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Ecology (Integrative Biology and Plant Biology 355)

Ecology 2021 Syllabus. In Spring 2022 Ecology will be taught by Dr. Nick Haddad. Dr. Lindell will teach it again in Spring 2023.



Integrative Biology 355, 3 credits

Spring 2021

Lecture: T & Th 10:20-11:40 pm

Zoom link for lectures and office hours:

Meeting ID: 964 1045 2949

Passcode: 414847

Instructor. Dr. Catherine Lindell, Associate Professor, Integrative Biology/Center for Global Change and Earth Observations

Instructor Contact Info and Office Hours. Dr. Lindell, Office hours are Thursdays 11:40-1:40 p.m. I am happy to make an appointment at another time to talk with you if you are not available during those office hours. If you have questions that require short answers, feel free to use email. However, if you have a detailed question, please use the zoom link to talk with me.

Teaching Assistant. Tracy Melvin, Tracy, a Ph.D. candidate in Fisheries & Wildlife, will hold office hours Wednesdays, 2:30-4:30 pm or by appointment.

D2L. We will be using the d2l system ( to make course materials available to you. After logging into your d2l account (using your MSU credentials), the first page you should see has links to the courses you are taking this semester. After selecting Ecology, you will be presented with several tabs at the top of the page relating only to this course. The Content tab is where all of your course materials will be. After clicking "Content", the Table of Contents on the left side of the page will have all the components broken up into "modules". Please contact Tracy if you struggle with the use of d2l and she can help you.

Lecture Slides. The link for access to the lecture slides for classes are on d2l. We will try to put lecture slides on d2l within a day’s time of when the lecture was presented. We can’t promise this will always happen but it should most of the time. Please do not skip class because the lecture slides are d2l. The slides include major points but not all the details we go over in lecture. Recordings of the class lectures will be on MediaSpace.

Required texts. We will be using an online platform called SimUText, as the required course text. You will use the modules for homework assignments (the feedback and graded questions listed in the Computation of Grades section below). Please see instructions below (from the company SimBio) for purchasing and gaining access to the platform. Cost is $30.

It is important that you review the information below before you subscribe to the SimUText for Ecology at Michigan State UniversityTo avoid possible problems, do not wait until the last minute.

    Visit to confirm that the SimUText application will work on your computer, and/or to explore your options if there is a problem.
  2. SimUText Voucher Code (optional)
    If you purchased a SimUText Voucher from your bookstore, be sure to have it with you when subscribing, as you will need to enter your voucher code.
  3. Registration Link
    When you are ready to subscribe and download installers, follow this link to initiate the process:
  4. SimUText Application Installers
    After you have completed the subscription process, if you need to download the SimUText application installers again, you will be able to access them by logging into the SimUText Student Portal (

Should you encounter problems, you may need your course-specific Access Key. It is: UktD-AxsJ-Wwqy-jEbG-g4b8

Problems or questions? Visit SimUText Support (

The SimUText System has a routine maintenance window Thursdays from 9:00pm – 12:00am mountain time. During this window the SimUText System may be unavailable. However, you can work on assignments in offline mode if the necessary modules are downloaded ahead of time. After maintenance is complete and the system is online, you will need to log into SimUText to submit your answers.

Computer Equipment. Some form of computing device – tablet, laptop, desktop – is required for this class. A ZOOM connection is required to participate in the live lecture presentations and office hours.

Course Description. Ecology is the study of the distribution and abundance of organisms. We will study the relationships of living organisms with each other and the abiotic environment. We will cover principles of individual, population, community, and ecosystem ecology. We will also consider global change and other anthropogenic stressors as influences on the distribution and abundance of organisms.

Prerequisites: Biological Science 162 or 182H or Lyman Briggs 144

Big ideas of the course:

1. All populations have the potential for exponential growth but rarely is exponential growth realized.

2. Species are not distributed randomly. A species’ range and habitat use are determined by its interactions with both abiotic and biotic components of the environment.

3. All species interact with other species.

4. Numerous species coexist in ecological communities, but some communities are more diverse than others.

5. The flow of energy through ecosystems determines the abundance of organisms and the trophic complexity of communities.

6. Nutrients cycle between abiotic and biotic compartments in the environment.

7. The physical environment varies in ways that influence the adaptations of individuals, the abundance of populations, and the composition of communities.

