Biology 301M. Ecology, Evolution, and Society

Biology 301M - Ecology, Evolution, and Society - Spring 2020

Designed for non-science majors. Introduction to environmental adaptations, diversity of organisms, population growth and limitations, evolution, origin of life, species interactions, community organization and ecosystem function, and human impact on the environment. Three lecture hours and one discussion hour a week for one semester. May not be counted toward a degree in biology.

BIO 301M is part of UT's Core Curriculum, and accordingly,
this course meets standards and objectives of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for Natural Science and Technology. These include the following four areas: Spaceship Earth
  • Critical Thinking Skills: creative thinking, innovation,
    inquiry, and analysis, evaluation and synthesis of information.

  • Communication Skills: effective development, interpretation and
    expression of ideas through written, oral and visual communication.

  • Empirical and Quantitative Skills: manipulation and analysis of
    numerical data or observable facts resulting in informed conclusions.

  • Teamwork: ability to consider different points of view and to
    work effectively with others to support a shared purpose or goal.

    Familiarize yourself with campus safety procedures.

    Each of us quite naturally perceives ourself to be at the center of things, but no one would deny that other events ultimately have their influence, too. Likewise, many people unconsciously place humanity at the exact center of the universe. In this view, the utility of anything is measured by how it can be used by humans. For many, everything has its dollar value. Such anthropocentrism is understandable, but narrow and misguided.

    It is a worthwhile exercise to imagine that something else, such as an ant, a lizard, an oak tree, or an HIV virus, is really the focus of the cosmos. From such a perspective, the almighty dollar quickly loses its primacy. Survival (Survival Kit) and reproduction assume a lot more significance. What good are lizards? Indeed, what good are you?!
    Why should I take this course?

    Professor (Lectures):
    Eric R. Pianka, Patterson 125 (471-7472),
    Office: Patterson 125 -- Mondays and Fridays 1-2 PM (or by appointment)
    Lectures: Tuesday and Thursday, 11AM-1230 PM (Welch 2.122)

    Teaching Assistants (Discussion Sections):

    David Ledesma, AM Discussion Sections
    Office: Patterson 122 -- make appointment by email.

    Wednesday      8-9 AM RLP 0.122
    Wednesday    9-10 AM RLP 0.122
    Wednesday   10-11 AM GDC 2.502
    Wednesday   11-12 AM GDC 2.502

    Kyle Wilhite, PM Discussion Sections
    Office: Patterson 113 -- make appointment by email.

    Wednesday   1-2 PM GEA 127
    Wednesday   2-3 PM GEA 127
    Wednesday   3-4 PM RLM 5.126
    Wednesday   4-5 PM RLM 5.126

    This course assumes knowledge of High School algebra, geometry, and genetics.
    You will be expected to be able to understand 3-dimensional graphs and be able to manipulate simple equations.


    We will attempt to teach you the basic ecology and evolution that everyone should know to become better informed citizens of this, our one and only planet, Spaceship Earth -- we will also do our utmost to encourage you to think. Here are links to some of the things we'll cover in discussion sections: You are expected to read all 27 of these. The first nine will be covered on the first exam, the second eight on the second exam and the remaining ten will be covered on the third exam. All 27 will be included on the final exam. Please read "Scientific Methods" as soon as you can, as we will cover this in early discussions and lectures.

    Epidemiology Scientific Methods Natural Selection On Human Nature
    Our Hunter-Gatherer Heritage Evolution of Uncaring Humanoids
    Global Warming Population Growth Evolution's Problem Gamblers (Download printable version of Evolution's Problem Gamblers)

    Agriculture Unburnable Oil The Vanishing Book of Life on Earth

    Horse Power The Weakest Link Technology Economics Intelligent Design?

