New England is one of the most heavily forested regions in the United States. 14,000 years ago it was covered by ice. When humans arrived about 11,000 years ago, they found forests already established — and began reshaping the landscape through hunting and fire and, beginning about 2000 years ago, farming. European colonists caused further ecological change by expanding agriculture and bringing livestock, and by 1850 most of the region was cleared for agriculture. Most of that farmland has now become forested again. How do we understand and predict the workings of such a dynamic landscape? This course in ecology and evolution addresses the function and history of ecological systems, the adaptations and life-histories of organisms in habitat, and the evolutionary processes by which those adaptations emerged. We will use the mostly-forested ecosystems that dominate the local landscape to explore general concepts of ecology and evolution, and to develop research tools that will be applicable in the study of any ecosystem. This course is for anyone interested in how ecosystems work and why they are as they are; it will also prepare students for more advanced work in ecology and evolution. There will be extensive field-work in potentially unpleasant weather. There will be quantitative analyses; students should be comfortable with algebra and basic mathematical problem-solving. There may be one week-end field trip.
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