Course Objectives:

Upon completion of the course students should be able to:

1.   define ecology and distinguish it from concepts like environmental advocacy;

2.   distinguish between populations, communities, and ecosystems;

3.     identify several models of population growth and constraints on population growth;

4.   identify several key components of a strong ecological research investigation;

5.   describe some of the factors that influence species’ ranges and several specific examples of species with very restricted and very large ranges;

6.   identify key concepts of island biogeography theory;

7.   explain two challenges in quantifying the species richness of any given area;

8.   describe the common pattern of species richness across latitudes and identify several of the major drivers of this pattern;

9.   describe a number of important interspecific interactions in temperate ecosystems;

11. describe what a model is, particularly in the context of ecology, and several of the forms models can take;

12. provide examples of how climate change has influenced species abundances, distributions, and phenologies;

13. explain how ecosystems ecology differs from community or population ecology;

14. explain distinct characteristics of urban and agricultural ecosystems and general patterns of species richness and abundance in these systems.

Computation of Grades

Exams (3) - 50 points each; lowest score dropped


Bird data assignments (2) – 30 points each


Feedback questions from SimUText readings (10) – 5 points each


Graded questions from SimUText readings (10)- points vary by assignment


Final exam




Grading scale

90% and up 4.0







Exams. The exams will primarily have short-answer questions. They will cover material presented in lecture and material from the SimUText readings. The final exam will include material from the entire course. Your grade will be assigned based on your point total for the whole course and the distribution of grades of the whole class.

Make-up for Exams. There are generally no make-ups. The only situations in which make-ups may be possible are in the case of medical necessity (e.g. you are very ill) or other emergency (e.g. death in the family). In both of these instances you must present Dr. Lindell with hard-copy documentation of the issue (e.g. a doctor’s note), in advance if possible. Any make-ups must be completed within one week of the originally scheduled exam unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Assignment due dates are marked in the syllabus.  You will receive no credit for assignments turned in after the deadline. Detailed instructions for the bird data assignments will be on d2l.

Special Circumstances. If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with us, please email Dr. Lindell within the first week of the course. 

Commitment to Inclusion and Nondiscrimination. We are committed to maintaining an inclusive and nondiscriminatory course. If you have suggestions along these lines, please feel free to communicate with Dr. Lindell.

Religious Holidays. If there is a conflict between your observance of a religious holiday and a class requirement, please let Dr. Lindell know at least one week ahead of time.

Academic Integrity Policy.  Please see the following website for MSU regulations, ordinances, and policies regarding academic honesty and integrity: If we discover that any work you produce for this class violates the policies on this website you will receive no points for that component of the course.

Classtime Behavior. Please be considerate of other students and the professor during class. If you have suggestions about the online class presentations, please communicate with Dr. Lindell.



1. Respect the privacy of your classmates and what they share in class.

2. Ask classmates for clarification if you find a discussion posting offensive or difficult to understand.

3. Avoid sweeping generalizations. Back up your stated opinions with facts and reliable sources.

4. Understand that we may disagree and that exposure to other people’s opinions is part of the learning experience.

5. Be respectful of each other. We’re all in this together. Before posting a comment, ask whether you would be willing to make the same comment to a person face-to-face.

6. Keep in mind that you are taking a college class. Something that would be inappropriate in a traditional classroom is also inappropriate in an online classroom. 

Professionalism and Email Etiquette. Please use the course to develop skills of professionalism that will be valuable to you throughout your life. Aspects of professionalism include respect, timeliness, engagement, courtesy, and careful oral and written communication skills. For example, if you e-mail Dr. Lindell or Tracy, please start your e-mail with a greeting such as “Hello Dr. Lindell” or “Dear Tracy” rather than launching into your message with no greeting. This is a good policy to follow in any e-mail correspondence with professors or supervisors. Also, please be aware that Tracy and I probably do not keep the same hours you do, particularly if you are in another time zone; we will generally receive and respond to student emails Monday-Friday during the day.

Honors Option. Students interested in an honors option will write a research paper. You must contact Dr. Lindell within the first week of class if you are interested in this option.

Course Evaluation. Michigan State University takes seriously the opinion 
of students in the evaluation of the effectiveness of instruction, and 
has implemented the SIRS (Student Instructional Rating System) process 
to gather student feedback. The Integrative Biology Department utilizes 
the “online SIRS” system, and you will receive an e-mail sometime during 
the last two weeks of class asking you to fill out the SIRS web form at 
your convenience. Please note that the final grade for this course will 
not be accessible on STUINFO during the week following the submission of 
grades for the course unless the SIRS online form has been filled out. 
You also have the option on the online SIRS form to decline to 
participate in the evaluation of the course – we hope, however, 
that you will be willing to give us constructive feedback so that we 
may improve the course.

Course Material. As members of a learning community, students are expected to respect the intellectual property of course instructors. All course materials presented to students are the copyrighted property of the course instructor and are subject to the following conditions of use. Students may not record lectures or any other classroom activities. Also, please do not post lecture materials to any sites. Any student violating the conditions described above may face academic disciplinary sanctions.