Syllabus

(pdf version)

“What a wondrous problem it is,—what a play of forces, determining the kinds & proportions of each plant in a square yard of turf!”serpentine

-C.R. Darwin in letter to J.D. Hooker (June 3, 1857)


Day / Time / Place

Thursday / 2pm / BNR 132

Course Schedule:
Sept 5 – Introduction to community assembly (Dan)
Sept 12 – Stochastic and deterministic mechanisms of assembly (Dan)
Sept 19 – no class
Sept 26 – no class
Oct 3 – Functional-trait based assembly (Joan)
Oct 10 – Phylogenetic constraints on assembly (Dan)
Oct 17 – Fall Break
Oct 24 – Role of exotic species (Rodrigo)
Oct 31 – Global change and environmental filtering (Joan)
Nov 7 – Tipping points and multiple steady states (Kristina)
Nov 14 – Importance of spatial and temporal scale (Camilo & Rodrigo)
Nov 21 – Experimental community assembly (Kristina)
Nov 28 – Thanksgiving Break
Dec 5 – Big data approaches to understanding assembly (Camilo)

Expectations:
The primary goal of this course is to engage with the recent developments in the community assembly literature. A secondary goal is to engage the broader ecological community via social media (blogging and twitter) such that our discussions can have a larger impact on the community and ourselves.
With these goals in mind, each week seminar meets the participants are expected to have read the assigned papers and have tweeted something related to the readings. Each week one of the participants will lead discussion of the papers and will write up a short blog entry after about the paper/s and our discussion.

Paper Discussions:
Each week a different participant will sign-up to lead discussion. At least one week before the seminar meets, the seminar leader will decide on one or two papers the group should read on related to a particular subtopic in community assembly. The goal of the discussion leader is to provide the seminar with the background context in which the papers fall and to help guide discussion with critical questions.

Twitter:
Twitter is emerging as an important tool for science communication. This course has a twitter account @eco_assembly that will tweet about our papers and discussion. If you have a twitter account you should follow @eco_assembly. In terms of sharing your own ideas via twitter there are two options:

1) You can sign-up for your own twitter account and use the hashtag #EcoAssembly with your tweets.

2) Or you can email your tweets to the instructor so that he can share them under the @eco_assembly twitter id.

I recommend taking option 1 because this will provide you credit for your ideas and will help to develop your online reputation as an ecologist. Each week you are expected to tweet at least one idea that is relevant to the papers assigned before seminar meets. We will use our tweets as jumping-off points for group discussion.

Blogging:
Blogs allow scientists to better develop their ideas, they are more visible via search engines, and offer a better opportunity for getting feedback from the broader community. Each week the person/s that leads seminar will write a short blog entry after seminar meets and post it to our course webpage: https://usucommassembly.wordpress.com. At a minimum the blog entries should summarize the papers and the interesting points of discussion generated; however, an attempt should be made to personalize the entry to your own research interests and you should try to communicate one or two critical insights that you gained. Each student will be given full authorship credit for their blog entry.

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