• Class Number 3347
  • Term Code 3130
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Patrick Meir
    • Dr Sasha Mikheyev
    • Owen Atkin
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 22/02/2021
  • Class End Date 28/05/2021
  • Census Date 31/03/2021
  • Last Date to Enrol 01/03/2021
SELT Survey Results

Ecologists study the fundamental patterns of life that we see in the wild, and in managed landscapes; the so-called ‘laws of nature’. Humanity has always depended upon this biology. We need to understand it because doing so helps us to interpret and predict how animals and plants will respond to changes in the environment. These changes may be natural or caused by humanity, from climate change to deforestation to urbanisation. We start by considering how organisms interact with the physical environment and with each other to shape their own growth, survival and reproduction, and the ecosystems of which they are a part. We can work out if populations will increase or decline, and then predict the composition of natural communities. How many species? How many individuals of each species? What is their impact on an ecosystem? We explore how natural patterns change across different scales of time and space; and what processes affect how communities assemble and ecosystems work.


Can forests or grasslands affect our climate, and by how much? Why are there always more herbivores than carnivores in natural ecosystems? Why do some plants have small thick leaves while others have large, thin leaves?  Why do some species happily co-exist, but others never occur together? In addressing these types of questions, you will gain critical insight into how energy and (bio)mass flow through ecosystems and are exchanged with the atmosphere; and how populations and communities are likely to respond to environmental changes, be they natural or human-induced.

In this course you will explore the foundations of ecological thinking, learn key methods of field and data analysis, and consider how ecological principles can help us to conserve natural ecosystems. The course has a wide coverage: the study of organisms, populations, communities and ecosystems. The physical scales you will investigate range from the organ (e.g., a leaf) to the individual to ecosystems and the Earth system and includes processes from energy exchange to biotic interactions like competition between species and predation. We also put theory into practice. There is a compulsory 3-day field trip to the Kioloa Coastal Campus, that will enable you will be learn to connect fundamental concepts with field measurement, data analysis and interpretation.

Note: Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates but are assessed separately.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Examine and summarise central ideas underpinning the ecology of individuals, populations, communities and/or ecosystems;
  2. Integrate ecological understanding of processes operating across multiple scales of space and time;
  3. Understand how observation, experimentation and modelling can be used to generate and test ecological hypotheses;
  4. Think critically about scientific evidence to understand ecological patterns and processes;
  5. Conduct basic ecological research, learn to analyse ecological data using graphical, tabular and other quantitative analysis; and to communicate the findings of their research;
  6. Use the R statistical programming language to organize and visualise data in order to discover and describe ecological patterns, as well as to formulate and test hypotheses.
  7. Work as a research team and provide effective peer support;
  8. Synthesise understanding of ecological methods and data analysis, and represent this in a standard report format;
  9. Building evidence-based arguments in a report for how populations, communities and/or ecosystems might respond to differences in their biological and physical environments.

Research-Led Teaching

This course will connect a general background in ecology across the animal and plant sciences, reflecting the focus of each instructor. Principles and ideas will integrate across disciplines, whilst providing depth in areas that span from population ecology to ecosystem-level processes. The course will also be informed by current research into microbial ecology, forest ecology, plant functional ecology and animal ecology. Students will be encouraged to learn new measurements and analysis methods in both field and laboratory settings.

Field Trips

There will be a compulsory field trip (12-14 March 2021), based at the ANU campus; this has been moved from the coastal campus site, at Kioloa because of Covid restrictions. A significant proportion of the final mark will derive from full engagement with this part of the course. Details of this part of the course are provided in the documentation and lectures at the start of the course in February. Please note that this field trip may be altered depending on public health circumstances at the time and on university guidance.

Additional Course Costs

Please see field trip cost ($250).

Examination Material or equipment

Please see above (required resources)

Required Resources

Additional course costs: nil (beyond field trip contribution - see above).

Examination material or equipment: nil beyond standard equipment for an exam

Recommended Resources

Lecture handouts will be periodically uploaded to WATTLE (https://wattle.anu.edu.au/). Please bring an electronic copy or your own hard copy printout to the relevant lecture if you need one, as hardcopies will not be provided. General course information, assignment information sheets, and tutorial instruction sheets will also be available on WATTLE ahead of the scheduled time for that activity. Key readings will tend to focus on individual research papers or reviews. We also suggest the general background text in ecology listed below. However, we emphasise the importance of using the readings provided by the lecturers, many of which may be more up-to-date or more focussed for your studies. A request has been lodged to the library to provide relevant texts on short and long-term loan.


