BIOL270-18S1 (C) Semester One 2018


30 points

Start Date: Monday, 19 February 2018
End Date: Sunday, 24 June 2018
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Friday, 2 March 2018
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 18 May 2018


Principles of ecology with an emphasis on New Zealand factors affecting plant and animal ecology, including population ecology, competition, resource acquisition, disturbance and succession.

This course provides a fundamental grounding in the main concepts, applications and practical skills used in ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment.  

The most important concepts in population, community, landscape and ecosystem ecology are covered.  

These are considered using examples from across marine, freshwater, forest, grassland, urban and production ecosystems, and with particular reference to the factors controlling the distribution of plants, animals and microbes in New Zealand, and their differences to other countries.  

There is a particular emphasis on the problems and issues affecting natural systems, and how ecological knowledge can be applied to achieve solutions.

A highlight includes a four-day field trip to the UC Cass field station near Arthur’s Pass National Park.  Combined with laboratory sessions prior to cultivate basic skills, the field course allows students to develop expertise in field experimental design and sampling, data analysis and interpretation, as well as providing practical experience in some wonderful high country environments.

Overall, this course provides both a comprehensive platform for those wanting to undertake more advanced ecological study and a thorough overview for those wanting to compliment other environmental knowledge.

Learning Outcomes

  • As a student in this course, I will develop the ability to:
  • Apply the main concepts in population, community and ecosystem ecology to appropriate situations (assessment task: online quizzes and final exam).
  • Be able to discuss and interpret the factors likely to control the distribution and abundance of organisms across a variety of scales ranging from individuals to ecosystems and landscapes
    (assessment task: online quizzes and final exam).
  • Describe the problems and issues affecting natural systems, and be able to discuss how ecological knowledge can be applied to achieve solutions (assessment task: online quizzes and final exam).
  • Conduct field work safely (pre-field course health & safety requirements, start of field trip gear check, and attending the field course).
  • Develop and implement field sampling protocols including the field identification of plants and animals, and undertake basic data analysis and interpretation (assessment task: field trip short and long reports).
  • Synthesize scientific literature to provide appropriate background, context and interpretation for a field study in ecology (assessment task: field trip long report).
  • Analyse and present the results of an ecological field study in the format of a scientific paper (assessment task: field trip long report).

    Transferable Skills Register
    As a student in this course, I will develop the following skills:
  • Synthesis & interpretation of information.  Research findings will be discussed in lectures and practical sessions, and implementing this skill will be important in all course assessment. GP1
  • Formation of hypotheses & explanations.  Developing explanations for patterns and observations is important to developing an understanding of principle concepts. We will encourage this through discussions and feedback sessions, especially on the field course. GP1
  • Be aware of the nature of biculturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand as it applies to native species as taonga.  We will discuss the concept of taonga species and Māori perspectives on restoration and traditional management of harvests. GP3.
  • Conducting safe field work.  A health & safety plan is prepared for our field work which involves identifying, and eliminating, mitigating or minimizing hazards. All students must complete a three-step procedure, including a quiz, to be able to attend the field course. GP2
  • Collecting useful quantitative data to test hypotheses including: experimental design and hypothesis formation; field sampling protocols for cover, abundance and composition; plant and animal identification (including the use of keys); and data organization and manipulation in spreadsheets. Important for research and in governmental and non-governmental organizations. We will conduct undertake two small field sampling exercises in the labs to build skills for four more sophisticated field studies that will be undertaken on the field course. These four field investigations provide both the real-world context for lectures and develop hands-on practical skills, and will involve sampling both plant and animal communities in the Canterbury high country. GP1,2 & 4
  • Basic data analysis and interpretation (t-test, chi-square test and ordination). Important for research, as well as in all private-sector and government organizations to ensure rigour in findings. These will be introduced in the laboratory sessions and will be applied to the field data collected on the field course and used in both short and long report write-ups. GP2
  • Writing a report in the format of a short report & a scientific paper. Clear written communication is especially important in ecology where a main goal is to influence the management of natural resources and ecosystems. One laboratory will be devoted to developing scientific reading and writing skills, and the components required in the long reports will be listed in a marking schedule in the field course handbook. Writing for specific audiences is important. GP 2
    GP1, GP2, etc, refer to Graduate Profile attributes: (1) Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their degree; (2) employable, innovative and enterprising; (3) biculturally competent and confident; (4) engaged with the community; and (5) globally aware.
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.




Timetable Note

Please note, the Field trip timetable above only indicates Day one of four days. Students must attend one of the following trips:

Trip 1: 6-9 April
Trip 2: 9-12 April

If numbers warrant, Trip 3: 12-15 April

Course Coordinator

For further information see School of Biological Sciences Head of Department


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Major field trip report 30%
Short field trip reports 10%
Final Exam 45%
Online test 13 Mar 2018 15%


This is an essential preparatory course for all students with an interest in any aspect of ecology.

