Welcome to Intro to Environmental Biology

BIO 1020 / Spring / CCV

Printable syllabus for BIO 1020: Intro to Environmental Biology

This course is intended to introduce students to the fundamentals of environmental biology. It is an introduction to the structure and biota of several aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and students investigate why species occupy specific habitats. The course includes an introduction to Vermont’s aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, spatial and temporal changes in ecosystems and species, critical observation and interpretation of landscapes. The course will stress communication skills, as well as critical thinking and teamwork.

  1. Explain the process of scientific inquiry.
  2. Define an ecosystem, biome and population.
  3. Trace the flow of energy through ecosystems and discuss the role of energy in influencing organisms and ecosystems present in an area.
  4. Describe the cycling of water, nutrients and other materials in ecosystems.
  5. Explain the role of geology, climate and land use history in determining the course of succession in terrestrial and aquatic systems.
  6. Define and give examples of a niche.
  7. Discuss the connection between evolution, adaptations and an organism’s role in the ecosystem.
  8. Explain the role of genetic variation in evolution and the importance of biodiversity to ecosystem stability.
  9. Describe specific adaptations that increase an organism’s fitness within its niche.
  10. Explain the nature and value of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
  11. Discuss the impact of human activity on the processes and patterns that maintain environmental systems and explore options for reducing those impacts.
  1. Use common field techniques to assess ecological dynamics operating in an ecosystem.
  2. Use the scientific method to design and conduct a research project.
  3. Evaluate data from laboratory experiments.
  4. Present the results of a scientific research project in the form of a poster, written report, or oral presentation. The report will include relevant sections on (1) purpose of the investigation, (2) materials and procedures, (3) data and observations, (4) graphs and charts, (5) calculations, and (6) conclusion and analysis.


Use the section below to find due dates for assignments, readings for each weak (readings are listed on the day they are due), and lots of supplemental resources. Click the icon to the right for a printable version of the syllabus: Printable syllabus for BIO 1020: Intro to Environmental Biology

Monday: January 23


Read for today: Ch 1 (Ecology)
Suggested media:

Lecture: Intro to Environmental Biology (​Powerpoint)

Wednesday: January 25


We’ll take advantage of the fresh snow and spend our time outside tracking. We’ll cover the basics of tracking inside first.

Read for today: Ch 2, Colinvaux pp 5-9 and 10-17, Being a Beast (.PDF)
​​Suggested media:

Lectures: Scientific Method (​Powerpoint)

Monday: January 30


Read for today: Ch 2, 3 (Ecology)
We’ll look at the influence that abiotic forces have on organisms, looking initially at climate and weather
Suggested media: Hedgehogs (Podcast)

Lecture: Powerpoint (same as week 1), Abiotic conditions (ppt 2)

Wednesday: February 1


We’ll also review conducting literature searches and how to cite sources. We’ll refine our questions for experiments
Read for today: Tracker chapter 1 (on moodle), Searfoss on Skulls (.PDF)

Due Monday, Feb 8: Experiment: Writing a report
Lecture: Powerpoint Same as Wednesday of last week

Monday: February 6

PHYSICAL ENV: Coping with Temperature/Water Variation

We’ll finish up with our discussion of biomes from last week and then talk about how plants and animals have evolved to cope with changing atmospheric conditions through deep time
Read for today: Ch 4
Watch for today: The History of Earth
Suggested media: Secrets of  Wildlife Watcher by Arnosky (PDF)
Due Wednesday: Writing a Report

Wednesday: February 8


Read for today: Searfoss’s Skulls (PDF)
Suggested media: Tom Brown’s The Tracker (PDF)
Watch for today:

Due today: Writing a Report (Scientific article from class on Raccoons; article for assignment on Skunks)
Lecture: Hypothesis formation (ppt)

Monday: February 13

PHYSICAL ENV: Coping with Energy Variation

Last week we looked at how animals cope with fluctuations in temperature. We’ll continue our discussion of this variability by looking at solutions animals have evolved for dealing with energy variation. We’ll also have time at the end of class for finishing the mammal lab and asking questions about the Hypothesis assignment.
Read for today: Ch 5

