BIOL377-21S1 (C) Semester One 2021

Global Change and Biosecurity

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 22 February 2021
End Date: Sunday, 27 June 2021
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 7 March 2021
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 14 May 2021


A discussion of major concepts in community and ecosystems ecology in the context of anthropogenic changes to the environment and pressure from invasive exotic species.

The general aim of the course is to discuss major concepts in community and ecosystems ecology in the context of anthropogenic changes to the environment including pressure from invasive exotic species.  The central focus will be on the interactions of organisms with their physical and biotic environment, and the ways in which ecological principles can be used to predict responses to global change and to maintain biosecurity.  Global change phenomena are often dealt with as independent problems or special cases.  We will highlight the interdependence of these threats, and explain their effects on organisms using general ecological principles.  We will also discuss biosecurity issues in the broad sense, including how to maintain the integrity of our ecosystems, maintain food supply, and protect human health.

Additional reading of recent books and scientific papers will be an essential adjunct to the lectures, and development of the ability to evaluate such readings is an important objective for the course.

Lectures will largely entail a discussion format, such that attendance is compulsory and not substitutable with online content alone.

An understanding of basic ecological principles is assumed.  If at any stage you feel that you do not understand the assumed basics, refer to the general reference materials listed below or seek help from the lecturer concerned as soon as possible.

Goals of the Course
To introduce the methodology and principles of investigation into human impacts on ecological processes at the community and ecosystem level, to develop an understanding of the interdependent relationship between human well-being and ecosystem function, and to provide skills in research and data analysis.

Learning Outcomes

  • Intended Learning Outcomes and Associated Assessment
    As a student in this course, I will develop the ability to:
  • Apply concepts from community and ecosystem ecology to evaluate how the various drivers of global environmental change affect ecosystems and human wellbeing (assessment task: final exam).
  • Evaluate the importance of direct vs. indirect pathways through which human activities drive community and ecosystem change at multiple scales (assessment task: final exam).
  • Apply an understanding of scientific practice and of global change biology and ecology to the generation of new testable hypotheses (assessment task: project report).
  • Synthesise primary scientific literature to generate a clear and concise argument in support of a perspective (assessment tasks: project report & final exam).
  • Synthesise primary scientific literature to provide necessary background and context for understanding and interpreting experimental data (assessment task: project report).
  • Reflect on how one’s actions result in ecosystem change, and relate this to the social and economic trade-offs that underpin environmental decision making (assessment task: final exam).
  • Reflect on the impact of colonisation and changing social and environmental conditions on the
    relationships between indigenous peoples and their environment. (assessment task: mid-course

    Transferable Skills Register
    As a student in this course, I will develop the following skills:
  • Synthesising information. In everyday life and in many job situations you will be required to read information from different sources, construct your own understanding and shape your own viewpoint. In lectures and tutorials we will discuss recent research papers in a group environment and this will develop your abilities to identify the essential elements of research outputs - you will then use in report writing.
  • Generating data. Important for research and in governmental and non-governmental organizations. We will conduct research activities to provide both the real-world context for lectures and to develop hands-on skills in data generation and manipulation.
  • Analysing data. Important for research, as well as in a number of private-sector organizations. This skill will be further developed when we assist you to analyse and present the data we generate in the research workshop.
  • Writing a report on findings. Clear written communication is essential for most professional careers. We will provide instruction on the elements of successful reports and help you identify


BIOL209 and either (1) BIOL270 or (2) BIOL274 and BIOL275

Timetable Note

Lectures/tutorials / Akoranga
There will be a total of 24 lectures/tutorial topics in this course - two per week. There will be a mix of lectures, question times, and discussions on readings and homework. These have been included in the course to allow for in-depth group discussions on topics/papers of interest, and to enable you to be more effective in the course and in the future.
Our teaching philosophy is that students need to be actively engaged in learning – it is important that you do more than simply turn up to class and receive instruction from us. You will be given clear instructions on what preparation is expected before each class – please come to class prepared to make best use of the time. [Students should note that in the Science Faculty that the average student is responsible for 10-12 hours of study per credit point – this equates to approximately 4 hours of additional study for each hour of class contact at the 300-level].
Research Workshop
The COMPULSORY 2-day research workshop will be on 20-21 April on campus (see below).
During our hands-on research activity this year we will focus on key topics in global change science:
1. How can species-species interactions influence population and community dynamics? We will extend a simple multi-species model to understand (i) how the addition/removal of a species (e.g. an invader) can influence other species in a community and (ii) the degree to which external disturbance can change community dynamics.
2. How might species interactions change in a future world?
There will be a formal independent project report assessed from this workshop.
[We will also run an optional ‘help clinic’ during the lecture period in week 8 to assist you with project analysis and write-up].

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Matthew Turnbull


Jason Tylianakis , Daniel Stouffer and Ian Dickie


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Final exam 35%
Peer-feedback on project 5% Draft Project due on Friday 7 May, 5pm (to Learn) Peer-review due by Fri 14 May, 5pm (on Learn)
Mid course test 31 Mar 2021 30%
Project write-up 23 May 2021 30%

Textbooks / Resources

There is no required text. During the course you will be directed to various books and
scientific papers, some of which are provided as booklets of readings by the lecturer.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $910.00

International fee $4,438.00

* 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 BIOL377 Occurrences

  • BIOL377-21S1 (C) Semester One 2021