- Ecology advances a conceptual framework for understanding how numbers of species vary among habitats,
and how numbers of individuals vary among species within a habitat. A series of mathematical models
defines this framework, and Biology 401 introduces students to the focal concepts and quantitative principles
underlying ecological predicitons.
Students in Biology 401 should gain an understanding of the quantitative analysis of
 the growth and decline of single populations in constant and fluctuating environments,
 between-species competition for resources,  predator-prey interactions,
and  the advance of infectious disease. Students should appreciate how natural and
human-dominated processes impact quantitative measures of ecological diversity. Finally,
students should understand how predictions deduced from theory guide empirical work in
Students will demonstrate attainment of course objectives by answering a series of in-class quizzes.
Quizzes will stress understanding of quantitative problems.
... despite the field's reputation as a soft science, nearly all of biology
is now ripe for quantitative analysis ...
Phillips, R., Quake, S., Physics Today, May 2006.
Students should realize that this course does not
address envirommental problems/conservation technologies.
For a contemporary discussion of of environmental challenges, see
Vermont Law School's Environmental Watch List.
- BIO 212Y (Genetics)
MAT 111 or MAT 112
A calculus course is essential for ecology. Students should have some
familiarity with derivatives, difference equations, and differential equations.
Quizzes will emphasize quantitative problems.
Students may find one or more links listed on
The Calculus Page useful.
Class attendance is not mandatory. However, in-class quizzes need not be
announced prior to the date administered. Read and follow any University at Albany
guidelines for necessary absences.
A university requires faculty and students committed to academic intergrity.
Students should read about their responsibilities in the current Undergraduate Bulletin.
Importantly, plagiarism cannot be tolerated. See
University Academic Regulations.
- 1. Gotelli, N.J. 2008. A Primer of Ecology, 4th Edition. (Required)
Dr. Gotelli's book provides a clear, concise introduction to the quantitaive bases of scientific ecology.
- 2. Alstad, D. 2001. Basic Populus Models of Ecology. (Recommended)
Dr. Alstad's book discusses population dynamics, examines a series of
epidemic models, and guides the student's numerical
investigation of ecological models. The book serves as a "laboratory manual" for
Populus, a useful, free software tool
designed to help students explore models of the most important ecological processes.
- Both texts present problems for solution.
To help students meet course objectives, links to a series of problem sets
are provided below. Most of these problems require analytical or
numerical solution. Solving problems often proves useful preparation for quizzes.
Think about and solve the problems associated with particular topics as
we address the associated text material.
Problem Set A: Population estimation, exponential growth
Problem Set B: Geometric growth, temporal variation
Problem Set C: Logistic growth, continuous and discrete time
Problem Set D: Age structure, population projection
Problem Set E: Competition, predation and epidemics
Problem Set F: Metapopulations, island biogeography, species diversity
Whoever despises the high wisdom of mathematics nourishes himself on delusion.
da Vinci, 1489.
- Five (5) in-class quizzes, each graded from 0 to 20 points,
contribute equally to the
course grade. Each quiz will address material from the preceding meetings
(2 - 3 weeks) and associated reading assignments.
Students accumulating 90 or more of the 100 available "points" will earn a final grade of A;
most students find this goal challenging.
Any student attaining less than 1/2 of the available
points will (likely) fail the course.
The course does not include a final exam.
- Quiz 1
- Quiz 2
- Quiz 3
- BIO 320 Syllabus