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BIOL 446

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Biol 446, Section 1 - Physiological Ecology

Spring 2015

3 credits

Place: 62 Willard

Time: MWF 10:10 am - 11:00 am

Instructor: Dr. Howard W. Fescemyer, Senior Research Associate


Office hours: By appointment



Environmental Physiology of Animals, by Willmer, Stone, & Johnston; 2nd Edition

This book is available as a pdf on the Angel site for this course.



Students are required to have an i>clicker. These are available from the bookstore

and elsewhere. Using your i>clicker in class is part of your grade. You can

find out about obtaining and registering i>Clickers on the ITS Clicker website.

There is a link in the Angel page for this course to directly register your Clicker.

Make sure to use only your Penn State access account ID (i.e., computer user

ID, email address without the when registering your Clicker. 


Course Goals and Objectives

This course will introduce upper level undergraduates and beginning graduate students to

the study of interactions between physiological capabilities of organisms, their ecology and,

more broadly, their environment. In other words, we will study how organisms work and what it

is about their environment that has led them to work that way. We will consider both abiotic and

biotic components of the environment as sources of important variation to which organisms must

adapt. Plants and microbes will be covered to some extent, but the primary focus will be on

animals (both vertebrates and invertebrates). The primary goal is to gain an appreciation for the

flexibility of physiological systems and the powers of evolutionary processes to shape the

physiology of an organism in response to its environment.


Students will better understand the means by which organisms cope with “normal”

challenges posed by their environment, and how anthropogenic environmental changes pose

additional challenges. Students will gain an appreciation for how the study of physiological

ecology could unify our understanding of biological organisms. More than any other topic area

in biology, physiological ecology requires an integrative approach in order to relate mechanisms

(genes, proteins, cells, tissues, organismal design) to higher-level phenomena (biology of

populations, communities, ecosystems, and the abiotic environment). It also requires an

evolutionary perspective in order to understand how species have changed over time and their

ability to do so in the future. Thus, students will better understand the problems that Earth’s

environment imposes upon life and the solutions that have evolved in response. Overall,

students will be challenged to put together all types of biological knowledge they have

accumulated so far and see how it all relates.


Schedule (approximate) of lecture topics and textbook readings 

Lecture packets are located in Angel folders named according to the lecture topic.

Dates Topic Reading from the Textbook

Jan. 12 Introduction to Physiological Ecology

Jan. 14 – 28 Adaptation to the Environment Ch. 1

Jan. 19 No Class: Martin Luther King Day

Jan. 30 – Feb. 4 Groundhog Day Lecture on Hibernation

Feb. 6 – 11 Abiotic Conditions and Biomes

Chs. 11.1 –11.3.2; 11.9; 12.1;

12.8; 13.1; 13.8; 14; 15. – 15.1.5;

15.9; 16.1 – 16.2.1; 16.2.5;

16.3 – 16.3.1; 16.5; 17.1 – 17.2

Feb. 13 – 16 Valentine’s Day Lecture on Mating Behavior

Feb. 18 – 27 Abiotic Conditions and Biomes Continued

Mar. 2 Exam 1

Mar. 4 – 6 Problems of Size and Scale Ch. 3

Mar. 9 – 13 No Class; Spring Break

Mar. 16 – 18 Problems of Size and Scale Continued

Mar. 20 – 27 Water, Ions, Osmoregulation and Water


Chs. 4 & 5; 10.3;

11.2; 12.2; 13.2; 14.3; 15.2

Mar. 30 – Apr. 6 Energy and Metabolism Ch. 6

Apr. 8 – 15 Gas Exchange, Respiration and Circulation Chs. 7; 11.4;

12.4; 13.4; 15.4

Apr. 17 Exam 2

Apr. 20 – 24 Thermal Biology of Ectotherms Chs. 8.1 – 8.5

Apr. 27 – May. 1 Thermal Biology of Endotherms Chs. 8.6-8.11; 11.3; 12.3;

13.3; 15.3

Final Exam – To Be Announced


Grades will be based on a total of approximately 450 points.
Exams (300 points): There will be two non-cumulative exams, each worth 100 points, and a
final exam worth 100 points. The final will consist of about 30% new material and
about 70% cumulative material. Exams will consist of multiple-choice questions.
About 80% of the material on each exam will have been covered in lecture and the
remainder will come from reading assignments.
Quizzes (about 75 points): Approximately 75 points will come from on-line quizzes whose
due dates are to be announced in class. The quizzes will cover material in required
readings in the textbook and recent primary literature. Quizzes and folders
containing readings from the primary literature in pdf format are located within Angel
course folders associated with the specific topic being studied in lecture. Quizzes will
consist of fairly easy questions that determine if you have done the reading. These
quizzes will be implemented via Angel. Rare problems with Angel dropping a student’s quiz have occurred, so I recommend taking a screenshot of the quiz report
that Angel returns and saving this as proof of the work and grade. I can make
manual adjustments if you provide this evidence.
Clicker questions (about 75 points): Approximately 75 points will come from in class
questions answered using your ITS registered i>clicker. No make-up or extra credit
clicker questions will be allowed because your three lowest class scores will be dropped
to account for forgetfulness, lack of clicker battery power and/or missing class for
being sick, etc.
These short, multiple choice questions will be based on general knowledge and inclass
concepts. They will be designed to highlight common misconceptions and
provide frequent feedback during the class. Appropriate use of clickers by their owner
during their class is an expectation of the course. Failure to do so could be a violation
of Academic Integrity Principles. Please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy below.
The two-letter classroom frequency code is AB.



I anticipate that students earning 90% or more will receive “A” letter grades, those
earning 80-90% will receive “B” letter grades, and those earning 70-80% will receive “C”
grades. These cutoffs are subject to adjustment if my exams turn out to be more difficult
than I anticipate. I will not curve the other way; if you receive at least 90% of the points, you
will receive at least an “A-” grade.

Academic integrity

Professional behavior includes academic integrity. Academic dishonesty
is not limited to simply cheating on an exam or assignment. As stated in the "PSU Faculty
Senate Policies for Students," academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity free from
fraud and deception and is an educational objective of this institution. Academic dishonesty
includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating of information or citations,
facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of
examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing
the instructor, tampering with the academic work of other students.” Lying to gain an
advantage over other students, or to assist another student, is also considered academic
All University and Departmental policies regarding academic integrity apply to this
course and the students enrolled in this course. Further details on the academic integrity
policies of Penn State can be found in the Undergraduate Advising Handbook and the Eberly
College of Science Academic Integrity Policy. Each student in this course is expected to
work entirely on their own while taking any exam, to complete assignments through their
own effort without the assistance of others (unless directed otherwise by the instructor), and
to abide by University and College policies on academic integrity. Please ask your instructor
if you have any questions about an assignment. Academic dishonesty can result in a final
grade assignment of “F” by the course instructor or “XF” by the University’s Judicial
Affairs. Students are responsible for ensuring that their work is consistent with expectations
about academic integrity at Penn State.

Students with disabilities

As stated by the University, “Penn State welcomes students with
disabilities into the University's educational programs.” If you have a disability-related need
for reasonable academic adjustments in this course, contact the Office for Disability Services 
(ODS) at 814-863-1807 (V/TTY). For further information regarding ODS, please refer to the
Office for Disability Services.
In order to receive consideration for course accommodations, you must contact ODS and
Applying for Services. If the documentation you provide ODS supports the need for
academic adjustments, they will provide a letter identifying appropriate academic
adjustments. Please share this letter and discuss the adjustments with your instructor as early
in the course as possible. You must contact ODS and request academic adjustment letters at
the beginning of each semester.