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Introduction to Ecology. Session 1 – Introduction to the Study of Ecology. The Science of Ecology. Goals for the day. Differentiate Between Ecology and Environmentalism and Conservation Biology Trace History of Ecological Thought Define Ecology Scientifically Learn the Scientific Method

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introduction to ecology

Introduction to Ecology

Session 1 – Introduction to the Study of Ecology

the science of ecology
The Science of Ecology

Goals for the day

  • Differentiate Between Ecology and Environmentalism and Conservation Biology
  • Trace History of Ecological Thought
  • Define Ecology Scientifically
  • Learn the Scientific Method
  • Organization of Ecology
the science of ecology1
The Science of Ecology

Goals for the day

  • Differentiate Between Ecology and Environmentalism and Conservation Biology
  • Trace History of Ecological Thought
  • Define Ecology Scientifically
  • Learn the Scientific Method
  • Organization of Ecology
ecology vs environmentalism
Ecology vs Environmentalism
  • Scientific societies and activist groups – often in conflict with each other
  • Earth First, Greenpeace, and WWF
  • Industry – e.g., GMO’s: Pandora’s box or chicken little?
  • Individuals vs populations
    • Hawaii: PETA vs Nature Conservancy

or

hawaii peta vs nature conservancy
Hawaii: PETA vs Nature Conservancy
  • Feral pigs (Sus scrofa)
    • Integral part of native Hawaiian Luau culture
    • Introduced by both Polynesians and Europeans (2 spp)
    • Rooting destroys many plants
    • Create wallows, water collects, and encourages mosquitoes to breed
hawaii peta vs nature conservancy1
Hawaii: PETA vs Nature Conservancy
  • Nature Conservancy
    • Attempting to eradicate the pig from their lands
    • Uses ecological impact of pigs as justification for their removal
    • Capture through noose snare-trapping, as this is the easiest way to capture the animals
hawaii peta vs nature conservancy2
Hawaii: PETA vs Nature Conservancy
  • PETA
    • Recognizes the impact that these pigs have on the ecology
    • Snare-trapping is protracted, inhumane, and a painful way to kill them
    • Advocates for humane trapping and then quick kills
    • Ignores financial cost
hawaii peta vs nature conservancy3
Hawaii: PETA vs Nature Conservancy
  • Resolution?
    • Still to be found
    • Nature Conservancy continues to trap
  • A few write-ups of the controversy are available from the Honolulu Advertiser
  • A more general discussion of invasives in Hawaii is availble from USGS
key distinctions
Key Distinctions
  • Ecology is a science
    • Our focus in this course
  • Environmentalism is a cause
    • With our without scientific backing
  • Conservation Biology is the integration of these two
    • Using science to support a political cause
the science of ecology2
The Science of Ecology

Goals for the day

  • Differentiate Between Ecology and Environmentalism and Conservation Biology
  • Trace History of Ecological Thought
  • Define Ecology Scientifically
  • Learn the Scientific Method
  • Organization of Ecology
history of ecological thought
History of Ecological Thought
  • From Thoreau to modern times
  • Historically has been literature-based appreciation of nature
  • Subsequently became more of a descriptive science
darwinian references
Darwinian References
  • “…how infinitely complex and close-fitting are the mutual relations of all organic beings to each other and to their physical conditions of life.”
    • Origin of Species
the science of ecology3
The Science of Ecology

Goals for the day

  • Differentiate Between Ecology and Environmentalism and Conservation Biology
  • Trace History of Ecological Thought
  • Define Ecology Scientifically
  • Learn the Scientific Method
  • Organization of Ecology
definition of ecology
Definition of Ecology
  • “To determine the factors that have produced the present distribution and abundance of organisms”
    • (Jonathan Krebs, 1972)
factors influencing organismal distribution and abundance
Factors Influencing Organismal Distribution and Abundance
  • Abiotic
    • Climate
    • Topography
    • Latitude
    • Altitude
  • Biotic
    • Intraspecific Interactions
    • Interspecific Interactions
the science of ecology4
The Science of Ecology

