Aquatic Ecology


Course Description

  • Course Name

    Aquatic Ecology

  • Host University


  • Location

    Sydney, Australia

  • Area of Study

    Ecology, Marine Biology, Oceanography

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    91110 Experimental Design and Sampling AND 91154 Ecology

  • 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

  • Credit Points

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

    This subject gives students a comprehensive understanding of the ecology of aquatic ecosystems (freshwater and marine). It provides students with knowledge of the physical, chemical and biological processes and their interactions that occur in freshwater, marine and estuarine systems. It also introduces them to the effects of anthropogenic impacts of in-stream and catchment activities on the integrity of these ecosystems, and approaches to managing these water resources. Students develop an appreciation of the importance of understanding the ecology of these systems as it underpins the ability to manage these resources for the benefit of the biota and humanity. These include an appreciation of the rich and varied patterns of biodiversity and physical features among these habitats, and the importance of maintaining their integrity in the face of anthropogenic impacts. Understanding ecosystem integrity requires and understanding of the structure and function of these ecosystems. The subject develops the student's ability to research issues related to the project component of the subject to discuss the implications of their results in the broader context of the ecology of aquatic ecosystems.
    The subject applies the knowledge gained in 91110 Experimental Design and Sampling in the practical activities which are project based. It also provides the knowledge and skills required for the elective subject 91155 Stream and Lake Assessment.
    Subject objectives
    Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
    1. Identify global water resources and their exchange between compartments; major habitats in freshwater rivers and lakes, oceans and estuaries, and their distribution
    2. Describe the components of dominant physical components of aquatic systems such as flow, currents, thermal regimes and substrate structure, and how they influence chemical and biological processes;
    3. For each habitat, explain the major physical constraints on organisms and adaptations and relate these to patterns of biodiversity.
    4. Relate the chemical properties of water and cycling of nutrients to their effects on primary producers, particularly in contributing to eutrophication. This will require you to chemically analyse water quality.
    5. Describe the biological properties of aquatic systems i.e. heterotrophic and autotrophic systems;
    6. Use keys to Identify micro ? and macroinvertebrates, algae and macrophytes
    7. Demonstrate knowledge of the trophic relationships in aquatic systems such as the microbial loop, producers, and consumers (herbivores,detrivores and predators); and food webs. Use this knowledge to designing and conduct investigations on the trophic
    8. Classify the major anthropogenic threats to each habitat, and their likely effects. Relate these threats to spatial variation in biotic and abiotic conditions in a local estuary.
    9. Analyse data collected during practicals and interpret the outputs
    10. Effectively communicate information in the form of written reports
    11. Integrate new information into your knowledge base as it is acquired
    This subject also contributes specifically to the development of following course intended learning outcomes:
    An understanding of the nature, practice and application of the chosen science discipline. (1.0)
    The ability to acquire, develop, employ and integrate a range of technical, practical and professional skills, in appropriate and ethical ways within a professional context, autonomously and collaboratively and across a range of disciplinary and professional areas, e.g. time management skills, personal organisation skills, teamwork skills, computing skills, laboratory skills, data handling, quantitative and graphical literacy skills. (3.0)
    The capacity to engage in reflection and learning beyond formal educational contexts that is based on the ability to make effective judgments about one's own work. The capacity to learn in and from new disciplines to enhance the application of scientific knowledge and skills in professional contexts. (4.0)
    An awareness of the role of science within a global culture and willingness to contribute actively to the shaping of community views on complex issues where the methods and findings of science are relevant. (5.0)
    An understanding of the different forms of communication - writing, reading, speaking, listening -, including visual and graphical, within science and beyond and the ability to apply these appropriately and effectively for different audiences. (6.0)
    Contribution to the development of graduate attributes
    Knowledge in aquatic ecology is gained through lectures, practicals and field trips. Your learning is assessed by a field trip knowledge test based on the Manly Dam field trip, as well as through the reports and final exam. The context and application of this knowledge to the field of aquatic ecology is learnt through field trips, lectures and practicals and is assessed by 2 written reports and the final exam through questions that ask you to apply knowledge gained.
    This subject develops key professional skills for studying the ecology of aquatic ecosystems as well as their appropriate application in a given context. The tools for addressing questions about aquatic ecology are learned during lectures and practiced during field trips where you will conduct field measurements and collect biological samples for identification and analysis. Within laboratory practicals, you will develop skills in limnochemical analysis methods and taxonomy of algae, aquatic micro and macroinvertebrates, and fishes. These skills are then applied and assessed through the presentation and interpretation of data for the reports.
    Assessment 1 requires you to critically assess your earlier work, and build on your previous efforts using the knowledge acquired in class. This ability to critique your own abilities and continuously improve your efforts is crucial to lifelong learning.
    The importance of freshwater and aquatic ecosystems in society is learned in lectures. Due to the importance and vulnerability of these systems, the understanding and monitoring of the environmental changes due to human pressures is very important. Society requires that human needs and the environment be balanced to ensure a sustainable future. You will learn about this in lectures, and in field trips and practicals test the health of the aquatic ecology of catchments. Your understanding of anthropogenic demands on water and how these relate to the ecology of the system is assessed through reports.
