Important Note

Dr. Carlin taught Bio 245 for three years in support of Dr. Cindy JohnsonÕs Fulbright stay in Africa. With her return for Fall 2010 she now teaches this class in upcoming Fall semesters. What follows is my syllabus for the fall 2010 semester and does NOT reflect the course design, content or point values of Dr. JohnsonÕs class.

Course Overview

This course is one of the most deliberately synthetic classes offered at Gustavus. You will learn to synthesize seemingly separate facts about DNA, the U.S. Department of Interior, metapopulation theory, linear regression, nature writing and more into a cohesive whole. Integrating concepts from different classes is one of the toughest intellectual hurdles you face for success in college, and it is not going to be easy (although I hope it will be fun!). One of the best means of combining disparate disciplines is through writing, and so the course will involve a good deal of instruction and practice with argumentation and writing.

Bio 245 should serve both biology majors and non-majors within the environmental studies program. As this course is offered by the Biology department, the material will focus primarily on fundamental concepts in ecology, genetics, and evolution that underlie efforts to understand the world’s biological diversity. Non-science majors are encouraged to review these basic concepts often and, if necessary, seek background instruction from books on reserve, Dr. Carlin or tutors. In addition to biology, students will gain exposure to the various political, economic, sociological perspectives on the environment.

As this year's Gustavus Global Insight is on Food and Nutrition, and as the 2010 Nobel Conference is on Making Food Good, we will learn several things about food and biodiversity. Specifically:

  • US industrial agriculture - who does it and how
  • Recent alternatives to modern agriculture - incl. a field trip to a local farm
  • Caviar - political unrest, food as a class indicator, conservation of migratory species
  • Edible beetles - cultural values, food, and insect smuggling
  • Vanilla - African biodiversity, species concepts, and tropical plant overharvesting
  • Wreckfish - a seafood conservation success story

Labs for this course are a mixture of field experiences, class discussions and computer modelling. Please dress appropriately for field work: shoes with strong ankle support, socks and long pants, comfortable clothes that cover skin. Don’t wear anything that can’t get muddy. You may wish to bring sunscreen, raingear, gloves, insect repellent, etc. If you have diabetic needs, please bring along emergency supplies. Beware of poison ivy, thorns, spines, insect stings, spider bites and sunburn.

The success of the labs entirely depends on your participation! Field trips are hampered by travel time, so do NOT be late or YOU WILL BE LEFT BEHIND!!! If you have an injury or are otherwise unsure if you can physically participate, please let me know ASAP and I will do everything I can to have you participate in a meaningful and safe manner (see Gustavus’ policy on the American Disabilities Act).

Course Goals: Upon completion of the course, students are expected to:

    Gain a rigorous biological foundation of conservation, specifically:

  • Understand where biodiversity occurs (ecosystem ecology)
  • Understand how biodiversity is interrelated (community ecology)
  • Understand how species are maintained (population biology)
  • Understand how biodiversity originates (evolutionary biology)
  • Learn more about food production and consumption as it impacts biodiversity conservation
  • Demonstrate improvement in writing and numeracy regarding biological concepts
  • Actively apply critical thinking to oral discussions and in writing
  • Appreciate the legal, philosophical and sociological problems with (and opportunities for) effective biological conservation
  • Appreciate the difficulty of species and ecosystem management
  • Learn about habitats & organisms that you may have never heard of
  • Actively participate in discussions and help mould the course structure when necessary

What is expected during this course?

Attendance: I expect that all classes and labs be attended.

Weekly Quizzes worth 8 points each (lowest score dropped): 8pts. x 11 (-1 quiz) = 80 pts.

Observation writing: field notebook, 10 pts.

Information literacy: point-of-view in three stories, 10 pts.

Scientific proposal / report writing: habitat management plan, 70 pts.

Oral communication: discussion participation, 10 pts and a habitat presentation, 15 pts.

Make-Up Exams, Missed Assignments, Extra Credit: None.

Make-up exams are possible with written documentation (dean’s, doctor's or coach’s notice) but are not recommended as their difficulty and length is much increased.

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Grading Scale

  • A 187-200, A- 180-186 pts.
  • B+ 173-179, B 167-172, B- 160-166 pts.
  • C+ 153-159, C 147-152, C- 140-146 pts.
  • D 120-139, F <120

Instructor Expectations of Dr. Carlin: I promise to provide as current and relevant information as possible and deliver it in a timely and (hopefully) interesting fashion. I promise to try and make all appointments on time (my employers may sometimes hamper this). I promise to listen carefully to questions and be otherwise courteous. I promise to admit when I don’t know something (this will probably happen often) and try to find out the answer for you (if said answer actually exists). I promise that I am going to have fun, despite the horrible creeping brainstrain that I might cause you.

