AB-838 Life History Adaptations to Seasonality (10 ECTS)

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ID:
AB-838
CREDITS:
10 ECTS
START DATE:
Spring 2018
END DATE:
Spring 2018
COURSE PERIOD:
Spring semester, biannually
LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION AND EXAMINATION:
English
CREDIT REDUCTION/OVERLAP:
10 ECTS with AB-338
GRADE:
Letter grade (A through F)
COURSE MATERIAL:
To be announced
COURSE COSTS:
Fieldwork, NOK 600–800 (3–4 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

INSTRUCTORS:

Øystein Varpe
Øystein Varpe
Associate Professor, Ecology

Course requirements:

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

Academic content:

Seasonality has strong impacts on biology and is an essential part of ecology and evolution. High-latitude ecosystems and Arctic ecosystems in particular, are 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 the adaptive value of key traits such as migration, energy storage, diapause, and timing of reproduction. 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 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 will have prepared a presentation of his/her own PhD 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 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.

Students following AB-838 will have leading roles in the group work. They will also develop an additional presentation prior to the course and present this during the first two weeks of the course. The topic of this presentation will be decided on together with the course leader, and be on a theme central to the course.

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

Seminars:
We will read and present a substantial amount of scientific literature on the topic. The overview and knowledge gained in through the seminars will be used for the group projects.

Group work:
2–3 students per group: 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. Additional data may be added 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 knowledge and experience with all stages in the scientific process, skills of great value in their individual master or PhD level courses.

Students following the PhD level course, AB-838, will have leading roles in the group work.  They will also develop an extra presentation prior to the course and present this during the first two weeks of the course. The topic will be given by the course leader and be a topic closely related to the theme of the course.

Total lecture hours: 15 hours
Total seminar hours: 25 hours
Laboratory work: 20 hours
Excursion: Several shorter excursions (15 hours) and one overnight excursion lasting 3–4 days (weather dependent)

Compulsory learning activities:

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

Assessment:

Method Percentage of final grade
Written group report 60%
Computer lab report 40%

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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