Advanced Ecology – Biology 45500
Climate Change Biology

Spring 2018 with RF Rockwell

bears on a flow

This course meets in a secure area of the American Museum of Natural History.  Until I can arrange access for each student, please go to the Security Desk at the Central Park West  entrance (1st floor beneath the steps) NO LATER than 9:15.  I will meet you there and go to the classroom.  Thanks!

This advanced ecology course will center on Climate Change Biology.  We will examine the underlying principles of climate dynamics.  We will consider the physical evidence for climate change and assess how human activities may be related to such change. 

We will then explore the potential impact such change is having on biological systems.  This will include effects on the ranges and phenologies of species as well as general ecosystem functioning.  As a backdrop for current change, we will explore historic climate impacts including the major earth extinction events.  Armed with past and current evidence, we will examine what the future may hold and how we might alter that future. 

The latter will include an objective assessment of the potential impacts of new solutions to old problems (e.g. Is producing and burning ethanol better for the global ecosystem than burning oil? Are wind farms really green?).  Finally we will examine the social implications of such change both locally and globally.

The primary text for the course is Lee J. Hannah.  2011. Climate Change Biology.  Academic Press, Burlington, MA.  This will be supplemented with reading from the technical and popular literature.  Lectures will also draw on Dr. Rockwell’s research on climate change effects on polar bears, their prey and arctic ecosystems in general.

The prerequisites for the course are: Bio 22800 and Math 20900.

The course will meet Wednesday 9:30AM to 12:00 noon at the American Museum of Natural History.

Lecture Schedule and Readings

101/31The early bear gets the gooserockwell & company 2009,2011
202/07Climate systems and climate changeHannah 1-2
302/14Species and range shifts; phenology shifts and mismatches
402/21Ecosystem changes; debate topics dueHannah 5
502/28Past changes in terrestrial and marine ecosystemsHannah 6-7
603/07Past changes in fresh water ecosystems;  ExtinctionsHannah 8-10
703/14no class - conference break

803/21Insights from experimentsHannah 11-12
903/28Modeling responses and estimating extinction riskHannah 13-18
1004/04no class - spring break
1104/11no class - friday schedule

1204/18Implications for conservation; Finding solutions; review
Hannah 13-18
1304/25Written Exam
1405/02The Great Debates

1505/09The Great Debates
1605/16The Great Debates

Readings for the course
Rockwell, RF and LJ Gormezano.  2009.  The early bear gets the goose: climate change, polar bears and lesser snow geese in western Hudson Bay.  Polar Biology 32:539-547.
Rockwell, RF, LJ Gormezano and DN Koons.  2011.  Trophic matches and mismatches: Can polar bears reduce the abundance of nesting snow geese in western Hudson Bay?  Oikos 120:696-709.
Beaton, Will.  2014. Greenhouse gases: what every college student should know.
Lee J. Hannah.  2011. Climate Change Biology.  Academic Press, Burlington, MA.

Your grade in the course is based on the written exam (40%) and your participation in the Great Debates (60% total).

In the Great Debates you and a partner will debate a topic against another 2-person team.  You and your partner will be graded based on your preparation and presentation (see below) and that will count for 40% of your course grade.

The remaining 20% of your grade will come from your participation in the other debates (see below).

The Great Debates will be based on topics listed below.  For a given topic one team will prepare to defend the position given in the topic while the other will prepare to refute it.  The defending team gets 15 minutes to make its case and the opposing team will get 15 minutes to refute it.  Starting with the defending team, each team is given 5 minutes to challenge the opposition.  The debate is then opened to the class and everyone can both ask questions and challenge views presented.  You will be graded on your informed participation.

The debate propositions (topics) are:

Carbon emissions are causing climate change.
2. Solar energy is the solution to climate change.
3. Ethanol production will reduce our carbon footrint.
4. Increased use of electric cars will reduce our carbon footprint.
5. Wind power is an ecologically safe way to reduce our carbon footprint.
6. The increase in extreme weather events is the result of global climate change.

Great Debates

climate debates

Educational goals

1. understand the anthropogenic causes for climate change.
2. realize that solutions are not simple and often lead to more environmental problems than they resolve.
3. realize that "climate change biology" is not really biology per se as it involves making value judgements.
4. learn to use a variety of informational outlets including published literature but also government reports, media outlets, etc.
5. come to understand that in resolving climate change issues no one view is going to prevail - compromise is required.
6. success at debate only comes from thoroughly knowing both sides of the argument.

last revised 01/03/18