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Biology of Ecological Systems


Biology Master, ENS
Year : 1 (M1)
Semester : 1 (S1)

Course code : BIO-M1-S07-S1

Course name : Biology of Ecological Systems

Coordinator :

Lucie Zinger

ECTS : 6

Keywords :

Biodiversity, ecological communities, species coexistence, ecological networks, ecological scaling, macroecology, eco-evolutionary dynamics, macroevolution, community phylogenetics, biogeography, marine ecology.

Prerequisites for the course :

The targeted audience is advanced undergraduates and graduate students in ecology and evolutionary biology. Participants trained in other fields are welcome provided they had exposure to basic concepts of molecular and cellular biology and fundamental notions of ecology (population growth and regulation, interspecific interactions, functional responses, key ecosystem processes).

Course objectives and description :

This advanced undergraduate/graduate course addresses the topic of ecological system diversity and the underlying biological mechanisms : How do species coexist ? How are their interactions organized ? How do they shape their common ecosystem and adapt in response ? How do species interactions and environmental factors translate into patterns of diversity ? How does diversity evolve ? The purpose of the course is to provide a thorough introduction to these topics, by experts in the fields of environmental biology, community ecology, macroecology, biogeography, as well as biogeochemistry and environmental physics. Lectures will serve to review the basic concepts/models and empirical evidence and introduce cutting-edge questions, while practical sessions will consist in discussing research papers and exploring data bases.

Course week 1 : Macroecology and Macroevolution.
During this week, we will take a conceptual and theoretical approach to biodiversity, and address the topics of macroecologial patterns and their proximate (functional) and ultimate (evolutionary) causal mechanisms. The course will introduce the niche versus neutral theories and quantitative models for the ecology and/or evolution of interaction networks. To investigate the macroevolutionary causes of biodiversity, phylogenetic methods will be presented.

Course week 2 : Ocean’s Ecology and Biodiversity
We will introduce the fundamentals of life diversity in marine environments, starting with the key notions of oceans’ physics and biogeochemistry. We will then move into the question of ocean’s biodiversity and how organisms dispere and adapt in the marine environment. A focus will be made on marine top predators and how one can study them through tracking approaches and satellite imaging. We will then explore the ‘invisible biosphere’ of marine microbes, by paying a special attention to diatoms and protists.

Assessment / evaluation :

The evaluation will be based on the analysis and presentation of a research paper, plus the writing of a short research proposal. The oral presentation of both the article and the research proposal will take place on the last day of class.

Course material (hand-outs, online presentation available, …) :

Slides used by instructors will be provided when possible.

Suggested readings in relationship with the module content (textbook chapters, reviews, articles) :

Bolker BM (2008) Ecological Models and Data in R. Princeton University Press.
Brown JM (1995) Macroecology. Univ. of Chicago Press.
Hubbell SP (2001) The Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography. Princeton Univ. Press.
Loreau M (2010) From Populations to Ecosystems. Princeton Unversity Press.
Magurran AE, McGill BJ (2011) Biological Diversity. Oxford University Press.
Miller CB, Wheeler PA (2012) Biological Oceanography. Wiley-Blackwell.
Morin P (2011) Community Ecology (2nd edition). Wiley-Blackwell.
Pagel M, Pomiankowski A (2007) Evolutionary Genomics and Proteomics. Sinauer.
Pimm SL (2002) Food Webs. Univ. of Chicago Press.
Rosenzweig ML (1995) Species Diversity in Space and Time. Cambridge Univ. Press.
van Straalen NM, Roelofs D (2006) Introduction to Ecological Genomics. Oxford Univ. Press.