Topics About Ecology

Module Aims

• extend the knowledge of ecological and evolutionary processes taught in first and second year modules • introduce rocky shores as a model system for community ecology • provide an understanding of early bird evolution • consider various aspects of the process of coevolution in a wide range of interacting species • increase understanding of the effect of age- and stage-structure on population and evolutionary dynamics

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • appreciate the extent of overlap between ecology and evolution
  • discuss the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem level processes in rocky shores
  • describe the origin and early evolution of birds
  • explain how species coevolve depending on the nature of their interactions
  • explain how age- and stage-structure affects population and evolutionary dynamics


Ecological processes impact on individuals, populations and communities. Evolution typically happens over long time periods. Still, ecology and evolution are interlinked and influence each other in many different ways. In this module, we will examine various ways in which ecology and evolution interact. The module will be taught by a number of different staff, and will reflect their current research interests. It will begin by presenting rocky shores as tractable experimental systems for community ecology, and give an overview of work on the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem level processes. Then we will focus on the early evolution of birds, their flight, and aspects of dinosaur ecomorphology. We will also discuss the ways in which evolutionary trees are constructed so that hypotheses about the interplay between ecology and evolution can be developed. This will be followed by exploring the different ways in which interacting organisms can influence each other’s evolution, and how coevolution manifest itself in different types of interactions. Finally, we will focus on age- and stage-structured populations, changes in selection pressures and fitness, and how these changes impact on population dynamics. Varied though the topics in this module are, they all highlight the interaction between ecology and evolution.

Special Features

100% coursework-assessed Writing of a New Scientist-style article Peer review: students review and criticise each other’s essays Podcast

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The principal method of teaching will be via 20 lectures. Students will write an article in the style of New Scientist, write an essay on one from two topics, and offer criticism on an essays on the other topic, and prepare a podcast. The students will be directed to considerable background reading.

Type Hours
Lecture 20
Independent Study 130
Total study time 150

Resources & Reading list

Freeman & Heron. Evolutionary Analysis.

Ellner & Guckenheimer. Dynamic Models in Biology.

Begon et al. Ecology.

Raffaelli & Hawkins. Intertidal Ecology.

Loreau et al. Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning: Synthesis and Perspectives.

Caswell. Matrix Population Models.

Thompson. The Geographic Mosaic of Coevolution.

Thompson. The Coevolutionary Process.

Keyfitz & Caswell. Applied Mathematical Demography.

Naeem et al. Biodiversity, Ecosystem Functioning and Human Wellbeing.

Futuyma & Slatkin. Coevolution.

Solan et al. Marine Biodiversity & Ecosystem Functioning.



Method Percentage contribution
Coursework 100%


Population Ecology Problems

Ecology ESA

Issues in Ecology