AB-338 Life History Adaptations to Seasonality (10 ECTS)

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ID:
AB-338
CREDITS:
10 ECTS
START DATE:
May 2018
END DATE:
June 2018
COURSE PERIOD:
Spring semester (May–June), biannually
LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION AND EXAMINATION:
English
CREDIT REDUCTION/OVERLAP:
10 ECTS with AB-838
GRADE:
Letter grade (A through F)
COURSE MATERIAL:
Curriculum is made up of about 250 pages of selected journal articles and book sections.
COURSE COSTS:
Fieldwork, NOK 800 (4 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
COURSE CAPACITY MIN/MAX:
9/18 students (AB-338/838 in total)
EXAMINATION SUPPORT MATERIAL:
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue
APPLICATION DEADLINE:
15 October 2017

Course requirements:

Enrolment in a relevant master programme, with priority given to those with thesis projects on closely related topics.

Academic content:

Seasonality has strong impacts on biology and is an important part of ecology and evolution. High-latitude ecosystems are highly seasonal in several ways, and are therefore unique laboratories for seasonal ecology. The course deals with how seasonality shapes life histories and population dynamics, focusing on Arctic organisms. Evolutionary adaptations to seasonality will be covered, including analyses of key traits such as migration, energy storage, diapause, and timing of reproduction and growth. Trade-offs between traits will be analyzed and individual variability in annual routines and life history traits will be dealt with. Knowledge gained from these evolutionary perspectives is used to study the drivers of observed phenology and population dynamics of selected Arctic species. Life history theory and the theories for optimal timing and annual routines will be introduced and used actively along with quantitative methods and modelling. Organisms and populations from aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems will be covered with the same interest. Field studies and excursions will illustrate biological diversity, ecological interactions and study methods. The course operates at the research frontier and field projects linked to ongoing research projects in the department will be selected.

The course builds on the bachelor course in ecology AB-204: Arctic Ecology and Population Biology and provides an advanced coverage and natural extension of several topics introduced there.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge
Upon completing the course, the students can:

  1. Explain the seasonality of key environmental drivers and the basic proximate mechanisms behind biological timing within the annual cycle.
  2. Summarise central elements of life history theory and theories for optimal timing and annual routines.
  3. Describe the annual routines and life history diversity observed among main groups of Arctic organisms, and analyse the costs and benefits involved in central traits such as energy reserves, diapause/dormancy, migration, and timing of reproduction.

Skills
Upon completing the course, the students can:

  1. Apply statistical analyses of individual variability in life history traits and use selected models for studies of life history adaptations and annual routines.
  2. Confront models with data in order to test hypotheses on life history diversity observed in the Arctic.
  3. Design and perform field studies intended to collect data on life history traits and phenology of selected Arctic animals or plants.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students can:

  1. Report in a scientific manner, both in writing and orally, on literature studies, field studies and modelling exercises performed during the course.
  2. Understand the relevance of evolutionary and ecological theory for field based scientific studies in Arctic evolutionary ecology.
  3. Account for, discuss, and criticise classic as well as recent literature within the field.
  4. Develop and analyse basic mathematical models.

Learning activities:

The course extends over 5 weeks in the spring term. Prior to arrival, the student has prepared a presentation of his/her own thesis project. The students are challenged to reflect on the extent that seasonality influences processes studied in their own work. The students will present this work during seminars early in the course. The students will have the core curriculum available prior to arrival at UNIS and are expected to have familiarized themselves with this.

At the beginning of the course the students attend two days of compulsory Arctic survival and safety training.
The course is run through a combination of lectures, seminars, fieldwork, data analyses, group work and computer labs. To promote active participation and learning we keep traditional lectures at a minimum.

The course is research based and the students will meet members of the Department of Arctic Biology as well as invited guest lecturers that are international experts in the field. Guest lecturers also contribute to seminars and computer labs.

The main fieldwork is a three to four day excursion aimed to be located away from Longyearbyen, and supplemented with shorter excursions near UNIS. This gives hands-on experience with the Arctic and the challenges and opportunities Arctic organisms are faced with. Computer labs will provide experience with data analyses as well as modelling. The students will summarize their learning outcome form the computer labs through individual reports.

Through seminars we will read, present and discuss scientific literature. The overview and knowledge gained through the seminars will be used for the group projects where two–three students investigate a research question within the field and do so either though data-analyses or theoretical modelling. It is possible to collect some of the data during the fieldwork. Data can also come from literature studies or from the databases of ongoing research projects that the teachers are running. The students will learn how to run through a complete mini-version of a research project, and hence get experience with all stages in the scientific process.

Computer labs will provide hands-on experience with data analyses as well as modelling. The students will summarize their learning outcome from the computer labs through reports.

Through seminars we will read, present and disuss scientific literature. Some of the seminars will have smaller group projects leading up to them.

Total lecture hours: 15 hours
Total seminar hours: 25 hours
Laboratory work: 30 hours
Excursions: Several shorter excursions (15 hours) and one overnight excursion lasting 3–4 days (weather dependent)

Compulsory learning activities:

Field excursions, computer labs and student seminars and presentations.
All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.

Assessment:

Method Percentage of final grade
Written exam 100%
Computer lab report Pass or not passed
Seminar on own thesis work Pass or not passed

All assessments must be passed in order to pass the course.
Each assessment is graded, and subsequently combined into a single grade. Partial grades for each assessment will be available.

Application deadline: 15 October 2017

 

CONTACT INFO

The University Centre in Svalbard
Telephone: +47 79 02 33 00
Fax: +47 79 02 33 01
E-mail: post@unis.no / webmaster@unis.no
Address: P.O. Box 156 N-9171 Longyearbyen
Org. no. 985 204 454

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