Wednesday: February 15


For today’s lab we’ll look at different means of detecting animals. We’ll also build bird feeders (bring in a 20oz bottle). 
Read for today
: None
Due today: Hypothesis Formation

Monday: February 20

EVOLUTION: Evolution + Ecology

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks looking at the immense variation in species. This week we’ll look at the variation between species in the context of Evolution. We’ll frame the discussion with some of the historical perspectives on evolution before diving into the specifics of what evolution is and how we study it. You’ll also sign up for species presentations.
Read for today: Ch 6

Wednesday: February 22


This week for lab we’ll be in the field looking at how to collect data using pileated woodpeckers as our focal species. We’ll investigate their impact on a woodland near CCV. Next week we’ll be analyzing our data in the classroom. 
Read for today
: Pileated woodpeckers

  • Scientific article on forest structure + woodpeckers: Link (PDF)
  • Background info on pileated woddpeckers: First Article
  • Background info on pileated woodpeckers: Second Article

Monday: February 27

Theory of Natural Selection

Evolutionary thought with particular attention to Darwin’s 5 Theories of Evolution. And Mammal March Madness begins!!
Read for today: Ch 7
Suggested media:

  • Natural History Heroes: Wallace Podcast (link)
  • Bio Sketch of Alfred Russel Wallace (link)
  • In Our Time: Charles Darwin (BBC)
  • The Man Who Wasn’t Darwin (Scientific American)

Species Presentations: Choose a mammal from the spreadsheet to present on. Presentation should be no more than 5 minutes. See write-up for what to include.

Wednesday: March 1


We’ll meet in class and cover our agenda for the trip. Expect to be in the field (so come prepared for rain, snow, or shine). We’ll then head out into the woods to collect data on pileated woodpecker damage in Centennial Woods.

Read for today: Pileated woodpeckers

  • Scientific article on forest structure + woodpeckers: Link (PDF)
  • Background info on pileated woddpeckers: First Article
  • Background info on pileated woodpeckers: Second Article

Suggested media:

Monday: March 6

Behavioral Ecology

We’ll look at Lorenz, Tinenberg, Konrad, and Pavlov and their influence on how we think about animal behavior. Presentations from March Mammal Madness. Don’t forget to signup here and send me your slides before class.
Read for today: Ch 8
Suggested media:

Wednesday: March 8

Ed Weed Fish Culture Station

The Ed Weed Fish Culture Station is responsible for stocking water ways throughout the state with native species of fish. We’ll get a tour of the facility and get to see conservation in action. See map below (marker #7) for directions.
Suggested media:

Monday: March 13

Behavioral Ecology II

We’ll continue our discussion of behavior by looking more closely at individual selection, kin selection, and reciprocal altruism. Presentations from March Mammal Madness. Don’t forget to signup here and send me your slides before class.
Read for today: Ch 8
Suggested media: Planet Earth!!

Wednesday: March 15

Class is canceled because of weather!!
Read for today
: None
Suggested media:
Due today:

Monday: March 20


More mammal presentations and I’ll review the basics of designing an experiment, collecting data and presenting that data. 
Due next Monday
: Experimental Design

Wednesday: March 22


Our first mid-term will cover the topics we’ve covered in lecture and lab. I will also be available before class if you have questions.

Review sheet: Link
Suggested media:
Due today: Experiment design

Monday: March 27


Species interactions are complex and have great consequences for the evolution of animals. We’ll being our look at species interactions by looking at how species compete for resources (Sustenance, Sex, and Shelter)
Read for today:
Ch 12
Due today Monday
: Experimental Design

Wednesday: March 22

SPECIES INTERACTIONS: Predators + Herbivory

An animals gotta eat. Today we’ll look at how animals interact when one starts to eat the other.
Read for today: Ch 13, Runtz’s Natural History (.PDF)
Suggested media

Monday: April 3

SPECIES INTERACTIONS: Parasitism, commensalism, mutualism

Species interactions are complex and have great consequences for the evolution of animals. 
Read for today:
Ch 14
Suggested media

Wednesday: March 22

FIELD TRIP: OFES at Shelburne Farms

Craig will show us how they care for injured raptors at Outreach for Earth Stewardship
Read for today: 
Suggested media

