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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Kristin L. Laidre
FISH 464
Seattle Campus

Arctic Marine Vertebrate Ecology

Explores the structure and function of Arctic ecosystems, life history, and adaptations of vertebrates, and how species are affected by climate warming. Emphasizes upper-level trophic interactions, evolutionary drivers, food chains, energy transport paths, and influence of sea ice. Case studies provide background on Arctic conservation and management. Prerequisite: BIOL 180.

Class description

The objectives of this course are to convey an understanding of how Arctic marine ecosystems are structured and how they function, the challenges that various upper-trophic level marine organisms meet when living in the Arctic, how individuals adapt (looking at life-history parameters and reproductive strategies), and how populations are affected by physical changes in the Arctic environment. Emphasis will be put on the complexity of Arctic marine ecosystems from primary producers to top predators, biomass, productivity, and biodiversity at different trophic levels, and the influence of sea ice as a forcing and shaping mechanism. Food chains and energy transport paths will be discussed. Fundamentals of population dynamics will be presented, like single species dynamics, trophic interactions and effects of environmental changes in time and space (climate change, habitat heterogeneity). The course will focus on several detailed case studies about various Arctic marine vertebrates, and the Arctic ecosystem will be compared to the Antarctic ecosystem. Finally, this course will touch on how all of this fits in as a background for better (or future) Arctic management and conservation policies given anthropogenic impacts.

Student learning goals

Be able to describe key properties and functions of the Arctic marine ecosystem, challenges and adaptations for Arctic species, and the impacts of climate change.

Synthesize new literature from scientific peer-reviewed journals (accomplished via writing assignments, a final presentation).

Learn to interpret ecological trends in the Arctic by examining data and graphs in publications, learn how to critically assess how impacts of climate change can be determined in the Arctic.

Gain skills in public speaking, presenting data syntheses in front of small groups, participating group discussions about science topics.

Analyze past research in the context of a rapidly evolving field where fluency in current literature, terminology, scientific concepts is a must.

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

BIOL 180 or equivalent.

Class assignments and grading


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.
Additional Information
Last Update by Kristin L. Laidre
Date: 01/22/2013