Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e dell'Ambiente - Guida degli insegnamenti (Syllabus)


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Seat Scienze
A.A. 2016/2017
Credits 8
Hours 64
Period 2^ semestre
Language ENG
U-gov code ST01 3S022


The student must possess the rudiments of mathematics, physics and chemistry

Development of the course

Lectures (7 credits, 56 hours) are given using textual, iconographic and graphical aids. Students are offered diagrams, data and conceptual maps that describe the basic ecological processes, starting from the structure of an ecosystem to the relationships between organisms and their environment and the relationships between man and the environment. Part of the course is devoted to provide the students with basics of experimental design (using examples) and the multifactorial analysis of ecological data.

Learning outcomes

The course provides the student with the necessary background and terminology of of basic ecology including the structure and functioning of ecosystems, the mechanisms of interaction between organisms, between organisms and their environment, and between man and the environment. The ultimate goal is to equip the student of the ecological principles that regulate the functioning of the biosphere and how these mechanisms can be influenced by human activities.

Ability to apply the knowledge:
The student will have to take possession of the methodological principles of ecological investigation, the formal principles of experimental design and analysis of ecological hypotheses. At the end of the course the student should be able to outline a complex experimental design about ecological topics.

Soft skills:
The acquisition of the notional principles of ecology together with the basics of formal ecological experimental design and statistical analysis of multifactorial approaches will equip the student of experimental competence, thus allowing him to deal with multifactorial experiments or complex environmental investigations.


Contenuti (lezioni frontali, 7 CFU, 56 ore):
Definition of "ecosystem" and emergent properties of ecological systems; the flow of energy in ecosystems; food chains and webs; ecological efficiency; ecological valence; abiotic factors; resources and consumers; definition of population and meta-population; ecological demography: life tables, recruitment, growth of a population in a non-limited environment; density-dependent and density non-dependent factors; the density effects on the growth of a population; the logistic curve; carrying capacity; r and K life strategies; the intraspecific and interspecific competition; predation; parasitism; the Lotka and Volterra model for competition and predation; the Rosenzweig and McArthur model for the competition between two species for more resources; the concept of R *; the concept of habitat and habitat selection; ecological niche; succession; biodiversity; the biogeographic theory of islands; relationships between diversity and ecosystem functioning. Basics of formal experimental design and analysis of multivariate data.

Development of the examination

Methods for assessing learning outcomes:
The exam consists of a test that includes multiple-choice queries and open-ended questions. The test consists of 16 questions, of which 14 are multiple choice (one, two, all right, none right) and 2 open-ended questions. The exam duration is fixed at 60 minutes.

Criteria for assessing learning outcomes: 
The test includes a question for each of the main topics covered by the course. The use of the scores as outlined below constitutes therefore an integrated tool able to assess, on a rigorous quantitative basis, the level and quality of the preparation in terms of appropriateness, correctness and consistency of:
a) the knowledge gained
b) the application of the acquired knowledge
c) the self-assessment ability

Criteria for measuring learning outcomes:
The final judgment, conferred in thirtieth, is meant as a degree of measuring students’ learning based on the following levels:

a) Sufficient (18 to 20/30)
The candidate demonstrates little knowledge acquired, superficial level, many gaps; basic skills in the fitting the elementary level topics; poor textual and / or graphical expression capacity.

b) Fair (21 to 23/30)
The candidate demonstrates discrete acquisition of knowledge, lack of depth, and few gaps; textual/graphic expression capacity sufficient; acceptable mastery of scientific language; logic skills and ability in the fitting of moderately complex topics.

c) Good (24 to 26)
The candidate demonstrates a rather broad wealth of notions, moderate depth, with small gaps; satisfactory expressive capabilities and significant mastery of scientific language; textual/graphical expression ability more than acceptable.

d) Outstanding (27 to 29)
The candidate demonstrates a wealth of very extensive in-depth knowledge, with marginal gaps; considerable textual and graphical expressive skills and high mastery of scientific language.

e) Excellent (30)
The candidate demonstrates a wealth of very extensive, in-depth knowledge, irrelevant, if any, gaps; high capacity of textual/graphical expression and high mastery of scientific language

The praise is attributed to candidates clearly above average, and whose eventual notional and expressive limits result, overall, entirely irrelevant.

Criteria for conferring final mark:
At each question (including open-ended ones) corresponds a maximum score of 2 points. The maximum score for each question is only achieved by giving all the right answers. If only a subset of right answers is given the grade is down-scaled proportionally. For every wrong answer (among those proposed as multiple-choice questions) 0.4 points will be subtracted. If, for each multiple choice question, the number of wrong answers exceeds the number of right answers, it will be ranked as 0. The final score is rounded to the nearest integer, and, at the discretion of the teacher, based on the correctness of answers to open-ended questions, will be given up to a further point.

Recommended reading

Eugene P. Odum, ECOLOGIA, un ponte tra scienza e società, PICCIN, Padova, 2001
M. Begon, J.L. Harper, C.R. Townsend, ECOLOGIA, Individui, Popolazioni, Comunità, Zanichelli, Bologna, 2000
G. Chelazzi, A. Provini, G. Santini, Ecologia dagli organismi agli ecosistemi, Casa Editrice Ambrosiana, Milano, 2004.
R.R. Ricklefs, ECOLOGIA, Zanichelli, Bologna, 1997

  • Scienze biologiche

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