BIOL 2060 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Umber, Aisle, Three Steps

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6 Dec 2014
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What is Ecology? September 10, 2014
What is Ecology? Our working definition
The study of the interactions that determine the distribution and abundance of organisms.
Interactions can be with the biotic or abiotic environment.
Two main things that distinguish ecology:
It is interdisciplinary – we need to know things like genetics, physiology, biochemistry,
and behaviour to know how the organism will respond to biotic environment; and we
need to know things like hydrology, atmospheric sciences, and geology to understand
how the organism will respond to the physical (abiotic) environment
It focuses on larger scales of biological organization (from small to big, these are
individual, population, community, and ecosystem) – these higher levels are what
distinguish ecology from other biological domains
What is the difference between ecology and environmentalism?
a. There is no difference. All ecologists are also environmentalists.
a. Clearly not correct.
b. Environmentalism is a social movement, while ecology is a scientific discipline.
c. Environmentalists are concerned with the harmful effects of human activities on the environment,
but ecologists are not.
d. Both B and C.
Ecology is not the same thing as Environmentalism
Ecologist is a term that is used very generally
Ecology is a science, environmentalism is more of a social movement concerned about the
condition of the planet
Ecology is still relevant to humans and the environment
Ecology can be used to solve real world problems
Issues Ecological questions
Nitrogen deposition from inorganic fertilizer use How do extra resources influence individual or
population growth?
Exotic species invasion Will introduced species out-compete native ones?
Why or why not?
Burning fossil fuels How and/or why does rising CO2 influence plant
growth?
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How do we study ecology? The distribution and abundance of Red Kangaroos ( Macropus rufus )
First step: make an observation
oFor any given observation, there can be a variety of hypotheses
oLooking at the map of the distribution of kangaroos in Australia, one can make several
observations, for example:
Red kangaroos are most abundant in SE Australia
Red kangaroos are absent from the east coast of Australia
Second step: propose a hypothesis
oA hypotheses is a proposed explanation for an observed pattern. (A hypothesis is never a
guess, it is something based on experience and theories that have already been developed
– it is based on work that you have put in. Experiments can be used to test hypothesis, but
you can do an experiment and not test a hypothesis; you can make an experiment and not
have a hypothesis before the experiment. So, just because you are doing an experiment it
does not mean that you are going to test a hypothesis.)
Observation: Red kangaroos are absent from the east coast of Australia
Hypothesis: Red kangaroos are absent from the east coast of Australia because
the climate is too cool and wet
Third step: make a prediction
oA scientific prediction is a specific implication of a hypothesis, often in the form of an if-
then statement. For science to advance, predictions must be testable.
o“A specific answer to the question raised by a hypothesis.- False” In order to answer a
hypothesis, you need to collect data first, and we are not even at that point.
oA specific description of something that will happen in the future if a hypothesis is
correct. – False” A prediction can be about something that will happen in the future, but a
scientific prediction doesn’t have to be about the future. i.g. climate change, they make
predictions about reconstructing climate patterns.
Hypothesis: Red kangaroos are absent from the east coast of Australia because
the climate is too cool and wet
Prediction: Red kangaroos will be less abundant at cool, wet sites
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