Tropical Ornithology and Conservation Biology (winter intercession 2014) This is a component of the Bard College at Simon’s Rock Signature Program in Montserrat, an opportunity for students to engage both theoretically and practically in tropical ecology, conservation biology, and island and global sustainability issues. As home to the Soufriere Hills volcano, a recently active volcano in the Caribbean, Montserrat presents unique study opportunities. The island contains numerous rare plants and animals, including over 800 species of plants, 1,240 invertebrates, and at least two critically endangered species found nowhere else in the world, the Montserrat Oriole and the Montserrat Galliwasp lizard. From a sustainability viewpoint, Montserrat’s numerous challenges make the island a fascinating microcosm of the larger planet. These include maintaining water and food supply, energy independence, effects of climate change, and the development of sustainable tourism and education. This program will allow both Bard and Simon’s Rock students to engage directly with these issues. For four weeks over winter intersession, students will study the island’s ecology, including endangered and endemic species; receive training in ecological survey methods including snorkeling and coral reef survey techniques; and participate in one of several opportunities for community service. Students will live in residence with Simon’s Rock faculty and staff.
Bio 153: Global Change Biology (fall 2013, 2014, 2016) Global change biology is a new field of biology which explores the consequences of global environmental change on ecosystems and humans. This introductory level course focuses on climate change as a key driver of environmental change. This introductory level course will focus on climate change as the key driver in the ecology of animals, plants, and microbes, including biodiversity and ecosystem function, but will include discussion on how these biologically oriented questions relate to the interconnected issues of human society, politics, and the economy. We will also focus on relevant physical topics including the astronomical basis for natural variation in climate (years to eons), basics of global weather (e.g. gyres and Hadley cells), glacial cycles and marine circulation. In the laboratory portion of the course students will analyze ice core data, and use a bevy of tools to predict changes in the timing of migration in birds and butterflies, and predict how climate change will affect the distribution and range of plant and animal species.
Bio 166: Methods in Field Ecology (spring 2017) This course is designed as an introduction to the general methods of conducting ecological research in an outdoor setting and students will gain essential skills for future coursework or research in ecology. Emphasis will be placed on the scientific method generally, and more specifically how it is applied to the process of ecological research. In so doing students will gain skills in: developing ecological questions; formulating testable hypotheses; designing experiments; collecting and analyzing data; and presenting results in both oral and written formats. These skills will be learned through a hands-on process in which students conduct a series of individual and collaborative field studies that test core hypotheses in the science of ecology, spanning multiple scales of inquiry and with special focus on Hudson Valley ecosystems. Students will be exposed to a broad spectrum of species (e.g. microbes, plants, insects, vertebrates) and ecosystem types (e.g. meadows, forests, streams) and the different methods used in their study. Field techniques will include time-budgets, point counts and transects of wild birds, line-transects of amphibians and plants, sweep-netting and pitfall trapping of insects, seine netting of fish, and acoustic sampling of insects and birds.
Bio 202A/B: Ecology and Evolution (fall 2012/13/14/16 spring 2013) This core course for biology majors will introduce you to the general principles of ecology and evolution that, with genetics, form the core of biological understanding. We will explore basic ecological and evolutionary principles that govern the lives of all organisms, from dinosaurs to cabbage to fungus. We will study how and why populations of organisms increase and decrease in abundance, what factors cause changes in species diversity, how diversity affects the functioning of ecological communities, and how the life histories of individual organisms are shaped by ecological and evolutionary constraints. Throughout the course, we will closely examine relationships between ecology and evolution, focusing in particular on how evolution takes place in specific ecological contexts, and how ecological events can have evolutionary consequences. We will test our understanding of processes by using mathematical models to make and test predictions.
Bio 311: Field Ornithology (spring 2014/16) This course will present birds both as a unique group and as representative of vertebrates. It will emphasize adaptation, ecology, and behavior of birds, the physical basis of flight, and introduce students to Laboratory and field methods used in modern ornithology. We also will consider current views of the systematic relationships among living birds, and the evolutionary history of birds, including the debate regarding their origin in relation to dinosaurs and the origin of flight. Finally, we will examine case studies in bird conservation to understand the interaction of human and biological causes of, and solutions to, those problems. The laboratory portion of the class will include instruction in identification of all regional bird species by sight and sound. This will include field trips to local habitats / biological reserves and the study of museum specimens. Students will design and conduct small-scale behavioral research experiments (e.g. bioacoustics) with on-campus bird populations and will exploit publically available and continental scale databases to ask questions about bird ecology, evolution or conservation which will be submitted as both an oral report and scientific research paper.
Bio 316: Animal Behavior (spring 2017) Have you ever asked yourself, “Why did that animal do that?” There are many levels at which we could seek answers, running from proximal mechanisms (firing neurons and hormonal stimuli) through ultimate mechanisms (the evolutionary selective pressures which produce adaptive behaviors through natural selection). This course is primarily about the latter. In it, we seek answers to why organisms evolve various mating strategies, what accounts for differences in sexual characteristics and mate choice among males and females, how organisms use signals, what information signals contain, whether they represent honest information or whether we expect to see cheaters within populations, conflicts of interest between siblings, parents and offspring, males and females, and so on. We explore these questions through lab and field experiments and using evolutionary game theory, which provides the underlying framework for understanding the evolution of animal behaviors. The lab portion of the class will allow you to learn new methods and technologies (e.g. bioacoustic recording and analysis, avian point counts and transects) useful in studying animal behavior, work individually and in groups to design experiments and models to test your own hypotheses. Research will focus on captive animals in Bard’s laboratories, wild animals on Bard’s and campus and within the surrounding natural landscape, and on captive animals housed in a local zoo. As a capstone achievement, you will identify an important basic or applied question in animal behavior and write a professional research proposal advocating for the funding of a research project of your own design.
Bio 415: Advanced Seminar in Urban Ecology (spring 2013/15) Urban development is among the most pervasive and ubiquitous forms of land cover change. Thus, urbanization poses significant challenges to many organisms, including humans. Urban Ecology is a seminar course, where we’ll focus on the processes determining patterns of abundance and distribution of organisms in urban ecosystems, the interactions among organisms in the urban environment, behavioral and evolutionary responses that facilitate adaptation to urban environments, and the interactions between humans (and societies) and nature in urban environments. Urban organisms and ecosystems also provide services (e.g. temperature mitigation, pest control) to humans and we will focus on aspects of urban planning as it relates to maximizing those services.
Bio 424: Advanced Seminar in Conservation Biology (spring 2014/16) In this class we will explore the vast field of biodiversity and environmental conservation. Biodiversity conservation now spans many disciplines, including ecology, economics, sociology, finance, and psychology. Conservation biology is highly interdisciplinary, requiring careful consideration of both biological and sociological issues associated with human activity (e.g. urbanization). Utilizing articles from the primary literature, this course will focus on topics such as the effects of habitat fragmentation, loss of genetic diversity, endangered species breeding programs, introduced species, and climate change, as well as how to determine appropriate conservation priorities. We will also explore some very controversial and cutting edge topics (e.g. novel and designer ecosystems, assisted migration). This is primarily a discussion-based class where we read from the primary literature, but will also include guest-visits and lectures from conservation scientists and practitioners and a field trip to the site of a regionally-relevant conservation project.
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