All posts by lortie

Final course annoucements

1. BUMP.
I have not forgotten about the potential bump to address any short-answer scantrons issues.  I should know in about 1 week if I can do it because I need to wait for all grades for all work to be submitted from alt-exams. I cannot add if it makes the course anomalous but will try.
2. Qualitative feedback.
Thank you for the nice emails about the problem-solving questions on test 2. I am delighted you did well and want to learn how to be better problem solvers. Me too. It is hard to do individual emails with many folks.  Consequently, as soon it as uploads (super slow), I did a short YouTube clip on the specifics of each question.
3. General PBLT ideas listed here.

Problem-based learning and testing (PBLT)

Following the quantitative feedback (i.e. the scores on problem solving test), I had some awesome emails on how to do better. Thank you for asking. I was wondering this too. How can use problem-based testing to be better problem solvers.

Yes, another Star Wars themed talk, haha, but Rogue One opens in less than a week.

YouTube Video embedded too.




Restoration ecology versus conservation biology

I used many resources to give people a wide latitude of possible answers for this question. Just a reminder that the paper I linked to in the marking key is really great.

Young, T. P. (2000). “Restoration ecology and conservation biology.” Biological Conservation 92(1): 73-83.

Restoration ecology is undergoing rapid growth as an academic discipline, similar to that experienced by conservation biology over the last 15 years. Restoration ecology and conservation biology share many underlying biodiversity goals, but differ in striking ways. Using data from published literature in these two fields, I document that conservation biology has been more zoological, more descriptive and theoretical, and more focused on population and genetic studies than restoration ecology, which has been more botanical, more experimental, and more focused on population, community and ecosystem studies. I also use documented trends in population, land use, and biodiversity awareness to suggest that in the future ecological restoration will play an increasing role in biodiversity conservation. The conservation mind set is one of loss on a relatively short time horizon, whereas the restoration mind set is one of long-term recovery. I suggest that a restoration mind set can provide useful insights into problems of conservation today, illustrated with examples examining edge effects and integrated conservation and development projects.


Flipped lecture for Dec 2. Consolidation of our practical learning

Announcement: NO in-person lecture tomorrow, Dec 2.

Rationale: I have had numerous requests for a ‘flipped’ lecture tomorrow (i.e. NO in-person lecture tomorrow Dec 2).  Apparently, many students have a conflict with a final exam. I respect that. Importantly, we worked very hard earlier, accelerated our coverage of content, and did the final, cumulative test last week.  The materials for this final lecture are also not testable material, but I want everyone to have access to this final consolidation process :)!

Hence, there is no ‘in person’ meeting on Dec 2.  However, please review the consolidation materials for practical ecology ideas lecture (what is the value of ecology) and also the rubric we used to mark you long-answer questions.
Consolidation materials
I want to ensure you are well prepared for upper-year courses.  This material is not graded, but please promise me you will review it as it is a nice way to consolidate the practical value of ecology. I hope you agree with was a very practical course for science and skills in life too.
To do sometime over the December break.
1. Review the ‘What is the value of ecology’ slidedeck?
Here is a brief and cheesy video abstract for the deck.
2. Reading. Ecological restoration: A new frontier for nature conservation and economics
3. Rubric for final papers.
Please download and match up to your answers. Here it is.
THANK YOU for an amazing term.
I will POST the link to official and unofficial feedback for the course, and I will post your grades as soon as we complete marking (hopefully by tomorrow afternoon).
If you have any other questions, please email me and I will do my best to help. I hope the writing workshops and discussions outside lectures were helpful too.

Weekly educational surprise: question survivor

It was my goal to have an educational surprise every week for the last three weeks of the term.

This week, ‘question survivor’. I made a table of all 20 potential test questions then ranked them in terms of educational quality.

Surprise. I have narrowed it down to 10 potential test questions.

