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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Timothy E. Essington
FISH 420
Seattle Campus

Ecology of Marine Fishes

Focuses on the unique ecological challenges facing marine fishes, including individual, population, community, and ecosystem-scale processes. Provides historical background in the study of marine fishes as well as an overview of the characteristics of marine environments. Prerequisite: Q SCI 381; either BIOL 356, FISH 312, or OCEAN 430.

Class description

The objectives of this course are to (1) Foster critical analysis of contemporary theories of marine fish ecology (2) Provide a strong familiarity with the important primary literature (3) Appreciate the characteristics of marine environments and how they affect the ecology of marine fishes (4) Provide an introduction to quantitative methods used in fish ecology.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

The general format of the course will be alternating lecture, discussion, and computer lab sections. Discussion sections will focus on critical analysis of primary journal articles, which have been selected to represent alternative views particular topics. These articles are listed as "Required Reading" for each topic. Each week, pairs of students will be assigned to lead the discussion of the required readings. Donít take this responsibility lightly. Leading a thoughtful, productive discussion requires a thorough understanding of the papers, and well thought-out discussion topics. You have considerable flexibility on how you choose to run these discussions, so be creative. Computer lab sections will emphasize the application of quantitative approaches to the study of marine fish ecology.

Grades will be based on in-class presentation, weekly homework, lab participation and two term papers.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Weekly Homework: I have provided some key additional papers for each topic in the syllabus. For each topic covered in the course, you will select one of these, write a brief summary of the main findings, contribution to field, and a critical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses for each. These should be no longer than 1 page, single spaced. The expectation is to expand the ideas and examples presented in class to consider the broader contribution to the study of marine ecology.

Computer Lab. Modeling and quantitative models are best learned by doing. Thus, this portion of the course will emphasize hands-on application of a variety of quantitative methods. Most of the lab time will be spent working on a particular quantitative application. No prior experience in programming is necessarily, as I will provide programs and handouts that will walk you through each exercise. You will work with partners on these, answer questions as you go, and we will review the exercises together at the end of class. Try to pair up with a different partner each week. Term Papers Unless you decide to pursue your life-long dream of working at Dunkiní Donuts, chances are youíll need good writing skills in your career. Sadly, most science-based education assumes that you already possess those skills. The truth is that good scientific writing only follows from practice. A major component of this course is to develop scientific writing skills through two term papers. The first is a review paper covering any topic that is touched on in this course. The paper should raise an important question, describe its fundamental importance, identify the current state of understanding about that question including competing hypotheses and the weight of evidence for each, and look to the future prospects for that theory. The second paper is a grant proposal written to the "Essington Fish Ecology Fund" (EFEF) a non-profit research endowment that supports research in all areas of marine fish ecology. You can write a proposal on anything related to fish ecology, which includes pretty much anything covered in this class.

Peer Review: Although the scientific community relies entirely on peer review, rarely is there any formal education on how to professionally review someone else's work. Moreover, one of the best ways to improve your writing is to help someone else improve theirs! Peer review of both term papers will be an important component of the paper evaluation.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Timothy E. Essington
Date: 11/14/2003