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NR 385 Summer 2012 Ecology for Sustainability

Ecological Science in Service of Planetary Sustainability

Catalog Description Graduate ecology course for students in the social sciences and humanities. Course covers basic ecological concepts that inform policy, planning, analysis, and decisionmaking. On-line course with two face-to-face meetings (TBA, students not on campus will need to use Skype). 3 credits (Pre-requisites: graduate standing or permission)

First meeting: mid-term, to be arranged Instructor: Deane Wang Office: 268 Jeffords Hall, phone: (802) 656-2694, email: Office hours by appointment Course Description: This on-line course will cover basic ecological concepts that can inform environmental decisionmaking. The course is divided into four modules with each sub-module comprising an online learning activity (reading, discussion, synthesis). Students will be largely self-paced within each module, but will need to complete each sub-module by a specified date in order to promote some interaction among students. The final module will involve ecological applications and requires project that demonstrates your ability to apply your ecological knowledge. There will be an evaluation after each module is completed. Course Media: Interaction with the course will employ content delivery through “Metacourses” at http://; interaction with students and the instructor through a class blog. Course Goals: Ecology for Sustainability is designed to provide participants with an efficient approach to developing a understanding of a key set of basic ecological concepts to complement their existing knowledge. This subset of ecological knowledge more directly addresses applied ecological issues than a more conventional ecology class. Students should be be able to explain key ecological concepts, to interpret ecological literature, to locate ecological resources for continued learning in a changing world, and to apply this knowledge to real projects. Course Objectives: More specifically students should be able to: • recognize and describe the major subdisciplines of ecology • explain basic ecological concepts such as nutrient cycling to a non-technical audience • skim an article in the primary ecological literature, extract its main points, and conclude whether the information is relevant to their project/issue

• find and evaluate additional ecological understanding through research in the original literature, technical reports, the Web, and textbooks • apply ecological knowledge to specific community needs Course Topics: The key ecological concepts to be covered are organized into four modules. Each of the modules consists of sub-modules forming an individual assignment (content, discussion, synthesis). Module 1: Setting the stage • Course introduction • The ecology of ecology • Evolution of structure and function; pattern and process interactions Module 2: Survival concepts in a small world • Exponential and limits to growth • The balance of nature • Ecology and survival dynamics • Disturbance and resilience Module 3: Survival concepts in a connected world • Ecological complexity • Nature’s services • Ecological systems • Ecological feedbacks, dynamics, and stability Module 4: Ecological applications, e.g. • Food systems • Biomimicry and ecological design

Project: Each student will complete a small project to demonstrate their ability to understand and apply ecological knowledge to real questions and/or projects. The students must choose a project near the mid-point of the class and complete it by the end of the class. They can either a) identify a knowledge need in their community and propose a project around that need, or b) work with the instructor to identify a suitable project. Assignments: All required work will be detailed in the course webpage resource area, and will include links to the knowledge resources (readings, video, podcasts, presentation outlines, etc.). Written responses will include both comments and answer to questions in the class blog.