Monday: April 10

ECOLOGY: Amphibians, Phenology + Citizen Science

With the coming of spring weather, the first signs of spring are popping up everywhere. Dawn chorus, amphibian crossings, buds bursting, and spring ephemerals emerging. Oh My! 
Read for today:
Assignment due next Monday: Symbiosis Paper
Suggested media

Wednesday: April 12

FIELD TRIP: Vernal Pools in the Champlain Valley

We’ll investigate a few different habitats for breeding amphibians. Class will begin at 6pm. Bring a flashlight and rain boots if you have them. 
Watch for today

Suggested media:

Monday: April 17

ECOLOGY: Nature + Change in Communities

We’ll look at the distribution of plants across a landscape through the lens of natural communities. 
Read for today:
Ch 16, 17
Assignment due today: Symbiosis Paper
Suggested media

Wednesday: April 19

FIELD TRIP: Macrae Farm Park

We’ll take a trip to Macrae Farm park to look at a few different natural communities in situ. 
Read for today

  • pp 56-75 in Wetland Woodland Wildland (.PDF)

Monday: April 24

ECOLOGY: Production + Energy Flow

We’ll look at the distribution of plants across a landscape through the lens of natural communities. 
Read for today:
Ch 23
Suggested media:

Wednesday: April 26

FIELD TRIP: Woodside Natural Area

Following up on our trip last week we’ll look again at natural communities, this time at Woodside Natural Area
Read for today

  • pp 56-75 in Wetland Woodland Wildland (.PDF)

Extra Credit

  • Use Wetland Woodland Wildland to ID one of the natural communities that we visited in class (the open wetland with the beaver lodge, the upland slope with oaks, or the riparian corridor next to the river with boxelders, cottonwoods, and ostrich ferns). Wetland Woodland Wildland is available online for free here.

Monday: May 1

ECOLOGY: Invasive Species

Invasive species have significant economic, cultural, and ecological impacts on our cultivated and wild landscapes. 
Read for today:
Ch 23
Suggested media:

  • BBC Natural History Radio podcast on Invasives (link)

Wednesday: May 3


Final exam is on the second half of the semester. (Study guide)

Presentation Schedule

  • Hao (Monday, March 27): Dugger, Anthony, & Andrews (2011). Transient dynamics of invasive competition
  • Nich (Monday, March 27): Lande (1988) Demographic models of the northern spotted owl
  • Michael (Monday, March 27): Brown & Davidson (1977). Competition between seed-eating rodents and ants in desert ecosystems
  • Jarret (Monday, March 27): MacArthur (1958). Population ecology of some warblers of northeastern coniferous forests
  • Megan (Monday, March 27): Myers & Bazely (1991). Thorns, spines, prickles, and hairs
  • Jaidella (Wednesday, March 29): Croll (2005). Introduced predators transform subarctic islands from grassland to tundra
  • Gabe: (April 3): Bruno (2007). Thermal stress and coral cover as drivers of coral disease outbreaks
  • Van (Monday, April 3): Booth & Hoeksema (2010). Mycorrhizal networks counteract competitive effects of canopy trees on seedling survival
  • Nicole (Monday, April 3): Callaway et al. (2002). Positive interactions among alpine plants increase with stress.
  • Holly (Monday, April 3): Weber (1966). Fungus-growing ants
  • Alex (Monday, April 10): Invasive Lion Fish
  • Binod (Monday, April 24): Siccama (1971). Pre-settlement and present forest vegetation in Northern Vermont
  • Jonathon (Monday, April 17): Siccama (1977). Vegetation, soil, and climate on the Green Mountains of Vermont
  • Evan (Monday, April 17): Simberloff & Wilson (1969). Experimental zoogeography of islands
  • Ben (Monday, April 24): McKane et al (2002) Resource-based niches provide a basis for plant species diversity and dominance in Arctic tundra
  • Suman (Monday, April 24): Trites & Donnelly (2003) Decline of Steller sea lions in Alaska
  • Tony (Monday, April 24): Novak (2013). Trophic omnivory across a productivity gradient: intraguild predation theory and the structure and strength of species interactions



Study #1 – Animals

Experiment #2 – Plants

  • Mammals/Birds: February 8 (25 pts)
  • Skulls: April 20 (25 pts)
  • ​Natural Communities: April 20 (25 pts)