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This course will address selected major issues concerning the role of biological processes in the Earth System and the impact on these of human activities (global change). Discussion will include carbon and nutrient cycling in terrestrial and marine ecosystems, the impacts of past and future climate change on biota, the significance of biodiversity loss on ecosystem processes and strategies to mitigate climate change.
The conditions necessary for life on Earth are provided by a suite of interacting physical, chemical and biological global scale cycles and energy fluxes. This is now often referred to as the Earth System. In recent decades it has been realised that biological processes play a much stronger role than thought previously.This course will address selected major issues concerning the role of biological processes in the Earth System and the impact on these of human activities (global change). Discussion will include carbon and nutrient cycling in terrestrial and marine ecosystems, the impacts of past and future climate change on biota, the significance of biodiversity loss on ecosystem processes and strategies to mitigate climate change.It is recommended that you have passed one or more of the following courses: BIOL374/385 Marine Ecosystems, BIOL377 Global Change and Biosecurity, BIOL378 Population Ecology and Conservation. However, if you do not have any of these but are strongly interested in the topic then you should be able to cope with the course content following some background reading which we can supply.In order to cover the issues raised above we will be discussing the functioning of organisms (and groups of organisms) at a range of scales (global, regional, ecological, whole organism, physiological and biochemical levels). The following set of 6 tutorial topics provide an overview of issues which we hope are both interesting and intellectually challenging. Remember, in a course like this it is impossible to cover all the possible issues in this very broad topic!!
As a student in this course, I will develop the ability to:Acquire an in-depth appreciation of important concepts in global change biology and be able to apply these to current problems (assessment task: final exam).Evaluate the importance of the processes that control the response of terrestrial ecosystems to global change drivers at a variety of scales ranging from individuals to ecosystems and landscapes (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: proposal assignment).Display a high level of critical thinking including critique and synthesis of research, development of hypotheses, research objectives and methodologies, and integration of theory and applications (assessment tasks: proposal assignment & final exam).Synthesise primary scientific literature to provide necessary background and context for understanding and interpreting experimental data (assessment task: research proposal).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).Develop a high level of communication skills appropriate for a number of audiences (assessment task: oral presentation, research proposal development)Transferable Skills RegisterAs a student in this course, I will develop the following skills:Writing a grant application. This will be important for any career in research or in an NGO, where you will need to write convincing applications for increasingly-limited funding. We will have a short tutorial to provide instruction on the elements of successful proposals and develop your abilities to identify these elements.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 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 proposal writing and the exam.Written and verbal communication. Clear written communication is essential for most professional careers, and communicating verbal to a range of audiences is also critical in any area of endevour. We will provide instruction on the elements of successful communication and help you develop these elements during tutorial sessions.
Subject to approval of the Head of School.
Students must attend one activity from each section.
Dr David Whitehead
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Domestic fee $1,066.00
International Postgraduate fees
* 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