Ecology                ABIO 401             Fall 2016

Test Grades

      Class Number: 1391

      Time: 11:30 AM - 12:25 PM, MWF              Location: HU 137

      Instructor: Dr. Thomas Caraco

      Office: Biology 253             Office Hours: 2 to 4 PM Wednesday

      Email: [email protected]

Course Objectives:

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 [1] the growth and decline of single populations in constant and fluctuating environments, [2] between-species competition for resources, [3] predator-prey interactions, and [4] 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 "hypothetico-deductive" science.

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.

Course Prerequisites:

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.

Problem Sets:

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           Answers

Problem Set B:   Geometric growth, temporal variation          Answers

Problem Set C:   Logistic growth, continuous and discrete time          Answers

Problem Set D:   Age structure, population projection          Answers

Problem Set E:   Competition, predation and epidemics                  Answers

Problem Set F:   Metapopulations, island biogeography, species diversity           Answers

Whoever despises the high wisdom of mathematics nourishes himself on delusion.
   da Vinci, 1489.

Grade Determination:

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

Topic Reading: Text Pages
Density-Independent Dynamics Gotelli: 2-23
Alstad: 1-15
Density-Dependence: Self Regulation Gotelli: 26-48, 225-236
Alstad: 16-40
Dynamic Overcompensation and Chaos here
Age-Structured Population Dynamics Gotelli: 50-79
Alstad: 41-58, 66-68
Metapopulation Dynamics Gotelli: 82-96
Inter-Specific Competition Gotelli: 100-124
Alstad: 71-90
Predator-Prey Dynamics Gotelli: 126-153
Alstad: 91-103
Infection Dynamics Alstad: 115-133
Keystone Species and Ecological Diversity    
Island Biogeography Gotelli: 156-175
Ecological Succession Gotelli: 180-202
Community Diversity Gotelli: 204-224
Geography of Species Number

Recent Test Scores

B320 ID    Quiz 1 (20 pts)     Quiz 2 (20 pts)     Quiz 3 (20 pts)     Quiz 4 (20 pts)   Quiz 5 (20 pts)
  A4H          12               09               14               18           16
  A1E          04               08               11               20           18
  A6B          18               10               15               18           15
  A10          18               15               18               14           18
  F4D          16               07               16               11           20
  F15          15               17               12               19           16
  J57          16               12               19               16           09
  F18          18               14               20               17           19
  C97          17               09               18               19           14
  C17          13               05               11               10           12
  C10          05               12               11               16           13
  B66          12               14               20               19           13
  B57          13               09               20               14           13
  B1B          17               05               20               15           07
  RF4          09               02               10               07           11
  B45          14               09               ??               XC           ??

Links:   Instructor    Ecological Society of America


All links to lectures have been disabled.

Introduction    Chapt 1, Lect 1    Chapt 1, Lect 2   

Geometric Mean Growth     Environmental and Demographic Stochasticity     Chapter 1, Final Points   

Introduction to Biotic Regulation          On Logistic Growth

Continuous-Time Logistic Growth     Temporal Variation In K

Summary: Continuous-Time Logistic     Discrete-Time Self-Regulation     Chaos   

Chaos from the University of Nottingham video
On Demography    Net Reproductive Rate     Age-Structured Population Projection   

Metapopulation Dynamics        Metapopulation Persistence

Interspecific Interactions: Introduction     Niches, Invasion and Two-Species Competition

Lotka-Volterra Competition           Competition and Character Divergence     

Notes on Predator-Prey 1     Predator-Prey Coexistence

From Lotka-Volterra to Rosenzweig-MacArthur    

Predator's Functional Response       Indirect Interactions

SI and SIR Epidemics          R0

General Epidemic and Vaccination    Pathogen Life Cycles

Keystone Species   

     Island Biogeography      Island Biogeography 2       Equilibrium Species Number

Consumer Impact on Resource Diversity    Trophic Cascade Hypothesis

Ecological Succession         Examples    

Species Diversity: Intro     Geography and Diversity

Quiz 5 Date        Ecosystems: Human Impact

Simplifying Chaotic Dynamics    
Back to Top

Page last updated August 26, 2016 by Dr. Thomas Caraco.