‘Ecology’, 4th Edition (2017). William D Bowman, Sally D Hacker & Michael L Cain. Sinauer. ISBN: 9781605356181

‘Quantitative Ecology: A New Unified Approach’ (2019), Clarence Lehman, Shelby Loberg, Adam Clark. Available at: http://hdl.handle.net/11299/204551


You may also like to try these resources for high-quality information:

Literature searches

ANU Library http://libguides.anu.edu.au/content.php?pid=405919&sid=3467071

ISI Web of Knowledge  http://www.isiwebofknowledge.com/

Google Scholar http://scholar.google.com.au

Scopus http://www.scopus.com/

Please see above (required resources)

Recommended student system requirements 

ANU courses commonly use a number of online resources and activities including:

  • video material, similar to YouTube, for lectures and other instruction
  • two-way video conferencing for interactive learning
  • email and other messaging tools for communication
  • interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities
  • print and photo/scan for handwritten work
  • home-based assessment.

To fully participate in ANU learning, students need:

  • A computer or laptop. Mobile devices may work well but in some situations a computer/laptop may be more appropriate.
  • Webcam
  • Speakers and a microphone (e.g. headset)
  • Reliable, stable internet connection. Broadband recommended. If using a mobile network or wi-fi then check performance is adequate.
  • Suitable location with minimal interruptions and adequate privacy for classes and assessments.
  • Printing, and photo/scanning equipment

For more information please see https://www.anu.edu.au/students/systems/recommended-student-system-requirements

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Other Information

This class is held in tandem with BIOL2131; the student groups are combined, which leads to gains for both groups.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Course overview and field trip update Meir Lectures 1,2. Ecosystem Ecology Ecosystem ecology, biomes and biodiversity
2 Meir Lectures 3-5 Ecosystem Ecology Mechanism, measurement, fluxes, function and biodivesrity REMINDER: Friday lecture for field trip preparation Friday lecture and preparation for field course/or its replacement. This is compulsory: it will contain instruction necessary to prepare for the course, and formalities over access to the site. You need to complete these formalities to go.
3 Meir Lectures 6,7 Ecosystem Ecology Land atmosphere interactions, discussion papers, review REMINDER **WEEKEND OF WEEK 3 - COMPULSORY FIELD course. Now moved from KIOLOA to ANU campus because of Covid restrictions. Activities: depart Fri 12 March - Sun 14 March Field course 12-14 March
4 Mikheyev Lectures 1-3. Population and community ecology R, basic population models, regulated population growth **FRIDAY 20TH MARCH: PRACTICAL 1/FIELD DATA Vegetation gradients (Meir) Practical 1 (Friday 19th March) - computer-, interactive-, mini lecture- based class. The class is compulsory for delivery of the assignment/report for Practical 1 which is DUE 29 March. Gould Rm 113 is booked in reserve, but we expect this to be held online
5 Mikheyev Lectures 4-6. Population and community ecology Difference forms, human population growth, theory of species interactions Prac Report 1 due Mon 29 March - start of this week Homework 1 answers (due 26 March)
6 Mikheyev Lectures 7-9. Phase/state space, predator-prey, competition/niches Practical 1 / Report 1 due Mon 29 March Homework 2 answers (due 1 April)
7 Mikheyev Lectures 10-12. Population and community ecology Competition, mutualism, island biogeography Homework 3 answers (due 23 April)
8 Mikheyev Lectures 13,14. Population and community ecology Humans as predators, humans as prey Homework 4 answers (due 30 April)
9 Mikheyev Lectures 15-17 Population and community ecology Humans as prey/SIR model, applications, review Practical 2 on Friday 7 May - computer, interactive, mini lecture based class. Gould Rm 113 is booked in reserve, but we expect this to be held online
10 Atkin Lectures 1-3. Functional and Community Ecology. Filters, niches, resources, modularity, competition1 Practical 2 Report 2 due Mon 17 May
11 Atkin Lectures 4-6. Functional and Community Ecology. Competition2, succession, using functional traits to inform patterns communities/ecosystems1
12 Atkin Lectures 7-8. Functional and Community Ecology. Using functional traits to inform patterns communities/ecosystems2, review Final lecture (Meir/Mikheyev; completion of review)