    You will develop the skills necessary to present and critically interpret (in a written report) the data you have collected. Your writing skills are developed through the provision of good and poor examples of data representation and assessment. As part of the practical component you will make an assessment of the health of the Manly Dam catchment based on the data you collect, and communicate these findings and recommendations for further studies through a formal scientific report. You will be required to assess the health, recreational use safety and risks to the dam and catchment. One component of the marking schedule for the report is based on the clarity of these findings and how well they are substantiated and their originality of perspective. A second report based on the Sydney Harbour field trip is assessed. The reports are similar to those likely to be required by future employers in this field.
    Teaching and learning strategies
    This subject includes lectures, laboratory sessions and field trips. In the first week of the semester, students are provided with a written document outlining the weekly program for this subject, including lectures, laboratory sessions, field trips and due dates for assessment items. Lectures provide comprehensive information of the current knowledge in the subject areas to assist students with preparation of assessment tasks. Practical exercises allow students to develop their practical skills in project design and planning, execution and communicating their findings in the form of a written report. The field based projects provide an opportunity for students to work under real world situations. Practical manuals and lecture notes are provided in the subject. Written feedback on the project report is given. Information and documents (lecture schedule, assessments, lecture and practical notes, etc) are given as hard copies and posted on UTS online.
    The following is a brief outline of the subject content:
    Overview of global distribution and fluxes of water resources and the water cycle
    Physical and chemical nature of aquatic ecosystems
    Diversity and adaptations of the biota in freshwater and marine/estuarine habitats
    Ecology of the biota freshwater and marine ecosystems
    Trophic relationships in aquatic ecosystems
    Lab pracs to develop skills of students in limnochemical analysis methods and taxonomy of algae and aquatic macroinvertebrates and fishes, and use of field instruments.
    Two field excursions to train students in practical skills in map work, measuring physical attributes of ecosystems, biological sampling design and collecting chemical and biological samples.
    The project component involves processing the water and biological samples collected in the field, data collation and analysis, interpretation and discussion of results and writing a report.
    Assessment task 1: Field trip knowledge test
    This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):
    10, 11, 2, 4 and 8
    This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):
    1.0 and 4.0
    Type: Report
    Weight: 10%
    Accuracy of knowledge
    Ability to reflect and improve on previous efforts as new knowledge is gained
    Assessment task 2: Freshwater report
    This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):
    1, 10, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9
    This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):
    1.0, 3.0, 5.0 and 6.0
    Type: Report
    Weight: 25%
    Depth of knowledge
    Skill in analysis and interpretation
    Quality of report writing
    Clarity and quality of the report and how well your arguments are likely to engage / convince both catchment managers and concerned environmental groups
    Assessment task 3: Marine report
    This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):
    1, 10, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9
    This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):
    1.0, 3.0, 5.0 and 6.0
    Type: Report
    Weight: 25%
    Depth of knowledge
    Skill of analysis and interpretation
    Quality of report writing
    Clarity and quality of the report, ease of understanding by potential stakeholders
    Assessment task 4: Final examination
    This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):
    1, 10, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9
    This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):
    1.0, 5.0 and 6.0
    Type: Report
    Weight: 40%
    Depth of knowledge
    Skill of analysis and interpretation
    Ability to relate results to concepts covered in class
    Clarity of reasoning and arguments
    Use of examples to convey ideas
    In the first week of the semester, students are provided with a written document describing the requirements of each assessment item and the criteria used in assessing student performance in each item.
    Minimum requirements
    Any assessment task worth 40% or more requires the student to gain at least 40% of the mark for that task. If 40% is not reached, an X grade fail may be awarded for the subject, irrespective of an overall mark greater than 50.
    In order to pass this subject, students must achieve a total mark of 50% or more when the marks for the assessment items and the final examination are added together.
    Class attendance and participation are important components of the learning experience in this subject. Students are expected to attend and participate in all learning activities including lectures, practicals and field trips. Attendance of the field trips and submission of the reports is required to pass the subject.
    Required texts
    Boulton AJ & Brock MA 1999. Australian Freshwater Ecology Process and Management. Gleneagles Publishing, Adelaide.
    Recommended texts
    1) Wetzel, R.G. 2001. Limnology. Lake and River Ecosystems Academic Press. Third Edition
    3) Hawking JH & Smith FJ 1997. Colour Guide to Invertebrates of Australian Inland Waters. Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology, Albury.
    4) Tsyrlin E & Gooderham J 2005. The Waterbug Book, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.
    5) Downes BJ et al 2002. Monitoring ecological impacts: concepts and practice in flowing waters. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
    6) Connell S and Gillanders B 2007 Marine Ecology-An Australian Perspective. Oxford Press
    Other books, journal articles and web sites will be recommended throughout semester.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.