Complexity in Ecological Systems


About this course

The course offers a modern view on the complexity in ecology. Complex systems may respond in a non-linear way to a changing environment due to feedback mechanisms. This may lead to the existence of tipping points, chaos and emergent patterns. Early warning signals may indicate an approaching tipping point. In the course, a variety of (eco)systems will be used as examples to explain the essence of the mechanisms that govern complex system behavior. Throughout the course, these insights are linked with mathematical models during computer practical. Content from reading material (book and scientific papers), lectures and PC practical is part of the written examination.
Important scientific articles on different themes are critically evaluated by the students. The students individually read and analyze four of these key publications. The results are discussed in plenary sessions. Furthermore, students work in small groups (3 to 5 students) on assignments and present their findings in a short presentation. Again, the findings are discussed in a plenary session.

This course is based on principles of flipped-the-classroom and assumes an active learning style from the students.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course, students are expected to be able to:

  • recognize, explain, quantify and apply key (biological) processes in various (aquatic) ecosystems;
  • recognize, explain and analyze relationships between biological processes and chemical and physical processes;
  • recognize and assess driving mechanisms and feedbacks in various ecosystems;
  • analyse reasoning and argumentation in scientific articles;- judge the value or significance of scientific information;
  • recognize own interpretation from other views;
  • set science and scientist in a broader social context.

Teaching method and examination

The grade for the course will be generated from the scores for the written interim examination. This written interim examination consists of a number open questions dealing with the basic knowledge part (weight 75%) and an assignment related to scientific skills/attitude part (weight 25%). The required minimum grade for both parts is 5.50. Furthermore, to pass the course all (weekly) assignments should have been handed in and presence and participation in discussions is required.

Required prior knowledge

Assumed Knowledge:
One of the following courses: AEW-31306 Water Quality; SLM-20806 Water Quantity and Quality; CSA-20806 Populations and Systems Ecology or equivalent (i.e. basic knowledge of water quality issues and a basic understanding of biological principles with respect to populations, communities and ecosystems)

Link to more information

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