BIOL 308: Ecological Dynamics
Gregor Fussmann (Stewart Biology W6/4)
Frederic Guichard (Stewart Biology W3/3)
Goal : At the end of the course, students should be familiar with the general concepts and
properties of dynamical systems (e.g. stability and variability) and how they apply to ecology.
Students should acquire the mathematical and computational skills to analyze ecological
dynamical systems. Students should learn to recognize the parallels between empirical
descriptions and mathematical formulations of natural systems. Students should understand the
major processes (e.g. competition, predator-prey) driving the dynamics of various natural
ecosystems (aquatic, terrestrial).
Evaluation : Midterm exam (30%), Final exam (45%), Lab reports (Total: 25%; Lab 1: 4%,
Lab 2-4: 7% each). Lab attendance is mandatory.
Exams will have multiple choice questions, problems and short development questions. Final
exam will not be comprehensive.
Book : Mittelbach, Gary G. (2012) Community Ecology. Sinauer, Sunderland. 400 pages. ISBN
Lab sections :
Simulations using MATLAB (2 labs):
The general goal is that students will be able to execute and understand dynamic ecological
models in the programming language MATLAB. Students should be able to execute and modify
the MATLAB code in order to explore the behaviour of models.
Simulations using SimUText (2 labs) :
Students will explore the dynamical aspects of key ecological concepts (resource limitation,
competitive exclusion, top-down control, key stone predation) in the context of an interactive
teaching software program.
Labs will also have a Tutorial section to practice problem solving as tested in the exams.
Students will form teams of 3 people and will answer specific research questions and present
their results in a joint, written lab report.
Reports will be due one week after the lab. Reports will be submitted as hardcopies to the TAs
and there will be a penalty for late submission (10%/day). Lab attendance is mandatory.
Reports handed in by students who missed part of or the entire Lab section for which they
signed up without excuse will be marked as 0%. The mark of team members who did attend
the Lab shall not be affected; their report will be marked as usual. If the cause for missing a Lab
section is foreseeable, the course coordinator must be informed in advance. Permission to miss a
Lab section will only be granted for the most serious reasons (illness etc.) and proof will be
requested. Special announcements:
1) In the event of extraordinary circumstances beyond the University’s control, the content
and/or evaluation scheme in this course is subject to change.
2) In accord with McGill University’s Charter of Students’ Rights, students in this course
have the right to submit in English or in French any written work that is to be graded.
3) McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore all students must understand the
meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the
Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (see www.mcgill.ca/integrity for
4) Instructors who may adopt the use of text-matching software to verify the originality of
students’ written course work must register for use of the software with Teaching
Technology Services ([email protected]
) and must inform their students before
the drop/add deadline, in writing, of the use of text-matching software in a course.
Gregor Fussmann (Course coordinator)
Biography: Dr. Fussmann studies eco-evolutionary dynamics of interacting populations. He
works with mathematical models as well as with live organisms in aquatic microcosms and in the
field. Dr. Fussmann joined the faculty at McGill in 2004.
Biography: Dr Guichard's research focuses on problems of scales and on spatial dynamics of
ecological communities. His research involves mathematical modeling, field experiments and
remote sensing in marine ecosystems He develops theories explaining large-scale ecological
dynamics from localized interactions between organisms, which are then applied to marine
reserve design. Dr. Guichard joined the faculty at McGill in 2002. List of lectures (with specific goals and readings)and computer labs :
Date Topic Professor
Sept. 04, Tue No lecture. Election Day!
Sept. 06, Thu LESSON 01:Introduction: Dynamical systems Fussmann/Guichard
Sept. 11, Tue LESSON 02: Population growth Fussmann
OBJECTIVES OR GOALS: Density-independent growth:
geometric and exponential growth.
READINGS: Mittelbach p. 65-68.
Sept. 13, Thu LESSON 03: Growth of structured populations I Fussmann
OBJECTIVES OR GOALS: Age- and stage-structure, life
tables and simple Leslie matrices.
READINGS: SimUText Chapter “Life History”
Sept. 18, Tue LESSON 04: Growth of structured populations II; Fussmann
Regulation of population growth I
OBJECTIVES OR GOALS: Complex Leslie matrices;
eigenvector and eigenvalue. Continuous time logistic
model, carrying capacity.
READINGS: Mittelbach p. 68-81.
Sept. 18, 20, Lab 1: Matlab tutorial. Population growth: Discrete vs. TAs/Fussmann/
21 continuous time models Guichard
Sept. 20, Thu LESSON 05: Regulation of population growth II, Time Fussmann
delays and discrete time dynamics
OBJECTIVES OR GOALS: Stability analysis of the