This course examines biological systems from the level of populations through species to ecosystems and complements the course in cell biology. Topics include the diversity of life, evolution, speciation, taxonomy, domestication, population ecology (demography, life tables, density-dependence, logistic growth, home ranges, patch dynamics and migration), community ecology (climate zones, energy flows, trophic levels, competition, dispersal, disturbance, predation, mutualism, parasitism), biogeography, environmental adaptations, and the impacts of human population growth and global environmental change. Although there is some consideration of aquatic organisms, plants, invertebrates and domesticated animals, there is an emphasis on free-living populations of wild-type terrestrial vertebrates to complement the “One Health” theme in the program as a whole.
The interaction between free living terrestrial vertebrate animals and their environment is addressed using an issue-based approach in order to explain how the ecology of terrestrial vertebrates has been shaped by evolution through interactions with their living and non-living environment. The course also demonstrates how we can understand and explain the significance of what we see in nature using scientific methods. A field course component provides the opportunity to investigate how the environment influences community composition, biodiversity and adaptive radiation in a variety of habitats. It is empirical, rather than theoretical and relies heavily on examples of actual environmental issues. Attendance at the field camp is compulsory.