Approved by Faculty Senate. 

University Studies Course Approval

Department or Program: Biology

Course Number: BIOL 423

Number of Credits: 4

Course Title: Ecosystem Ecology

Catalog Description: Ecosystem Ecology BIOL 423 - 3 S.H. The structure and function of ecosystems including biogeochemical cycling, food webs and introduction to modeling.  Lecture only. Prerequisites: BIOL 308, 310, 313 and MATH 150, 155.  Offered alternate years.

This is an existing course that has previously been approved by A2C2: Yes

This is a new course proposal: No.
(If this is a new course proposal, the WSU Curriculum Approval Form must also be completed as in the process prescribed by WSU Regulation 3-4.)

Department contact Person for this course: Michael D. Delong












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The proposed course is designed to satisfy the requirements in (select one area only):

Course Requirements:

A. Basic Skills:
     1. College Reading and Writing ____
     2. Oral Communication ____
     3. Mathematics ____
     4. Physical Development and Wellness ____

B. Arts & Sciences Core:
     1. Humanities ____
     2. Natural Sciences      
     3. Social Science ____
     4. Fine & Performing Arts ____

C. Unity and Diversity:
     1. Critical Analysis ____
     2. Science and Social Policy ____
     3.a. Global Perspectives ____
        b. Multicultural Perspectives ____
     4.a. Contemporary Citizenship ____
        b. Democratic Institutions ____

D. Flagged Courses
     1. Writing ___
     2. Oral _X___
     3.a. Mathematics/Statistics ____
        b. Critical analysis ____





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Approval/Disapproval Recommendations

Department Recommendation:  Approved  X            Disapproved _____      Date   14 Sep 2001

Dean's Recommendation:  Approved             Disapproved           Date                   

USS Recommendation:  Approved             Disapproved           Date                   

A2C2 Recommendation:  Approved             Disapproved           Date                   

Faculty Senate Recommendation:  Approved             Disapproved           Date                   

Academic Vice President's Recommendation:  Approved             Disapproved           Date                   

President's Decision:  Approved             Disapproved           Date                   

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Material Submitted for Course Approval

Overview of BIO 423 Ecosystem Ecology.  This lecture-only course is designed to provide students with an understanding of the biotic and abiotic interactions that occur at levels of organization from the ecosystem to global scale.  The course specifically addresses:

bulletNutrient cycles bulletFood webs and trophic dynamics bulletEcosystem theory and approaches to model relevant concepts bulletHuman effects on nutrient cycles and energy flow

BIOL 423 is an upper division course available as an elective in biology to biology majors with an emphasis on students in the ecology and environmental science option.  It is also available to students in the chemistry and geoscience environmental science option.  The course is intended to provide an in-depth examination of ecological processes at the ecosystem level of organization.  The focus, therefore, is on nutrient cycling and energy flow.  The course begins with a theoretical approach to cycling and energy flow, which is then applied to real world situations as a means of demonstrating the impacts of altering ecosystem structure and function.

The course is divided into two parts.  The first part combines instructor-led discussion/lecture with assignments to give students a base of information on the theory and application of ecosystem study.  Assignments focus on simulations and the development of models to understand theoretical and applied aspects of ecosystem ecology.  The second part of the course consists of student-led discussions that can be divided into two parts: discussion of methodologies used to address ecosystem-level questions; and discussion of research papers relating to the application of ecosystem theory in real-life situations.

Course Syllabus Link for BIOL 423 (Ecosystem Ecology)

Note: The syllabus outcome grids and narrative following the grid will be included as part of the syllabus in future offerings of this course

Syllabus – Outcome Grids




Earn significant course credit through oral presentations

Understand the features and types of speaking in their disciplines

Adapt their speaking to field-specific audiences

Receive appropriate feedback from professor and peers, including suggestions for improvement

Make use of technologies used for research and speaking in the fields

Learn the conventions of evidence, format, usage, and documentation in their fields








Exams and Lecture Assignments







Oral Presentations







 How does this course satisfy the "Oral Flag" requirements?

Ecosystem Ecology (BIOL 423) is a relatively new science.  As such, it is wide open for debate/discussion of the validity of the theories and concepts as well as whether or not sample methodologies currently used might be the best approach for addressing questions.  It is for this reason that I adopted the use of student-led discussions as part of this course. An additional advantage to the approach used here over students presenting a full lecture or seminar on the topic is it gets them involved in a critically important form of scientific speaking - the intellectual conversation/debate with a group of their peers with a range of intellectual levels and contributions to the discussion. 

Each student will lead two discussions, each on a different primary topic, thus giving them a chance to improve their skills and confidence in intellectual discussion.  The use of an evaluation form given to the students in advance clearly outlines what the goals and expectations are for their presentation.  Student evaluations will also be used, but their scope will be limited so that participants can concentrate on the subject at hand rather than how well the information is being presented.

The opportunity to participate in discussion is also a continuing opportunity for improvement.  Students will be given a basic set of criteria in advance.  For example, provide useful input in X number of discussions and receive the maximum number of points; participate in Y number and the number of points awards drops proportionately.  Participants will receive periodic evaluations of where they are in terms of participation credits and will be asked to meet with the instructor for suggestions on what to look for in discussion if their participation level is very low.

The result is that students get multiple opportunities to present and participate in intellectual discussions, thus gaining experience in a very important facet of the scientific process.  Additionally, they receive constant feedback on performance and possible avenues for improvement, when needed.