David L. Stokes
Study of special topics in interdisciplinary arts and sciences. Prerequisite: BIS 300.
Field Research in Invasion Ecology
The spread of non-native species is emerging as one of the most serious threats to biodiversity. Non-native species that are invasive often out-compete or otherwise interact with native species, resulting in the reduction or elimination of native species. A critical need in reducing or managing the threat of invasives is understanding how these species spread, the factors that contribute to their spread, how they affect native species, and the means by which the spread of invasives might be controlled.
English holly is a small tree native to Eurasia that has been introduced to the Pacific Northwest. Not much is known about the ecology of this species, but it is becoming apparent to land managers that it is spreading rapidly. The threat this invasion poses to native Northwest forests and the native species that inhabit those forests is potentially serious; however little information is available.
In this class, we will conduct field ecology research on English holly in a local Northwest forest where it is invading. Working collaboratively in small groups and with the instructor, students will pursue specific research questions that will contribute to a better understanding of the holly invasion. Examples of questions that may be addressed are: How does English holly spread in Northwest forests? What role do animal seed dispersers play? How does holly affect native plant species? What is the most effective means of removal of holly? Students will participate in all stages of ecological research, including question development, hypothesis and prediction generation, data collection in the field, data analysis, and interpretation and communication of results. The ultimate goal is to produce findings that will appear in the scientific literature and contribute significantly to the scientific understanding and management of invasive species. This is an opportunity for students to gain experience working as part of a collaborative research team conducting actual scientific research and making a significant contribution to solving a real problem. Class will operate as a research seminar: no tests, no homework exercises, but lots of reading, thinking, discussing, and doing. Everyone will need to complete various tasks in a timely fashion to allow the projects to move forward.
Pre-requisite: College Ecology course (e.g., BES 312 or BIS 390) and permission of instructor.
Student learning goals
Broad knowledge and understanding of the ecology of biological invasions (invasion ecology) generally, and in-depth knowledge of the ecology of English holly and its invasion specifically.
Experience and expertise in conducting all aspects of field ecology research, including improved ability to participate effectively and collaboratively as a member of a research team.
An understanding of how to collect, manage, analyze, critically evaluate, interpret, and draw conclusions from ecological data.
Information and understanding new to the field of invasion ecology.
Improved ability to communicate ecological information and understanding to other scholars in the field, both in oral and written form.
General method of instruction
Class Format: As an investigative biology seminar, all activities of the class will be organized around the pursuit of ecology research projects by undergraduate students. We will meet in the classroom and in the field (the forest at St. Edward State Park) to address the various aspects of this research. To pursue their research questions, students will collect their own data, during some class periods as well as outside of class.
A note about field work This is a field class, and we will be out in the field for a substantial amount of the time. Field work is fun (most of the time!), but it requires proper preparation and mindset. We will be almost certainly be working in rainy, muddy and sometimes cold conditions. Be prepared to dress for the weather and to sometimes get wet and dirty.
Permission of instructor and college course in Ecology.
Course Requirements/Expectations: Students must have a curiosity about ecology and the natural world. Students also need to be willing to work in the field, which will sometimes mean getting wet, cold, and muddy. In and outside of class you will need to possess the capacity to take the initiative, accomplish work independently and collaboratively, as part of a team.
Class assignments and grading
Final Product: It is expected that by the end of the quarter each group will produce a draft manuscript based on the results of their research that can form the basis of a publishable contribution to the scholarly literature in the field of invasion ecology.
Grades: Grading will follow the norms of a research seminar. Grades will be assigned on the basis of the quality of the final research project (both content and presentation), and your contribution to the advancement of the research project in all of its aspects, including seminar discussions and field work. There will be no tests or graded exercises.