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Biol 436 Population Ecology and Global Climate Change

 

Fall 2013

215 Thomas Bldg., T & Th 11:15 – 12:30

 

Instructor: Prof. Eric Post

Email:  esp10@psu.edu; phone 865-1556

Office hours:  325 Mueller, Tuesdays from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

 

Course Syllabus (subject to minor modifications)

 

In this class, you will gain an understanding of ecological responses to climate change across levels of organization, from individuals, to populations, to communities, to ecosystems.  You will also learn about how such responses are studied experimentally, observationally, and analytically.  This class is predicated upon critical inquiry, and proceeds along three approaches:  lectures, employing the Socratic method; discussions; and individual student presentations.  Lectures will present core concepts illustrated with case studies, discussions will develop critical thinking skills and confront misinformation about climate change, and student presentations will apply understanding gained throughout the course in assessments of the conservations risks of climate change to focal species.

 

Text:  Most of the lecture material will be developed from Ecology of Climate Change, Eric Post, Princeton University Press (2013).  Additional material will be derived directly from journal articles and other outside readings specified in the schedule below.  NOTE:  The assigned readings pertain to book chapters, newspaper articles, and journal articles that will supplement discussion during lectures and special topics.  You will also be responsible for articles appearing in the Science Tuesday section of the New York Times. 

 

Grades will be based on three exams (60% total; 20% each), regular attendance for Special Topics (20%), and a brief in-class presentation (20%).  To get credit for Special Topics, you must attend class and sign in.  If you are unable to do so, credit may be obtained by summarizing in writing an article from that week’s New York Times science section.  Students will be required to follow the guidelines concerning academic integrity as described in the Penn State University Faculty Senate Policy 49-20 (http://www.psu.edu/dept/ufs/policies/47-00.html#49-20).

 

Date

Topic

Reading

 

 

Aug. 27

 

Introduction and course overview

 

 

Aug. 29

The major climate systems, IPCC climate change scenarios, and means of studying ecological response

 

Post, Chapter 1

 

Hansen, J. et al.  2006.  PNAS 103:14,288-14,293.

 

Sept. 3

 

Special Topic:  James Hansen’s 1988 Congressional Testimony

 

Transcript of James Hansen’s 1988 Congressional testimony

 

“Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate”, New York Times June 24, 1988

 

“On not flying into a greenhouse frenzy”, S. Fred Singer, New York Times Nov. 16, 1989

 

Sept. 5

 

Pleistocene warming and extinctions

 

Post, Chapter 2

 

Guthrie, R.D. 2006.  Nature 441:207-209

 

Sept. 10

 

Special Topic:  Ben Santer and the 1995 IPCC Assessment Report

 

“Blast from the Past”, Daily Kos, Jan. 14, 2008

 

Introduction, Merchants of Doubt, Oreskes & Conway, Bloomsbury Press, 2010.

 

Singer, S.F. “Human contribution to climate change remains questionable” EOS

 

Santer, B.D. “Reply to S. Fred Singer” EOS

 

 

Sept. 12

 

Patterns of phenological response to warming

 

Post, Chapter 3

 

Root et al. 2003.  Nature 421:57-60

 

 

Sept. 17

 

Special Topic:  Denying global warming

 

 

Chapter 6, “The Denial of Global Warming”, Merchants of Doubt

 

 

Sept. 19

 

Threatened & Endangered Species Unit I

 

 

 

Sept. 24

 

Population dynamics and stability responses to warming

 

Post, Chapter 4

 

Tyler et al. 2008 Ecology 89:1675-1686

 

Sept. 26

 

Special Topic:  Evidence for anthropogenic warming

 

Mann et al. 1998 Nature 6678:779-787

 

Chapter 4, “The Making of the Hockey Stick”, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, Michael E. Mann 2012

 

Oct. 1

 

Exam I

 

 

 

Oct. 3

 

Special Topic:  Does a little warming really matter?

 

 

(video)

 

Oct. 8

 

Resources, reproduction, and trophic mismatch

 

Post, Chapter 6, pages 181-200

 

Both et al. 2006.  Nature 441:81-83

 

 

Oct. 10

 

Special Topic:  “Climategate”

 

Chapter 1, “Born in a War”, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

 

Chapter 14, “Climategate:  the Real Story”, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

 

Oct. 15

 

 

The niche concept and climate change

 

Post, Chapter 5

 

Tingley et al. 2009.  PNAS 106:19637-19643.

