Biology 373: Ecology
Biology 373: Ecology -- Spring 2010

Tuesday-Thursday 12:30-2PM, Welch 2.304

Instructor: Eric R. Pianka

Email Address:

Office Hours: PAT 125, Mon.-Wed. 1-2)
or by appointment (471-7472 or email) Spaceship Earth

Download Syllabus


Pianka, Evolutionary Ecology, 6th or 7th ed.

Sixth Edition out of print but available
Seventh Edition - eBook available from Google
Read On Line at Blackboard (use Safari)

(other browsers may not work):Course Documents

Suggested Additional Reading:

Case, An Illustrated Guide to Theoretical Ecology (read pp. 79-100)

Gotelli, A Primer of Ecology (read pp. 2-85)

Ginzburg and Golenberg, Lectures in Theoretical Population Biology
(read pp. 1-5 and 193-219)

Exams: Three in-class exams during the semester (only the best two will be counted) plus one comprehensive final, scheduled as follows:

First Exam: Thursday, September 2014

Second Exam: Thursday, October 2014

Third Exam: Thursday, December 2014

Final Exam: Tuesday, December 2014, 2-5 PM

UT's "new" plus/minus grading system will be employed.

How to get straight A's

Download Class Handouts

Download PPTs of Class Lecture notes

Letter Grade:

Your lowest hour exam will be thrown out (no "make up" exams!)

Your best two exams will each count 25% of your course letter grade.

The comprehensive Final will count as 50% of your course grade.

Course Outline, Biology 373 Ecology


Scaling and the hierarchical structure of biology, levels of approach in biology, domain of ecology, definitions and ground work; the species concept, systematics and classification, anthropocentrism, human impacts on the biosphere, the importance of wild organisms in pristine natural environments, the urgency of basic ecological research; scientific methodology; models; multiple causality; limiting factors, tolerance limits, the principle of allocation; natural selection and adaptation, self-replicating molecular assemblages; units of selection; levels of approach in science; speciation; phylogeny; classification and phylogenetic systematics

History and Biogeography

Self-replicating molecular assemblages; geological past; history of Earth, phylogenetics, fossil record, classical biogeography; continental drift and plate tectonics.

Climatology and Biomes

Major determinants of climate; oceans, local perturbations, variations in time and space, global weather modification; plant life forms and biomes, the interface between climate and vegetation; classification of climates and vegetation; microclimate; potential and actual evapotranspiration and productivity; leaf and root tactics; adaptive geometry of trees; soil formation and succession; ecosystem structure; biogeochemical cycles, soil formation and primary succession, energy flow, primary production and evapotranspiration, ecotones, classification of natural communities, aquatic ecosystems

Physiological Ecology

Physiological optima and tolerance curves, energetics of metabolism and movement; energy budgets and the principle of allocation; adaptation and deterioration of environment; heat budgets and thermal ecology; water economy in desert organisms; other limiting materials; sensory capacties and environmental cues; adaptive suites and design constraints.

Principles of Population Ecology

Life tables and schedules of reproduction; net reproductive rate and reproductive value; stable age distribution; Leslie matrices; intrinsic rate of increase; evolution of reproductive tactics; avian clutch size; evolution of old age and death rates; population growth and regulation -- Pearl-Verhulst logistic equation; density dependence and independence; r and K selection; population "cycles," cause and effect; use of space (vagility, home range, territoriality, foraging tactics); evolution of sex; sex ratio; mating systems; sexual selection; fitness and the individual's status in the population; kin selection, reciprocal altruism, parent-offspring conflict.

Interactions Between Populations

Parasitism, Commensalism, Mutualisms, etc.; Direct versus indirect and complex population interactions. Competition and Niche Theory: Lotka-Volterra equations and competition theory; diffuse competition; niche overlap and competition; niche dimensionality; niche breadth (specialization versus generalization); evolutionary consequences; laboratory and field experiments; other evidence from nature; future prospects. Predation: Theory; predator-prey oscillations; aspect diversity; "prudent" predation and optimal yield; evolutionary consequences; predator escape tactics; adaptive coloration; mimicry; warning calls; coevolution; plant-herbivore interactions and plant-apparency theory; selected other observations and experiments.

The Role of Phylogenetics in Ecology

Phylogenetic systematics, independent contrasts, the comparative method, evolutionary ecomorphology

Community Ecology

Macrodescriptors; compartmentation in communities (trophic levels, guild structure, and food webs); connectance; pyramids of numbers, biomass, and energy; energy flow and ecological energetics; secondary succession and transition matrices; community matrix; saturation with individuals and with species; species diversity; diversity of lowland rainforest trees; community stability; chaotic attractors; evolutionary convergence and ecological equivalents; evolution of communities; pseudo-communities.

Island Biogeography and Conservation Biology

Classical biogeography; biogeographic "rules;" continental drift; island biogeography; species-area relationships; equilibrium theory; compression hypothesis; islands as ecological experiments: Krakatau, Darwin's finches, Hawaiian Drosophilidae, other examples; metapopulations, conservation biology, human impacts on natural ecosystems, hot spots of biodiversity, applied biogeography and the design of nature preserves.

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Last updated 28 March 2013 by Eric R. Pianka

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