Goals for the day

  • Differentiate Between Ecology and Environmentalism and Conservation Biology
  • Trace History of Ecological Thought
  • Define Ecology Scientifically
  • Learn the Scientific Method
  • Organization of Ecology
scientific method and hypothesis testing
Scientific Method and Hypothesis Testing
  • Goals:
    • Judge good science
      • Hudson River PCB dredging
      • Electromagnetic radiation and cancer
      • Sea otters, killer whales and overfishing
    • Do good science
goals of science
Goals of science
  • Describe the patterns that are found in the natural world
    • Purely descriptive in nature
    • Historically this was “ecology”, a.k.a. naturalism
      • Make up explanations and then stop there
  • Test Explanation of Patterns
    • This is the major emphasis of most of what we usually call “science”
    • Key component: TEST these explanations!
  • How to test these explanations?
    • The Scientific Method
methods of explanation
Methods of Explanation
  • Include those of descriptive science
  • Approximately 11 Steps
  • Process is repeated many times
  • Can NEVER prove a hypothesis
    • Can only reject many, leaving one as best supported by the data
    • “Proof” is a common fallacy
  • Centerpiece of this method are Hypotheses
types of hypotheses
Types of Hypotheses
  • Null hypothesis
    • The hypothesis of no change
    • Often abbreviated as Ho
  • Alternative hypotheses
    • Often abbreviated as Ha, Hb, etc.
    • All must be mutually exclusive (including the null)
    • We accept an Ha if Ho is first statistically rejected
      • Which Ha to accept is determined by trends in data
scientific method steps 1 5
Scientific Method - Steps 1-5
  • Observe or suspect pattern
  • Posit cause or significance of observed difference
  • Create answerable question to explain pattern
  • Create testable hypotheses
    • Null (Ho ) and alternate hypotheses (Ha)
  • Design experiment
scientific method steps 6 11
Scientific Method - Steps 6-11
  • Collect data (descriptive stage)
  • Analyze data, primarily using statistics
  • Evaluate hypotheses, reject Ho?
  • Make conclusions based on data
  • Note problems in current work
  • Predict future directions for research
an exercise
An Exercise…
  • Come up with an observation that you’ve seen recently and work through how you would implement the above 11 steps
parts of a scientific report
Parts of a scientific report
  • Title
  • Abstract - an overall summary
  • Introduction - background, question, Has
  • Methods - what we did
  • Results - what we found, analyses results
  • Discussion - interpretations, predictions
  • Acknowledgements - who helped us
  • References - who we cited
transmission methods in science
Transmission Methods in Science
  • Written report (articles, chapters, books)
    • Traditional
  • Oral presentation
    • Commonly used for preliminary presentation of work to get feedback before writing it up
  • Poster
    • Visual summary of work - used at conferences
  • Web page
    • Can use a written report & make it interactive
how to evaluate science
How to Evaluate Science?
  • Do the data address the question?
  • Is there enough data to support the claim?
  • Has the study been replicated elsewhere?
  • Are alternative interpretations considered?
  • Is it peer-reviewed?
  • Is it presented objectively?
  • Are there real controls?
the science of ecology5
The Science of Ecology

Goals for the day

  • Differentiate Between Ecology and Environmentalism and Conservation Biology
  • Trace History of Ecological Thought
  • Define Ecology Scientifically
  • Learn the Scientific Method
  • Organization of Ecology
what is the organization of ecology
What is the Organization of Ecology?
  • Ranges widely from individual to biosphere studies
  • Most of ecology happens in the current time
    • Proximate Explanations
  • Only a few fields (e.g., evolutionary ecology and paleoecology) are concerned with past environments and historical time
    • Ultimate Explanations
proximate fields
Proximate Fields
  • Emphasis of this course
  • Examples, by scale
    • Population
      • Growth rates, PVA, Population genetics, Metapopulation analyses, etc.
    • Community
      • Interspecific interactions, Environmental impact statements, etc.
    • Ecosystem
      • Energy, Matter, Nutrient flow, Pollution,
ultimate fields
Ultimate Fields
  • Evolutionary Ecology
    • Using trees of relationship (phylogenies) to address ecological questions
    • E.g., evolution of swordtail length and preference in platys
  • Behavioral Ecology
    • Comparing a few closely related species to address ecological questions
  • Paleoecology
    • Attempting to recreate the ecology of ancient times
    • One of the goals is to recreate the ancient environment in which the lineages may have evolved
proximate fields revisited

Population

Community

Ecosystem

Proximate Fields Revisited
  • Trends down pyramid:
    • Increase in geographicscale
    • From single species to multiple species
    • Increasing number of ecological factors that may be influential
    • Decreasing certainty in results
assignment for next week
Assignment for Next week:
  • Establish your Ecological Footprint
    • How much of an impact you have on the planet
  • Instructions are all online, and available here
  • Turn in at beginning of class
    • We will discuss it then
next week the tour of the basic fields of ecology begins
Next Week: The Tour of the Basic Fields of Ecology Begins
  • Population ecology
    • Next week’s emphasis
  • Community ecology
  • Ecosystem ecology
  • Conservation Issues
    • Application of above to real world problems