Fall 2023 Unlocking the Museums: Introduction to Biodiversity Research (Bio 121)

The goal of this special topics course is to introduce students to specimen-based research in U-M’s biological research museums. The class will take place primarily in the Research Museum Center (RMC) south of campus, which contains over 13 million specimens of insects, vertebrates, mollusks, plants and fungi associated with the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (UMMZ) and Herbarium (UMH). We will discuss research along two major themes: taxonomic discovery and ecological change. At the RMC, we will examine U-M collections associated with these lines of research, and learn about the curatorial activities of U-M faculty and museum staff. Students will work on individual and/or group projects at the RMC.

Fall 2024: Woody Plants (cross-listed EEB, PitE, NRE 436)

Woody Plants is an intensive field- and lecture-based class focused on the identification and biology of Michigan trees, shrubs and vines (ca. 150 species). The topics include taxonomy, ecology, habitat associations, glacial history, plant-insect interactions, and biogeographic history. The lab component consists of weekly field trip to natural plant communities in southeast Michigan, including river floodplains, glacial lakes, moraines, bogs and fens. I teach Woody Plants in alternating years.

Winter 2024: General Ecology (Biology 281)

The course introduces the basic concepts and principles of ecology as applied to the study of individuals, populations, and communities of both plants and animals. Course topics include: the roles of physical and biotic factors influencing the distribution and abundance of organisms; the dynamics of population growth; species interactions including competition, predation, mutualism; the structure of ecological communities; ecological succession; and applications of ecology to problems of environment and resource management.

Past classes:

Laboratory in Field Ecology (EEB 477, NRE 556)

Field Ecology is an experiential grad-level ecology course taught at the ES George Reserve. The course employs the OTS style of group field problems emphasizing observation and hypothesis formation in ecology. The course runs from Friday-Sunday for the first six weeks of fall semester. In 2015 and 2016 the course was taught jointly by John Vandermeer, Ivette Perfecto, Catherine Badgley and Christopher Dick, with two or three visiting faculty each week who gave lectures and lead field problems.

First Year Seminar “Amazon Rain Forests” (Bio 120)

The tropics harbor the earth’s greatest concentration of biological diversity. Within the terrestrial zones, staggering levels of unexplored biological diversity are found in the forests of the Amazon basin. In this class we survey some of the most intriguing organisms, adaptations, and ecological interactions in tropical forests globally. We will then focus on the Amazon forests, and examine the geological and climatic factors that set the stage for their evolutionary and ecological complexity. We discuss human influences on Amazonian ecology, and the challenges posed by contemporary deforestation and climate change.

Molecular Ecology (EEB 412)

The infusion of genetic markers into studies of ecology and evolution has led to the formation of an emergent field, Molecular Ecology. Molecular Ecology is an advanced undergraduate and graduate level course that that explores how new genetic markers, methods of analyses and computational techniques have helped biologists to better understand the ecology and evolution of organisms in the wild. The topics covered in lecture include genetic diversity, population genetic structure, kinship, species discovery, environmental genomics and community phylogeny. Students learn the strength and limitations of different classes of markers and analyses, and they analyze molecular datasets in order to gain familiarity with current techniques.