Tutorial Registration

All tutorials are scheduled as single-date events - no sign ups required.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Learning Outcomes
Practical 1/Field data. Vegetation gradients. 20 % 29/03/2021 1,2,3,4,5,6
Homework 1-4/Data analysis skills 20 % * 1,2,3,4,5,6
Practical 2. Computer-based analysis 20 % 17/05/2021 1,2,3,4,5,6
Scientific Report 40 % * 1,2,3,4

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Integrity . In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


The field trip (or its replacement) and the practicals are all compulsory; they are not repeated.

Full attendance at the lectures is strongly recommended to enhance understanding and intellectual synthesis.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 29/03/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Practical 1/Field data. Vegetation gradients.

Note: this task may vary if the field trip is altered, eg in response to public health directives

The details of this task will be fine-tuned and the rubric will be specified according to the fieldwork outcomes - this may relate to biological or meteorological variability, or other external influences/events.

This practical will be held online, unless the Gould Bldg Large Teaching Lab is permissable (tbc, based on university recommendations).

This practical will enable you to learn how to analyse your field data, present them and interpret them: the focus will be on how vegetation properties differ in different physical environments, influenced by distance from the sea.

In the workshop/practical we will take you through analysis of the different datasets and help you think about interpretation.

You will be able to answer the assignment based on this workshop, and you may enrich your answer with the benefit of wider reading.

A Powerpoint file from the practical will be available on Wattle to help you remember the activities and discussions of the workshop

You will be expected to: describe methods and data, perform data analysis and data presentation, and make basic interpretation of your data.

Outcomes: learn to arrange and manage data, do basic analysis, present tables and graphs.

It is intended that the assessment will be returned approximately 2 weeks from submission.

The value of this task is 20% of the total.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Homework 1-4/Data analysis skills

The details of this task will be fine-tuned and the rubric will be influenced by fieldwork outcomes

This series of mini discussions and and practice analyses will be held online via the lectures

This series of mini discussions and practicals will enable you to learn how to analyse your data, present them and interpret them.

Later, for Practical 2 you will be required to refer to use some of these skills to focus on community ecology with respect to invertebrates.

The mini discussions and practice analyses will take place online, unless the Gould Bldg Large Teaching Lab is permissable (tbc, based on university recommendations).

Outcomes: learn to arrange and manage data, do basic analysis, present tables and graphs.

Where possible, marked assessments will be returned on or before the following assignment.

The value of all 4 assessments will be 20% of the total mark.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 17/05/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Practical 2. Computer-based analysis

The details of this task will be fine-tuned and the rubric will be specified following the fieldwork practicals, which may vary according to the field trip outcomes.

This practical will be held online, or in Gould Bldg Large Teaching Lab if this is permissable (tbc, based on university recommendations).

This practical will enable you to learn how to analyse data, visualise data and perform data analyses, present the outcomes and interpret them, all related to the invertebrates part of the field trip. Online material will be available for the practical and will also be available on Wattle.

Outcomes: learn to arrange and manage data, do basic analysis, present tables and graphs.

The value of this task is 20% of the total.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 40 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Scientific Report

This report should follow a formal scientific structure, build on the concepts introduced in the course and draw together understanding of the importance and links among abiotic drivers, biotic interactions and functional traits. The content will build on the learning and skills development achieved in earlier Assessment Tasks. A standard structure of Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusions and References is required. More details will be provided in class, and on Wattle ahead of the due date; this will be linked to the exam date in the parallel Biol2131 class, where possible.

Due date will be confirmed in class and on the course Wattle site.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

All student work is to be returned via Turnitin, unless you are informed otherwise: this information will be provided through Wattle and/or verbally to the class.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

Resubmission is not permitted

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Prof Patrick Meir

Research Interests

Forest ecology, ecosytems, tropical forests

Prof Patrick Meir

Dr Sasha Mikheyev
alexander.mikheyev@anu. edu.au

Research Interests

Dr Sasha Mikheyev

Owen Atkin

Research Interests

Owen Atkin

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions