Ecological Systems (in English)

Universidad Pablo de Olavide

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Ecological Systems (in English)

  • Host University

    Universidad Pablo de Olavide

  • Location

    Seville, Spain

  • Area of Study

    Ecology, Environmental Science

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Course Goals and Methodology

    The course aims to introduce the student to the science of Ecology. We will focus on the study of ecosystems, their components, and the interactions between abiotic, biotic, and living organisms. We will study the basic principles of ecology, emphasizing population, community, and ecosystem ecology. We will rely on different approaches to learn about Ecology and the way ecologists study natural systems. Lectures will emphasize general principles and models that underline this theory. Case studies from the literature will be used to exemplify natural phenomena. The course also focuses on the application of ecological principles in solving environmental problems. The field and laboratory activities will offer students hands-on opportunities to examine natural process, and to collect, analyze and interpret data. Students will also conduct independent research projects.

    Learning Objectives

    This course is intended for Biological Science majors & minors and for students who required a science base course. The course will examine the structure and function of ecological systems, including individuals, populations, communities, and ecosystems, and the influence of society on the biosphere. By the end of the semester, students who complete all necessary assignments will be able to:

    1. understand major concepts and terminology in the field of ecology;

    2. identify mechanisms of adaptation to arid environments;

    3. be able to apply quantitative tools (simple mathematical models and statistics) to ecological problems;

    4. produce a scientific paper from experimental design and data gathering to writing up;

    5. be prepared to pursue advanced study in ecology, if they choose. 

    Course Requirements and Grading

    Assessment will involve a midterm and a final exam (all written) and a final paper that will be evaluated through its content (in pairs/small groups) on a relevant set topic based on lab and field- work. (N.B. students will be graded individually). Finally, students will be required to complete assigned readings/summarize articles etc. outside class and to actively participate in class discussions, which will be reflected in their ‘participation’ grade. (N.B.: ‘being there’ does not = ‘participation’).  

    Midterm Exam 20%

    Homework 25%

    Final Exam 25%

    Class Participation 10%

    Final Paper 20% 


    Required Texts

    The course materials will be uploaded to the course’s page on Backboard Learn platform, from where the students can access them.  Useful texts on Ecology are:


    Ricklefs, R. E. The Economy of Nature, 6th Edition. 2008. WH Freeman and Co. (ISBN 9780716738831).

    Beeby, A. and Brehnnan, A.M. (2004). First Ecology. Second Edition. Oxford University Press, 317.

    Begon, M., Harper, J.L. & Townsend, C.R. (1996) Ecology. Third Edition. Blackwell Science. Milan, Italy. 1143p.

    Dodson, S.I. et al. (1998) Ecology. First Edition. Oxford University Press, Inc. New York. 433p.

    Kormondy, E.J. (1996) Concepts of Ecology. Fourth Edition. Prentice Hall. New York. 559 p.

    Molles, M.C. (2002) Ecology: Concepts and Applications. Second Edition. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. United States of America. 586 p.

    Smith, R.L. & Smith, T.M. (2001) Ecology and Field Biology. Sixth Edition. Addison Wesley Longman, Inc. United States of America. 771 p.

    Smith, R.L. & Smith, T.M. (2000) Elements of Ecology. Fourth Edition. Addison Wesley Longman, Inc. United States of America. 567 p. 

    Course Contents 

    1. Introduction: Main concepts in Ecology.

    2. The soil as a living organism: The importance of soil for the maintenance of life. The meaning of Soil respiration. How to measure soil respiration. Variables that influence soil respiration. Calculations on soil respiration.

    3. The Mediterranean climate: Environmental conditions the areas of the world with Mediterranean type of climate. Effect of Temperature on organisms. Biomes

    4. Carbon cycle. Importance of carbon. Main elements of the cycle of the element in the environment. Climate change.  

    5. Effect of climate variables on living organisms: Light, temperature and precipitation and how to measure them. Climate vs weather. Climatic diagrams. Changes induced by introduced species. Why species reach a new environment. The 10’ rule. Breaking ecosystems services.

    6. Biomes of the world: main properties; location of the biomes; variations in light, precipitation, temperature and productivity. Threats to the biome.  

    7. Dispersal and distributions: Mechanisms and modes of dispersal used by organisms. Alien organisms and their effect in ecosystems. Changes induced by introduced species. Why species reach a new environment. The 10’ rule.  

    8. Population Ecology and interactions: Properties of populations: density, dispersion of individuals, age structure. Population growth and regulation. Immigration and emigration. K and r strategists. Intra-specific competition.

    9. Life tables and demography: Horizontal and vertical life tables. Generation time, life expectancy.

    10. Species interactions: Types of interactions. Competition. Predation, parasitism, mutualism, commensalism. Coevolution. r-selection and k-selection.

    11. Communities Ecology: Patterns and process. Communities’ properties. Types of organisms in communities. Disturbances as drivers of change. Ecological succession and the concept of climax.  

    12. Ecosystems Ecology: Production in Ecosystems. Trophic structure. Secondary productivity. Energy distribution through the ecosystem.

    13. Hot topics. Students will choose a topic from any of the one proposed by the instructor about ecological crises and other ecological aspects of interest for the society.  

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Availability of courses is based on enrollment numbers. All students should seek pre-approval for alternate courses in the event of last minute class cancellations


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