Welcome to Wildlife Ecology

BIO 1250 / Spring / CCV

Printable Syllabus for Wildlife Ecology

This course is the study of the ecology and life histories of common animal species and their habitats. The underlying scientific and technical principles will be examined as they relate to wildlife conservation efforts by federal, state, and private agencies. This course places special emphasis on Vermont’s wildlife.

  1. Demonstrate understanding of the methods of scientific investigation in wildlife ecology including observation, and hypothesis testing.
  2. Analyze wildlife population dynamics as expressed both by population growth equations and by basic quantitative population measures including sex ratio, birth rate, recruitment, survivorship, and mortality.
  3. Analyze the effects of genetic diversity and environment on wildlife behaviors including predation, competition, territoriality, mating systems, and reproductive strategies.
  4. Explain basic population sampling theory and modeling, as well as techniques including census, estimate, and index.
  5. Analyze the integral relationships within and between wildlife and their habitats including selection, adaptation, and preferences.
  6. Examine the life histories of common mammals, fish, waterfowl, reptiles and amphibians.
  7. Demonstrate proficiency in making field observations by following scientific protocols, keeping accurate records, and writing detailed reports.
  8. Examine the impact of human behavior on wildlife populations including, but not limited to, species extinction, habitat loss and climate change.
  9. Evaluate the methods and impacts of current wildlife management practices and policies at private, state, and federal levels including protection, harvesting, habitat management, stocking and re-introductions.
  10. Discuss laws and politics related to wildlife ecology including the Endangered Species Act, US and VT Fish and Wildlife Service, and Conservation Commissions.
  11. Demonstrate proficiency in understanding, interpreting, evaluating, and applying quantitative data and information.


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. Printable version of the syllabus. Please note that the current syllabus is for 2019. This spring’s syllabus will be similar, but with a few updates.

Week 1 | January 27


We’ll dive right in, looking at stories from the field of wildlife ecology. We’ll then shift to the specifics, looking at the furry world of mammals, with a focus on the basics, how do you even tell one animal from another?

Lecture: Intro to Wildlife Ecology
Handouts: Mammals.pdf

Week 2 | February 3


Many mammals are nocturnal and difficult to detect. We’ll look today at different methods of detect animals in a landscape and various techniques used to monitor animals.

Read for today: NH Ch 1, Life in the Cold Ch 4 (pdf), and either Rezendes (link) or Elbroch (link)
Lecture: Detecting + monitoring animals and Taxonomy

Week 3 | February 10

Wildlife in Winter

This week, we’ll focus in on the specific adaptations that animals have for coping with life in the harsh winters of the far north. We’ll head to Centennial Woods for some tracking and to set up the game cameras (map)

Read for today: NH Ch 2, Winter an ecological handbook Ch 3 (pdf)
Due today: Reading Science
Lecture: Tracking Wildlife in Winter
Suggested media:

Week 4 | February 17


Understanding an animal’s life history is critical to understanding how to manage that species. But understanding how to understand life histories is just as critical. You’ll be presenting on your fish species this week.

Read for today: Ecology Ch 7: Life Histories (pdf)
Lecture: Life Histories

Week 5 | February 24


This week is a slightly strange week. We’ll meet at CCV’s parking lot (map) at 4pm and go on a safari in search of the Burlington roost. I understand that not everyone will be able to make it, but do your best. Also, March Mammal Madness is coming up. Be sure to fill out your bracket and bring it in next week.

Handouts: March Mammal Madness brackets
Watch for today: Crows: Smarter than you think

Week 6 | March 2


Each student will present very briefly (3-4 minutes max) on the mammal that you chose for your species profile. We’ll then look at the morphology of skulls.

Read for today: Searfoss (pdf)
Due today:

Handouts: Skulls Lab

Week 7 | March 9


Over deep, evolutionary time, animals have forged complex relationships with virtually every other type of species. We’ll look at some broad scale interactions between organisms. Key topics will include symbioses & keystone species. To highlight the ways in which species interact, we’ll head out into Casavant to listen to bird language.

Read for today: NH Ch 9
Lecture: Bird Language
Some optional audio for today: Listen to Jon Young’s Bird Language

Suggested media:

  • Jon Young lecture on bird language (link)
  • Bird Language videos by Living Web Farms (link)
  • More bird language videos (link)

Week 8 | March 16


All organisms need to eat. And an animal’s form and function are directly influenced by both what it eats and what eats it. We’ll look at methods of food acquisition and predator avoidance.

Read for today: NH Ch 3, Ever Since Darwin Ch 12 (pdf)
Lecture: Eating plants, Eating animals

Week 9 | March 23


Eat or be eaten might be one maxim for the animal world, but for plants its an altogether different story. Rooted in place, they find a delicate balance of fending off hungry herbivores and attracting potential pollinators.

Read for today: NH Ch 6, Colinvaux Ch 13 (pdf)
Lecture: Mutualisms

Week 10 | March 30


A whole day dedicated to the cringe worthy and maligned. Both parasites and invasives have a negative impact on many populations. We’ll look at a few parasite life histories and some methods for controlling them and then shift to thinking about the role that invasives have in (re)shaping ecosystems.

Read for today: “The Profession of a Parasite” in The Art of Being a Parasite (pdf), “The Sixth Extinction” in The Sixth Extinction Ch 1 (pdf)
Lecture: Parasites + Invasives
Due today:
Symbiosis paper

Week 11 | April 6


In honor of Big Night, we’ll talk about phenology, reproduction, and amphibian migration. Weather dependent, optional field trip to Shelburne Pond sometime around this date for amphibian migration (map).

Read for today: NH Ch 4 + 5, “The Frog Run” in The Begining Naturalist (pdf)
Lecture: Reproduction + Amphibians

Week 12 | April 13


We’ve mucked up a lot of Vermont’s ecosystems, but we’ve also done a lot to remedy the situation. We’ll look at various conservation strategies and management plans, both successful and unsuccessful.

Read for today: Killing animals that don’t fit in (PDF)
Lecture: Management
Due today: Invasive Spotlight

Week 13 | April 20


Fish culture is somewhat of a Rube Goldberg machine. We’ll head up to the islands (map) to meet the people who raise the fish and see the process in action.

Read for today: Ever Since Darwin Ch 12 (pdf)

Week 14 | April 27


Our guest today is Jamie Smith, a conservationist and hunter. He’ll share stories from the field and talk about the intersection between hunting and conservation.

Read for today: Killing animals that don’t fit in (PDF)
Due today: Field Notebook

Week 15 | April 30


All is not lost. The tireless work of conservationists has beaten back the tide of invasives, mitigating the devastation wrought by habitat loss, and brought species back from the brink of extinction. We’ll highlight some cool projects and some of the critical laws that protect threatened species.

Read for today: Read through the Revive & Restore website, with special attention to the Woolly Mammoth section
Lecture: Conservation
Due Friday @ Noon: Conservation Paper