Feedback from Course Surveys
On a 1-5 scale where 1 = worst and 5 = best (not surveyed in 2016-17)

2012: n = 37
This was a well-organized course: 4.5
Course helped to stimulate my interest: 4.4
Workload appropriate (NB pre-2012, measure was reasonable = 3.0): 4.0
Effective opportunities for active learning (not part of pre’12 surveys): 4.5
Helpful & timely feedback (not part of pre’12 surveys): 4.0
Assessments measured learning (not part of pre’12 surveys): 4.0
Overall, this was a good quality course: 4.4

2013: n = 21, 45%
This was a well-organized course: 4.3
Course helped to stimulate my interest: 4.1
Workload appropriate (NB pre-2012, measure was reasonable = 3.0): 3.4
Effective opportunities for active learning (not part of pre’12 surveys): 4.4
Helpful & timely feedback (not part of pre’12 surveys): 4.1
Assessments measured learning (not part of pre’12 surveys): 3.6
Overall, this was a good quality course: 4.0

2014: n = 13, 26%
This was a well-organized course: 4.5
Course helped to stimulate my interest: 4.2
Workload appropriate (NB pre-2012, measure was reasonable = 3.0): 4.2
Effective opportunities for active learning (not part of pre’12 surveys): 4.5
Helpful & timely feedback (not part of pre’12 surveys): 3.7
Assessments measured learning (not part of pre’12 surveys): 3.9
Overall, this was a good quality course: 4.5

2015: n = 10, 21%
This was a well-organized course: 4.7
Course helped to stimulate my interest: 4.4
Workload appropriate (NB pre-2012, measure was reasonable = 3.0): 4.3
Effective opportunities for active learning (not part of pre’12 surveys): 4.7
Helpful & timely feedback (not part of pre’12 surveys): 4.1
Assessments measured learning (not part of pre’12 surveys): 4.1
Overall, this was a good quality course: 4.4

The following issues and comments (with number of students) were raised feedback by students at the 2014 & 2015 end-of-course surveys. Actions or responses indicated in Brackets.
1. The workload was a lot, but for a 30 point course it was appropriate (1 student); course composition/structure great (1); good balance in notes & slides (1); lecturers helpful (1). [This is mostly what we are aiming for.  The current workload and assessment reflect response to previous surveys.]
2. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity to revise the large amount of content given in the lectures (1). [We’re surprised by this.  There is a lot to cover, but we really hope you are revising all the way along. The quizzes, for example, are designed to help with that ]
3. Use grade book (1) – [We do as much as possible for test & field trip.  We do want you to come in and collect the other graded work though so you can see the feedback along with the grades. It’s always a bit sad when there is a pile of marked assignments sitting there at the end of the course.]
4. Field trip was great, good opportunity to tie it all together, and see how things worked in the real world, getting to know class, exercises useful, enjoyable, hands-on (many students). [Thanks, that’s just what we hoped.]
5. Audience participation in lectures was great, very helpful (1). Excellent, but for this to work requires student involvement too. [We’ll try and get this working again in 2017 (with your help please!).]
6. Help with long reports (1) – [Advice from us & previous students: come to the post field trip tutorials, don’t leave write-up till the last minute, get to know the data on the field trip, and spend plenty of time chatting to your group members.]
7. Lots of detailed, possibly harsh, comments on short reports (1); useful feedback on assessments (2) – [Well we’re really trying to help here. We try to pick up as much as possible in the short reports to give you feedback for the long reports. We really try to concentrate on substantive issues.]
8. Test helpful for splitting up material & giving feedback (1); and first test is intense (1) – [Yes, it’s open book, but you’re not meant to have reading/browsing time. We will look at the amount of work needed given the time available though. We do think it’s really useful aid to learning though coming early in the course.]

Additional Course Outline Information

Academic integrity

It is essential that you are aware that plagiarism is considered a very serious offence by the Academic community, the University and the School of Biological Sciences. Plagiarism is defined as taking content from another work or author and presenting it, without attribution, as if it is your own work. Content here includes text (sentences or major parts of sentences), display items (graphs and tables), and overall structure (the detailed sequence of ideas). Plagiarism includes:
• re-use of previous assignments (even if each individual sentence has been rephrased to say the same thing in different words, if the overall structure is re-used)  
• copying of another student’s work (with or without their consent)
• the unreferenced use of published material or material from the internet e.g. cutting and pasting of paragraphs or pages into an essay.
For most pieces of in-term assessment you will be given information concerning the use of direct and indirect quotes from previously published work. If you are in any doubt about appropriate use of published material, please speak with a member of academic staff. If you are still unsure what plagiarism is, then seek advice.

It is a School policy that courses may request you submit work electronically for subsequent analysis of originality using Turnitin. Students agree that by taking courses in BIOL, required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to for the detection of plagiarism.  All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers.  Use of the service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the site.

