sustainably managing the Earths ecosystems.
Recommended background courses: BIOL 302/3.0 and BIOL 303/3.0 (or BIOL 300).
Course web page: BIOL 510
2016 FINAL CLASS VIDEO (course synthesis): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxviV5Xizkw
200: Diversity of Life
(Winter terms 2020 onwards)
A survey of bacteria, algae, fungi and plants, their internal organization and their relationships to their environment. Organismal biology is discussed in a phylogenetic context and the evolution of organizational complexity and the relations between structure and function are stressed.
Course web page:
Sample BIOL201 lectures available for streaming:
1. Algae: Diatoms, and Brown Seaweeds
2. Introduction to the Fungi (Skip the first 4 minutes if you don't like Herbie Hancock)
3. Final Synthesis, and Review
953: Graduate course generically entitled "Advanced Studies in Plant Sciences" that varies substantially in subject matter and focus each year
(Graduate-level course offered in Winter 2006, and 2012)
The winter 2012 course was entitled "Seminal Readings in Ecology" and focussed on student-led seminars of a wide range of research and review papers that are considered really core to the advances ecology has made over the past century.
The winter 2006 course was entitled Soils: The Final Frontier and addressed various belowground topics (details on links in website below).
Course web page: BIOL 953
537: Undergraduate Honours Thesis
(Overall 537 course coordinator 2016/17)
This course involves supervision of an independent research project that is written up as a thesis. Every year I supervise 1-3 students taking this course.
NOTE In the spring preceding fourth year, students must select projects in consultation with potential supervisors. Registration is subject to availability of a supervisor. Work on the project during summer is advantageous if field studies are required. See also the statement on BIOL 501/3.0-BIOL 536/3.0 in the BIOL Department Information, preliminary information section.
Prerequisite: Admission to the final year of a BSCH program in Biology, and permission of the project supervisor and course coordinator.
Course web page: BIOL 537