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



Development of the course

The course will be composed by lectures (7 CFU, 56 hours) and practical exercises to be conducted individually or in small groups (1 credit, 8 hours). The lectures are  supported by additional material (such as scientific papers) in e-learning mode.

Learning outcomes

Students will learn about the structure and functions of the ecosystem, its abiotic and biotic components, the transformation processes of inorganic-organic matter mediated by living organisms, the relationships between organisms and environment and the relationships among organisms themselves, with specific reference to the ecological role of competition and predation. Students will learn about the concept of biodiversity and understand the ecological significance and application of relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Students will be required to learn the main methodologies in ecological survey, including how to create an experimental design.

Ability to apply the knowledge:
After completing the course, students will be able to apply their knowledge to face the analysis of the structure and functions of an ecosystem and its components, and to 
collect and process the data in order to analyze one or more scientific ecological hypotheses.

Soft skills:
Ability to test a scientific hypothesis, to develop an experimental design, to plan collection and processing of data.


Contents (lectures, 7 CFU, 56 ore):
The concept and characteristics of an “ecosystem”. Ecosystems properties; the energy flux; food chains and webs, ecological efficiency; fitness and adaptation; abiotic factors controlling ecosystems. Resources and consumers; population ecology principles; life tables; recruitment. Population growth in limited and non-limited environment; density-dependent control of population size; carrying capacity; r and K dichotomy. Competition and predation; basic mathematical models of competition and predation (Lotka-Volterra and Ronzweig-McArthur models). Ecological niche; successions; biodiversity; theory of island biogeography; biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships.

Development of the examination

Methods of assessment of learning outcomes:
Written exam based on multiple choice test and open questions.

Criteria for assessing learning outcomes
Students will face a written exam based on multiple choice test and open questions. They have to demonstrate their knowledge on all the themes of the course.

Criteria for measuring learning outcomes
 The test consists of 16 questions, of which 14 multiple choice questions and two open questions. The exam lasts for 60 minutes. Each question (including the open ones) corresponds to a maximum score of 2 points. In case of only partially right answers, the score corresponds the score will be fractioned. For each wrong answer (from those available in each multiple-choice questions) will be subtracted 0.4 points. If, for each question, the number of wrong answers exceeds the number of right ones, will be awarded the score 0. In each question, if the student gives the right answer and additionally also 2 wrong ones, the score will be 0. 

Criteria for conferring final mark
The final score will be rounded to the nearest integer, and, depending on the teacher’s opinion and on the correctness of the open responses, it will be given another additionally 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

Università Politecnica delle Marche
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