A case of neutrality. Carbon neutrality is a powerful heuristic in encouraging more balanced global practices (as mentioned in CH19). Expain carbon neutrality (2 points). It can also be scaled to the individual. Take two ecological footprint quizzes online (try and and Record and report your total number of planets needed and also your tonnes of carbon in our answer here (2 points). Given that your carbon footprint is likely not zero, what could you change that would at least reduce your footprint. List two solutions. For each one, clearly link each solution to how it would improve the ecology of your region (diversity, an ecosystem function, extent of invasion, resilience, etc.) (6 points, 3 for each solution). Remember, provide your human solutions but that you are an ecologist and want to explain how the ecology of where you live will also be less impacted.
A case of too much good information. You are an ecologist and study interactions in natural systems. However, you also live on the planet and recognize that people are a big part of global change, and that it is at best hard for people to want to change unless they understand ecology and have their basic needs met too.   The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment was a profound contribution to efforts to link ecology to human well-being based on scientific evidence. If you download just the synthesis report (, and read through some sections of it, you will absolutely appreciate how throughtful and well done it was. Even just look at the figures in this report. We could spend an entire term just with this document. Select two major ecological findings ane explain each. TIP: For each major finding, cite the page number from the report and the figure number for the markers (4 points). Then, given what you now know as an ecologist, provide a set of solutions for each that will address the issues detected (6 points, 3 for each solution).
A case study for ikea. If people read the instructions, many things would be much easier to understand, saves you time later, reduces error, and gets put together correctly, In discussing the species diversity chapter together (CH19), we invoked the concept of community assembly rules. These are a really appealing set of ideas because they could in theory help conservationist and restoration ecologists. Imagine we started a non-profit together entitled ‘ekea’ (the ecological equivalent of ikea and hope they do not sue us). Your first job for our not-for-profit company is to provide a set of simple instructions for community assembly of two important ecosystem types/regions within most urban centers globally: airports and universities. For each one, list the ecological assembly rules that are most important for maintaining positive BDEF in each system – i.e. what rules are most likely to provide you the most number of species (from lecture and CH19). Provide an ikea-style figure for your rules and ensure you use the ideas from CH19 and the associated paper by Srivastava. The two assembly figures can be sketched or drawn then scanned or photographed and put on a separate page.
A case of stability. Four hypotheses have been proposed to explain the relationship between diversity and function. Explain each. Each is not however equally likely to apply to every ecosystem or even within a region. Design an experiment that explicitly tests this hypothesis set (and contrasts them) that you could practically apply to a region like grasslands in Southern Ontario (areas of Downsview Park or YorkU campus for instance) to determine how species richness and ecological function might relate and how we should thus manage the species in the region that we live and study in. Tip: 4 points for an experiment that tests the relevant and 2 points for how the findings could be used.
A case failure to connect. Ecology and conservation biology seem like very similar disciplines of science. However, in the paper by Srivastava, numerous limitations in connecting the best possible ecology to conservation are listed. In other words, ecology is failing to be practical! Not going to happen to us. We know that principled data, useful hypotheses and theories, testable predictions, and framing the scope of inference more broadly ensure that ecology is practical. Given our focus on this approach, we should also be able to connect ecology to restoration ecology like Srivastava did in her paper for conservation. Explain the difference between restoration and conservation (2points). Explain the solutions that Srivastava proposed for ecologists to consider to better help conservation biologists work with BDEF (2points). Now, similar to what she did, propose three questions that ecologists could answer for ecologists to consider that will make restoration more effective in working with biodiversity (2 points for each question).
A case of correlation is causation. The second slide in the PK deck on BDEF illustrates two curves from a paper by Geber in 2010 showing that as human populations increase so do extinction rates of other species. The curves look pretty similar. Briefly explain using practical previous ecological knowledge why correlation could be causation in this case. Then, imagine (hypothetically) a case where a politician is elected that does not accept these ideas and sees only a spurious correlation. Let us assume this politician is more clever than they appear and they know some ecology (or have a paid ecologist that can help them). What ecological arguments could they make that this is not causation. Finally, solve the problem by designing a regional biodiversity experiment that tests whether it is causation and not just correlation.
A case of too many cooks in the kitchen. Explain the IPCC to a non-ecologist. What was its purpose, what did it do, and summarize what you think the major findings were in the most recent report. (total 4). It is tricky for everyone to resolve the certainty that global change is due to humans. However, slide 51 of ch25 quotes the report in that it is 95-100% likely humans are responsible. Assume that global change happens for many reasons. Assume it is changing now for some reason (or many). Link two important ecological interactions (processes such as competition, facilitatinon herbivory, etc) are changing now because of global change. Then, link these changes, each one to an ecological maxim or ecological myth (6 points, 3 each: 2 for each changed interaction and 1 for each maxim that matches well).
A case of different mindsets. Parmesan and Yohe do a fantastic job of explaining and summarizing global change, how to simplify it, and how different experts might think about global change really differently. Explain the challenge that the IPCC report faced with people and experts in different disciplines (4). Then, the solution they provided is amazing. It is worth explain it to in your own words for the reader or anyone (another 4). Then, for the last two points, tell me, did this work for you? Did it convince you that global change is real and if so how could you apply this process to the decisions you have to make in evaluating evidence for any topic? (final 2 points)
A case of so meta. I love meta-analyses. I use them to make decisions about health and sometimes ecology too. Explain meta-analysis for someone not in science. (/4). Find any published meta-analysis other than the Parmesan and Yohe example and explain how it solved an ecological problem. (/6) Tip: Cite the paper you found in your answer, identify the ecological challenge (2 points) that the meta was about was solving by doing the meta-analysis (4 points for explaining the solution that the meta illuminated).
A case of the top 100. As the year ends, the top 100 countdowns begin. In ecology, there was paper listing the 100 most important questions that we including you must answer. Do you accept the challenge? I do. Select two questions from the list, explain each, and then explain why you think they are the most important two questions to answer right now (4points). Given what you discovered in this course through reading some fundamental principles in a textbook then reading one paper each that hopefully showed successful application, how can do an experiment with half-a-million dollars (CDN) to best answer one of these questions. Hint: Think about campus ecology and what you did a scientist but you actually have funding to do more than just a survey. You still have only one planet to work with, but design a superb experiment to answer one of these questions in a way that links to changing the managment and conservation that can be done with what you discovered.