    Energy Money Corporations Land Water
    Food Sewage Plastics Solutions Space Travel

    Watch these videos:

    Cosmos "Evolution" movie (50 seconds)
    NASA's "Average Temperatures 1884-2012" (45 seconds)
    Ernest Kline's Dance, Monkeys, Dance (3.5 minutes) Link: "The Monkey Trap"
    ERP's Domino Effects (6.5 minutes)

    New York Times Link: Antarctic Ice Melts
    New York Times Link: Galapagos Climate Change
    New York Times Link: Easter Island Rising Sea Levels

    Download Syllabus: This constitutes a contract between each student, me, and UT


    Pianka, Evolutionary Ecology, 6th or 7th ed.

    Sixth Edition out of print but available
    Seventh Edition - eBook available from Google
    Read On Line at Canvas (use Safari)
    (other browsers may not work):Course Documents

    Chapter 1 - Background
    Chapter 2 - Classical Biogeography
    Chapter 3 - Meteorology
    Chapter 4 - Climate and Vegetation
    Chapter 5 - Resource Acquisition and Allocation
    Chapter 6 - Rules of Inheritance
    Chapter 7 - Evolution and Natural Selection
    Chapter 8 - Vital Statistics of Populations
    Chapter 9 - Population Growth and Regulation
    Chapter 10 - Sociality
    Chapter 11 - Interactions Between Populations
    Chapter 12 - Competition
    Chapter 13 - The Ecological Niche
    Chapter 14 - Experimental Ecology
    Chapter 15 - Predation and Parasitism
    Chapter 16 - Phylogenetics in Ecology
    Chapter 17 - Community and Ecosystem Ecology
    Chapter 18 - Biodiversity and Community Stability
    Chapter 19 - Island Biogeography and Conservation Biology

    Ecopoetry 1: Kurt Vonnegut's "Requiem" (68 seconds)

    Ecopoetry 2: James Dickey's "For the Last Wolverine" (6 minutes)

    Note: UT provides students with 500megs per week FREE, if you need more bandwidth, you can buy 10 gigabytes per week for only $3 per semester (More information provided here).

    Excerpts from student Evaluations of past classes

    Grading and Grades:

    Hour Exams:

    Thursday, 20 February
    Thursday, 2 April
    Thursday, 7 May

    Final Exam: Wednesday, May 13, 2-5 pm

    Download Sample First Exam

    Download Sample Second Exam

    Download Sample Third Exam

    Best 2 of the above 3 hour exams will count 20% each (40% total), your performance on problems and attendance and assignments in discussion sections will count for an additional 20%. The comprehensive final exam makes up the other 40% of your letter grade.

    These four exams and your performance in discussion sections are your only opportunities to earn your letter grade. UT's "new" plus/minus grading system will be employed.

    No "extra" points are available. Your lowest hour exam will be dropped, so you can miss ONE exam (for which you'll be scored a zero).

    You will be expected to "know" everything the instructors say in lecture and discussion sections, including pauses and nuances, as well as everything assigned in reading assignments. Exams will be in multiple choice format. Each hour exam will cover about one-third of the class. Everyone must take at least two of the three hour exams plus the comprehensive 3 hour final exam. No "Make Up" exams will be given.

    Final Grades are final, carved in stone, and non-negotiable (please don't even bother to question them!). They are a measure of your own phenotype, and not our reponsibility. We expect you to accept your own performance as an integral part of yourself.

    Videotapes of Lectures __________________________________________________________________

    This class uses the Lectures Online recording system. This system records the audio and video material presented in class for you to review after class. Links for the recordings will appear in the Lectures Online tab on the Canvas page for this class. You will find this tab along the left side navigation in Canvas. To review a recording, simply click on the Lectures Online navigation tab and follow the instructions presented to you on that page.

    Learn more about how to use the Lectures Online system at Lectures On Line. Your professor decides when and for how long recordings will be available for you to review.

    How to get straight A's Class Lecture notes

    A Texas hognosed snake Heterodon in a threat display.
    A Texas Alligator lizard Gerrhonotus threat display.
    Australian Strophurus gecko defensive posture.