  • I expect you to be professional: if you attend lecture, be on time. No cell phones, no disrespectful language, no studying for other classes during lecture, etc.
  • Attendance is not taken for lecture sessions, but is mandatory for labs. Read the policies below on makeups.
  • It is important that you read the suggested text pages before class!
  • If you are having trouble keeping up or synthesizing the material, come see me – I want to help!!!
  • Biology affects you every day, whether or not you are aware of it. Keep an eye out for any news story that you find relevant to our material & let me know! I have no problem leaving the syllabus for in-depth discussion of biological issues.

Class Resources:

Instructor: Dr. Joel L. Carlin (address as "Joel" or "Dr. Carlin," whatever you prefer)

Office: Nobel Hall of Science 336; Phone: 933-6305; E-mail:

Office hours: TBA

Accessibility: I prefer to consult with you during posted office hours. Outside of these posted hours, an open office door means that you are welcome to ask questions, otherwise please e-mail me for an appointment. I am very willing to make appointments for odd hours, although this is not in effect after 5pm the night before an exam!

Course Readings (a small selection)

The required text is van Dyke’s Conservation Biology.

Biology by Brooker, Widmaier, Graham and Stiling (2008)

A Dictionary of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics by Roger J. Lincoln (1998)

The Dictionary of Ecology and Environmental Science, edited by Henry W. Art (1993)

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Assignments [Skills Practiced] and Point Values

Weekly quizzes worth 8 points each (lowest score dropped) [Information recall] 80 pts.

Ecological footprint homework [Personal reflection] 5

Essay 1 topic and literature cited [Organizational skills] 4

Essay 1: natural biotic and abiotic factors of an ecosystem [Literature review] 10

Nobel conference summary [Literacy; Reflection] 5

Essay 2: vertebrate population growth models [Experimental results] 15

Field notes, second evaluation [Observational writing] 10

Essay 3 outline, budget and literature cited [Organizational skills] 6

Speech: ecosystem management plan [Oral communication] 15

Essay 3: ecosystem management plan [Proposal Writing] 35

Participation in lab and discussion [Oral comm.; Reflection] 10

Out-of-class 2 hour conservation activity [Recall; Reflection] 5

Point total = 200 pts.

Quizzes: You will be given eleven fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice quizzes that cover the previous week’s material. However a quiz may also include a frequently missed question from the previous quiz. Make-up quizzes are only offered after the first excused absence (i.e., no make-up when you miss a quiz due to sports or performances the first time). At semester’s end the lowest score of the eleven quizzes is dropped from consideration in calculating your grade.

Assignments: There are a variety of these. Some of the major tasks include:

  • Field notebooks: Students are required to maintain a small portable notebook where they will collect quantitative and descriptive data on the ecological quality and integrity of several natural areas in the St. Peter area. Notebooks will be collected twice at random.
  • Report writing: Students are asked to summarize known scientific data, rank biological conservation priorities, evaluate socioeconomic context and suggest a plan of action for a single imperiled habitat. The report is to demonstrate critical thinking, mastery of skills taught in lab and concepts taught in lecture, a synthesis of ideas and information literacy. Sections of this paper (outlines, references and drafts) are submitted for review before the final report is due.
  • Habitat presentation: Students demonstrate mastery of audience, context and logical argumentation by explaining their habitat in the form of a 12 minute speech.

Make-Up Exams/Labs, Missed Assignments, Extra Credit: None. (almost). No make-up exams or labs will be offered without prior notification and an extreme emergency excuse (i.e., death or medical emergency; in each case, official verification is required). Please note that activities such as a job, previously purchased vacation tickets, an athletic event or other extracurricular activity, studying for another class, or oversleeping are not valid excuses for missing an activity. No late assignments will be accepted without the officially verified excuses listed above.

Useful Internet Links:

Student-Generated Webpages

Fall 2009 Class Webpages: Mexico Outdoors

Fall 2008 Class Webpages: China Outdoors

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We will discuss landscape ecology and its impacts on conservation practice.

We will discuss the politics and science behind global ecosystem protection.

Field work is strongly emphasized, including formal instruction in taking field notes.

We will exhaustively review the history of wolf management.

Diversity in species and habitats will be extensively discussed.

Students will be trained in aquatic and terrestrial ecological sampling.

We will learn about population dynamics in both endangered and invasive species.