 

Oct. 17

 

Special Topic:  Sensitivity of the Arctic

 

 

(video)

 

Oct. 22

 

Threatened & Endangered Species Unit II

 

 

 

Oct. 24

 

Bioclimatic envelope modeling and species’ range shifts

 

Post, Chapter 5

 

Davis et al. 1998.  Nature 391:783-786.

 

 

Oct. 29

 

Community dynamics and stability I:  fundamentals

Post, Chapter 6, pages 163-170

 

Post & Pedersen 2008. PNAS 105:12353-12358

 

 

Oct. 31

 

 

Exam II

 

 

 

Nov. 5

 

Special Topic:  Scientists defend the science of climate change

 

Greenberg, D. “Our emissions obsession” Nature 2010

 

Mann, M.E., et al. “Setting the record straight (again)” Nature 2010

 

Thomas, D. “Writer wrong on climate change” Skeptical Inquirer 2013

 

Frazier, K. “World still warming” Skeptical Inquirer 2013

 

Nov. 7

 

Communities dynamics and stability II:  non-analogues

 

Post, Chapter 6, pages 171-181

 

Moritz et al.  2008.  Science 322:261-264.

 

Nov. 12

 

Special Topic:  Biodiversity crisis

 

“Misleading math about the Earth”, Scientific American 2002

 

“On Bjorn Lomborg and Climate Change” - Grist

 

“On Bjorn Lomborg and Species Diversity”, N. Myers

 

 

Nov. 14

 

The importance of species interactions

 

Post 2013. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. 280:20122722

 

 

Nov. 19

 

Special Topic:  Extinctions

 

 

“On Bjorn Lomborg and Extinction”, E.O. Wilson

 

Nov. 21

 

Biodiversity and extinction risk

 

Post, Chapter 7

 

Thomas et al. 2004 Nature 427:145-148

 

Dec. 3

 

Threatened & Endangered Species Unit III

 

 

 

Dec. 5

 

Ecosystem function and dynamics

Post, Chapter 8

 

Zhao & Running 2010.  Science 329:940-943.

 

Dec. 10

 

Special Topic:  Countering Climate Change Denial

 

 

Chapter 15, “Fighting Back”, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

 

Dec. 12

 

Exam III

 

 

 

 

 

Threatened & Endangered Species units  

 

You will be assigned a species early in the semester, and will work in groups of 3 throughout the semester to identify the vulnerability of a given species to climate change and other stressors.  On three occasions, one member of the group will make a brief presentation on your species; i.e., you will make one presentation (5 – 10 minutes long).  The objective for the class as a whole is to determine which species is/are most likely to be adversely affected by climate change and other stressors, and which is/are least likely to be affected.  To make these determinations, you will work outside of class (alone or in groups) to rank your species according to several variables provided below. 

 

Unit I:  Baseline vulnerability (presented Sept. 19)

Rank your species according to:

1. Current population size:  1:  n < 100;   2: 100 < n < 1000;   3:  n > 1000

2. Population trend:  1:  declining; 2:  stable; 3:  increasing

3. Range trend:  1:  declining; 2:  stable; 3:  increasing

4. Future stressors (non-climate):  1:  increasing; 2:  stable; 3:  declining

5. Generation time:  1:  t > 5 years;   2:  5 > t > 2;   3:  t < 2

6. Future vulnerability to natural stressors:  1:  highly vulnerable; 2:  vulnerable; 3:  not vulnerable

 

Unit II:  Vulnerability to climate change (presented Oct. 22)

Rank your species according to:

1. Vulnerability to temperature change:  1:  adverse; 2:  insensitive; 3: beneficial

2. Vulnerability to precipitation change:  1:  adverse; 2:  insensitive; 3:  beneficial

3. Dispersive capacity:  1:  low; 2:  moderate; 3:  high

4. Degree of habitat specialization:  1:  highly specialized; 2:  moderately specialized; 3:  generalist

5. Probable habitat loss due to climate change:  1:  loss;  2:  no change;  3:  gain

6. Availability of habitat in new range:  1: none;  2: limited extent;  3: large extent

 

Unit III:  Evaluating overall vulnerability (presented Dec. 3)

Here you will present a synthesis of the above rankings in the following matrix format.  You will attempt to identify the most critical combinations of vulnerability for your species.  You will also categorize your species overall as:  critically vulnerable, highly vulnerable, less vulnerable, least vulnerable, or likely to benefit from climate change.  How you arrive at your conclusion is up to you to decide, but be sure you can explain your thinking.

 

 

 

 

Baseline

Vulnerabilities

 

 

 

Climate Change Vulnerabilities

1

2

3

4

5

6

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2

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

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