    Outline of Subjects to be covered in the Course

    Biology 301M - Ecology, Evolution, and Society

    Professor Eric R. Pianka

    Introduction: Background

    Definitions and Groundwork, anthropocentrism, the importance of wild organisms in pristine natural environments, the urgency of basic ecological research, Scaling and the hierarchical structure of biology, levels of approach in biology, domain of ecology, the scientific method, models, multiple causality, environment, nature versus nurture, limiting factors, tolerance limits, the principle of allocation, genetics, natural selection, self-replicating molecular assemblages, units of selection, levels of selection, speciation, phylogeny, classification and systematics.

    The same hognosed snake Heterodon feigning death a few minutes later.

    Macroevolution, natural selection and adaptation, the species concept. Origin of life, prokaryotes and eukaryotes, introduction to the diversity of organisms. Domains, traits (and example organisms) of kingdoms [archaebacteria, eubacteria, protists, fungi, plants, animals] Adaptations, structures, symbiotic relationships, including variations in life cycles

    How organisms are classified and why, phylogenetic systematics. One major taxon will be examined in depth (Lizards), we will investigate classification, phylogeny, and biogeography. Evolution will be related to the history of earth

    History and Biogeography
    Self-replicating molecular assemblages, geological past, classical biogeography, plate tectonics and continental drift

    Major determinants of climate, local perturbations, variations in time and space, global weather modification

    Climate and Vegetation
    Plant life forms and biomes, microclimate, primary production and evapotranspiration, soil formation and primary succession, ecotones, classification of natural communities, aquatic ecosystems

    Physiological Ecology
    Physiological optima and tolerance curves, energetics of metabolism and movement, energy budgets and the principle of allocation, adaptation and deterioration of environment, heat budgets and thermal ecology, water economy in desert organisms, other limiting materials, sensory capacties and environmental cues, adaptive suites and design constraints.

    Principles of Population Ecology

    Life tables and schedules of reproduction, net reproductive rate and reproductive value, stable age distribution, intrinsic rate of increase, population growth and regulation, Pearl-Verhulst logistic equation, density dependence and independence, r and K selection, population "cycles," cause and effect, metapopulations, evolution of reproductive tactics, evolution of old age and death rates, use of space, evolution of sex, sex ratio, mating systems, sexual selection, fitness and the individual's status in the population, kin selection, reciprocal altruism, parent-offspring conflict and group selection, game theory and evolutionary stable strategies.

    Interactions Between Populations
    Complex examples of population interactions, indirect interactions, competition theory, competitive exclusion, balance between intraspecific and interspecific competition, evolutionary consequences of competition, laboratory experiments and evidence from nature, character displacement and limiting similarity, future prospects, Predation, predator-prey oscillations, "prudent" predation and optimal yield, theory of predation, functional and numerical responses, selected experiments and observations, evolutionary consequences of predation: predator escape tactics, aspect diversity and escape tactic diversity, coevolution, plant apparency theory, evolution of pollination mechanisms, symbiotic relationships.

    The Role of Phylogenetics in Ecology
    Phylogenetic systematics, independent contrasts, the comparative method, evolutionary ecomorphology, ecological equivalents and convergent evolution.

    Community Ecology
    Classification of communities, interface between climate and vegetation, plant life forms and biomes, leaf tactics, succession, transition matrices, aquatic systems, community organization, trophic levels and food webs, the community matrix, guild structure, primary productivity and evapotranspiration, pyramids of numbers, biomass, and energy, energy flow and ecological energetics, saturation with individuals and with species, species diversity, diversity of lowland rainforest trees, community stability, evolutionary convergence and ecological equivalents, ecotones, vegetational continuua, soil formation and primary succession, evolution of communities.

    Island Biogeography and Conservation Biology
    Classical biogeography, biogeographic "rules," continental drift, island biogeography, species-area relationships, equilibrium theory, compression hypothesis, islands as ecological experiments: Krakatau, Darwin's finches, and other examples, metapopulations, conservation biology, human impacts on natural ecosystems, hot spots of biodiversity, applied biogeography and the design of nature preserves.

    To go to Pianka Lab Homepage

    Last updated 15 January 2020 by Eric R. Pianka