Climate Change, Ecology, and Seasons (with Lab) (BIO4439.01)

Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie

Human activities have rapidly altered the climate at a global scale. Writer Lynda Mapes notes, “the climate is changing and with it, our seasons.” Ecosystems and the organisms they support are facing warmer and earlier springs, shifts in precipitation patterns, and altered growing seasons. The timing of seasonal activities of animals and plants are known to ecologists as “phenology.” Studies noting shifts in phenology were some of the earliest research to document the ecological impacts of anthropogenic climate change. In this class, we will explore research on climate change, ecology, and phenology across ecosystems and observational and experimental methods. How do organisms know when to bloom, leaf out, hatch, hibernate or change fur color? What happens if the cues for these phenological events shift with climate change? What happens if they don’t (ex: some trees leaf out in response to day length, which doesn’t change with climate change)? We will read the peer-reviewed literature, explore historical accounts of phenology and compare them to today, and consider the implications of changing phenologies on ecological interactions (ex: plants and their pollinators), ecosystem processes (ex: nutrient cycling), and ecosystem services (ex: maple sugaring). We will make our own phenological observations on the local landscape and design phenology experiments with a focus on climate change, ecology, and seasons in Vermont.


Learning Outcomes:
-Recognize the local, persistent, and ongoing impacts of climate change here in Vermont.
-Read and interpret peer-reviewed literature. Evaluate and compare methodological approaches to phenology research.
-Practice phenology observations and notice seasonal changes in your daily life.
-Reflect on individual approaches to reading, research, and writing in STEM and examine and assess your (maybe unconscious) practices, and identify the strategies that best support your process.




Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Previous course in organismal biology or ecology.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
Tu/F 10:30AM - 12:20PM; Th 8:30AM - 9:50AM (Lab) (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 16
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: 4000 , All courses , Biology , Environment , Four Credit , Fully In-Person , New Courses , Updates
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