Approaches to the Study of Ecological Systems

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The course aims at providing students with advanced knowledge about the principles of ecological sampling and the main environmental and biodiversity monitoring techniques
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course, students will be able to properly plan a research activity by choosing the best approach among those presented in the curse, identify the correct sample size, schedule data collection activity, and organize the results.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
In the emergency phase, all 8 ECTS of the course will be delivered in mixed modality in a multimedial classroom. Lessons will be recorded and delivered remotely through. If this will not be possible, possible, based on the evolution of the COVID-19 situation, lessons will be delivered remotely through synchronous, asynchronous activities and student working groups coordinated by the teachers. The TEAMS (alternatively ZOOM) platform will be used.
During the emergency phase, the final exam will be proposed via web, with an oral prentation (via the TEAMS or ZOOM platform).
During the presentation, the student cannot consult books, manuals or notes except for the mental / conceptual maps for DSA certified students only and who have agreed on the compensatory tools with the teachers.
Course syllabus
Principles of ecological and biodiversity sampling techniques: principles of sampling, censusing and surveillance; challenges in estimating population size: complete vs. sample counts; census methods: transect sampling, distance sampling, mark-recapture methods and applications; estimating population dynamics and trends; taxon specific issues: case studies with sampling wildlife communities; estimating ecological community parameters: species richness and diversity.
Molecular methods for environmental and biodiversity monitoring: principles of environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling and analysis (metabarcoding); limitations and opportunities of eDNA sampling and case studies; indirect sampling techniques using fecal DNA and metabolites.
Ecological indicators: concepts, problems, applications, and case studies; relevance of ecological indicators for ecosystems and environmental monitoring and management.
Habitat and environmental variables recording at different spatial and temporal scales; linking environmental and ecological variables to census and biodiversity data; the concepts of habitat selection, preference, and suitability; from habitat suitability to species distribution modeling and forecasting.
Prerequisites for admission
This is an advanced course that requires basic knowledge of ecology.
Teaching methods
The course will consist of theoretical lectures and practical (case studies discussion). Teaching method consists in presenting real-world case studies of ecological systems and some methods of analyses that can be applied to their study. Students will then be asked to plan a framework of analysis of that ecosystem and to prepare reports of their research plan in different formats (written report, slideshow, podcast, video) that will be discussed during the exam.
Teaching Resources
Guisan A et al. Habitat Suitability and Distribution Models. Cambridge, 2017
Jørgensen S et al. Handbook of Ecological Indicators for Assessment of Ecosystem Health. CRC, 2010
Sutherland WJ. Ecological Census Techniques. Cambridge, 2006
Taberlet P. Environmental DNA for Biodiversity Research and Monitoring. Oxford, 2018
Assessment methods and Criteria
The learning objectives will be assessed by means of an oral exam, where students will present and discuss in front of the commission a report on a case-study produced during the course.
Marks out of thirty.
BIO/07 - ECOLOGY - University credits: 8
Lessons: 64 hours
Tuesday 10-12 am by appointment to be requested via email a few days before
tower C, 6th floor, Via Celoria 26