Grading: Grading will include evaluation of class blog comments (30%), short answers in module exams (45%), and performance of the project (25%). ACCESS: In keeping with University policy, any student with a disability who needs academic/classroom accommodations should contact ACCESS. ACCESS coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. They are located at A170 Living/Learning Center, and can be reached by phone at 802-656-7753, or by emailing Visit their website at Code of Academic Integrity: See: For the full policy at UVM All academic work (e.g., homework assignments, written and oral reports, use of library materials, creative projects, performances, in-class and take-home exams, extra-credit projects, research, theses and dissertations) must satisfy the following four standards of academic integrity:   1.    All ideas, arguments, and phrases, submitted without attribution to other sources, must be the creative product of the student. Thus, all text passages taken from the works of other authors must be properly cited.  The same applies to paraphrased text, opinions, data, examples, illustrations, and all other creative work. Violations of this standard constitute plagiarism. 2.    All experimental data, observations, interviews, statistical surveys, and other information collected and reported as part of academic work must be authentic. Any alteration, e.g., the removal of statistical outliers must be clearly documented. Data must not be falsified in any way. Violations of this standard constitute fabrication. 3.    Students may only collaborate within the limits prescribed by their instructors.  Students may not complete any portion of an assignment, report, project, experiment or exam for another student.  Students may not claim as their own work any portion of an assignment, report, project, experiment or exam that was completed by another student, even with that other student’s knowledge and consent. Students may not provide information about an exam (or portions of an exam) to another student without the authorization of the instructor.  Students may not seek or accept information provided about an exam (or portions of an exam) from another student without the authorization of the instructor. Violations of this standard constitute collusion. 4.    Students must adhere to the guidelines provided by their instructors for completing coursework.  For example, students must only use materials approved by their instructor when completing an assignment or exam.  Students may not present the same (or substantially the same) work for more than one course without obtaining approval from the instructor of each course. Students must adhere to all library course reserves regulations and refrain from mutilating library material, which are designed to allow students access to course materials. Violations of this standard constitute cheating.

When in doubt about plagiarism, paraphrasing, quoting, or collaboration, consult the course instructor. A related set of policies are listed under: Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities Also see Our Common Ground statement of values at UVM Religious Holidays: Students have the right to practice the religion of their choice. Each semester students should submit in writing to their instructors by the end of the second full week of classes their documented religious holiday schedule for the semester. Faculty must permit students who miss work for the purpose of religious observance to make up this work.

The Service-Learning Project Overview The service-learning project is an important component of the course, providing the experience that allows you to meet the course goal to “apply ecological knowledge to real projects.” The central concept here is that “learning in the abstract” is complemented strongly by “learning-bydoing,” and experiencing both makes understanding more lasting and richer. For example you might learn that water flows down gradient, but you may not fully understand the concept until you create a situation where you can see water flowing uphill (but down gradient, as when it moves up slope in response to capillary or adhesive forces). In ecology in particular, concepts are often generalizations that oversimplify reality, and it is this interaction with the real world that helps put the concept in context and provide it with a richer, more complex understanding. Thus, while carrying capacity and its mathematical representation are simple ideas with relatively simple representations, the implications of carrying capacity in the real world is complex. (dN/dt = rN X [(CC-N)/CC] where dN is the change in the population N; dt is time; r is the intrinsic rate of growth; CC is carrying capacity; N is the current population level. Populations will overshoot for long periods of time, or never reach close to the theoretical carrying capacity due to other competitors or behavioral limitations that restrict reproduction when densities create too many intraspecific interactions. These complexities may come into focus if you were asked to help a community understand carrying capacity in the context of resident deer populations. Should they seek to control the population through allowing hunting on town-owned land or not? Does carrying capacity vary from year to year or is it a constant that signals a need for management action if it is exceeded? How would the carrying capacity be established? Is there a difference between carrying capacity and a sustainable number of deer? These kind of questions come up when dealing with an actual situation in a real community. They may not come up if you simply learn the definition of the concept and memorize the formula. Course Assignment The service-learning project assignment requires several steps: • choose what kind of project you would like to pursue • find a community partner to complete the project with • propose the details of the service-learning project • revise the proposal as needed • complete the project and deliverables • evaluate the outcomes

There are many types of projects that you can pursue. The underlying criteria for a servicelearning project is that someone/organization needs it and should benefit from your deliverable and that you should learn something more about ecology as a functions of completing the project. For example, you could: 1) Help a town natural resource committee store more carbon through assistance with policies for the town forest. 2) Help a town plan a new development through providing information on wildlife corridors 3) Help a municipality reduce carbon release through reducing energy demand (efficiency audits). 4) Provide a teacher with one or more lessons/activity plans that teach an important ecological principle or concept, particularly something new that might not be in their current curriculum. 5) Deliver one or more lessons/classes on an applied ecological topic. 6) Develop a series of EoE entries targeted at specific audiences.