Ecological Systems

Semester 1

The first part of the module provides a thorough grounding in basic ecology at the species, population and community levels.

We will explore how factors including dispersal, habitat and species interactions affect the distribution of species in marine, freshwater and terrestrial communities, study the demographics and regulation of populations, and investigate regulation of communities by competition, predation and physical disturbance.

Major ecological concepts including succession, food web dynamics and ecosystem engineers will be described.

Semester 2

The second part of the module applies ecological theory acquired in semester 1 to focus on the structure and function of freshwater ecosystems, focusing mainly on rivers, and investigates the adaptations of freshwater organisms to their habitat.

Some of the unifying concepts of rivers, including the River Continuum Concept, nutrient spiralling, and patch dynamics will be summarised.

Anthropogenic influences on freshwaters will be reviewed, including river regulation, urbanisation, organic pollutants, acidification, mining and forestry. 

By the end of this module you should have learnt the following key skills:

  • Critical thinking
  • Ability to contextualise environmental issues and contemporary approaches to their management
  • Applying theory to understanding practice
  • Using case studies to demonstrate scientific theory