Assessment and grading system

A+ 90% or above
A 85 – 90
A- 80 – 84
B+ 75 – 79
B 70 – 74
B- 65 – 69
C+ 60 – 64
C 55 – 59
C- 50 – 54

A restricted pass (R) may be awarded to those who are close to a pass (i.e. an overall score of 48-49.9%) AND who have achieved at least a 40% overall score in both in-course assessment and tests/exams. If an R grade is awarded you gain credit for the course but cannot continue into papers that require this course as a pre-requisite. NB. The R grade is only available at 100 and 200 level - it cannot be awarded for third year papers.

Failing grades:   D   40-49             E  0–39


If there is a word limit on an assignment, it is usually there to stop you doing too much work and to encourage you to write succinctly.  It also makes things easier to assess.  You can be up to 10% over without too much worry, but if the length increases beyond that your mark may suffer due to failure to follow the requirements.  If you find yourself way over the word limit have a chat to the lecturer concerned about how to trim your assignment to an acceptable length.

Requests for extensions

Reports and assignments should be handed in on time. Extensions may be granted if you have a valid reason. If you require an extension, you should request one from the course co-ordinator (or the lecturer responsible for marking the work), with as much notice as possible.  Please do this BEFORE the deadline for the assignment. If you have been given an extension you should hand the work DIRECTLY to the course coordinator (do not put it in the drop box as it may not be cleared after the due date).
If an extension has not been granted:
• work must be handed in by the due date to gain full credit
• work handed in up to 7 days after the deadline will be marked, but the marks will be discounted 25% before they are recorded to the student's credit
• any work handed in more than 7 days after the deadline date will not be marked or earn credit.

What do I do if I’m sick?

If you feel that illness, injury, bereavement or other extenuating circumstances beyond your control have prevented you from completing an item of assessment worth 10% or more of total course assessment or if these circumstances affected your performance in such assessments, you should apply for Special Consideration. Applications for Special Consideration should be submitted via the Examinations Office website and notify the course co-ordinator within five days of the assessment or its due date. If this is for medical reasons you should visit a doctor within 24 hours of the assessment (application form available on-line or from the Student Health Centre). The Special Consideration provisions are intended to assist students who have covered the work of a course but have been prevented by illness or other critical circumstances from demonstrating their mastery of the material or skills at the time of assessment – they do not excuse you from doing the assessment within a reasonable time agreed with the course co-ordinator. You should expect to be required to submit additional work if you miss a major assignment (e.g. a field trip for which a major write-up is required).

In rare cases you may not be able to complete an assessment or attend a field trip, because of involvement in international or national representative sport or cultural groups. In such cases you should also apply for Special Consideration. Please review the Special Considerations policy because very few kinds of activities will be eligible for consideration (e.g. holiday trips, birthday parties etc. are not given special status in the University policy).

Students prevented by extenuating circumstances from completing the course after the final date for withdrawing, may apply for Special Consideration for late discontinuation of the course. Applications must be submitted to the Examinations Office within five days of the end of the main examination period for the semester.

For further details on Special Consideration applications, please refer to the Examinations Office website

What if I fail part of the course?

IIn BIOL, we require a satisfactory level of achievement in both the theoretical aspects of the discipline and in practical activities. This means you must attend all class activities and submit all items of assessment unless you have a very good reason not to (e.g. medical reasons). A student must attain an average score of at least 40% for in-course assessments (e.g. assignments, reports) and an average score of at least 40% in the exam and/or test, AND score at least 50% overall for the course, to be awarded a passing grade. See course outline for clarification of the assessment items included in each category and ask the coordinator if you are still unsure.

What’s the best way to give feedback?

We welcome constructive feedback at all times – help us to make this a valuable course for you.  We endeavour to remain approachable at all times.  If you would rather give feedback anonymously, please use the on-line course survey or talk to lab demonstrators, or your class rep (who will all report back to the staff-student liaison committee that includes a representative from each of the undergraduate classes). Class representatives will be selected from each class at the start of course.

What’s the best way to complain?

If you feel you have not been fairly treated during this course, please raise the issue with the lecturer or course co-ordinator in the first instance.  Other avenues include your class rep., who can raise issues anonymously, or the UCSA education coordinator.

Where to submit and collect work

All assignments should be placed in the designated collection box in the foyer of the 2nd floor of the School of Biological Sciences (near the main office), unless directed otherwise by the course co-ordinator. All assignments must be accompanied by a cover sheet signed by you stating that the submitted work is not plagiarised. Cover sheets are available on top of the collection boxes, or you can download one from the Biology website (under Undergraduate). In addition, you may also be asked to submit your work electronically (via Learn) for analysis in Turnitin. You will be given instructions on how to do this in the assignment handout.

Marked assignments can be collected from the Secretaries' Office, unless directed otherwise by the course co-ordinator. Teaching staff will endeavour to return work as soon as possible, and should contact you if there are likely to be any delays that will prevent return within the maximum 4-week timeframe.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,900.00

International fee $8,828.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see School of Biological Sciences .

All BIOL270 Occurrences

  • BIOL270-18S1 (C) Semester One 2018