Dynamic Ecology posts as course material (UPDATE: link fixed)

I see that we’re getting some pageviews from course websites at Lincoln University (link fixed) in New Zealand and Willamette University in the US, which I’m guessing means that one or more posts of ours have been assigned as course material. Cool! It’s great that instructors think highly enough of something we’ve written to want to assign it to students.

If you’re an instructor or student for a course that uses our blog posts as course material (either at Lincoln, Willamette, or somewhere else), I encourage you to get in touch, either by commenting on this post or emailing me (jefox@ucalgary.ca). I’d be very interested to hear what posts you’ve assigned and why. Besides being interesting, and possible fodder for a future post or guest post, this information also helps Brian, Meg, and I make the case to our employers that blogging is a good use of our time.

31 thoughts on “Dynamic Ecology posts as course material (UPDATE: link fixed)

  1. Do you assign blog posts to your own classes? Or am I just like those people that force students to buy the prof’s books? For the few guest lectures I’ve given so far, I’ve always written notes for them on my blog. For most students it seems to be no different from course-notes posted on a website, but some wander around past the post and get excited about random other things on the blog.

  2. I haven’t assigned blog posts as course material, but I do sometimes mention dynamic ecology in lectures/ lab meetings, and have pointed students towards dynamic ecology for at least three reasons:
    – as an example of a scientific blog which they should consider reading regularly
    – because of the 3 post series on environmental fluctuations and coexistence
    – because of the statistical machismo post

    If you’re getting students drop in from St Andrews, that could be why…

    • Thanks very much Maria! I’m particularly glad to hear that someone found that series on environmental fluctuations and coexistence useful as an instructional piece, since that’s why I wrote it. 🙂

      Unless someone comes to our site by clicking a link, we can’t see where they’re coming from. The only reason I know about folks coming in from Lincoln and Willamette is b/c they’re apparently following a link from course websites hosted by those universities. So no, I have no idea if we have any readers from St. Andrews–though I certainly hope we do! 🙂

  3. Hi Jeremy, this year in my ‘Advanced Ecology’ course that I teach for the Ecology Dept. (http://ecolincnz.blogspot.co.nz/) at Lincoln University (www.lincoln.ac.nz) I added your intermediate disturbance hypothesis paper and the related blog posts as recommended reading for a section of the course on species coexistence. We read Hutchinson’s 1961 (http://www.jstor.org/stable/2458386) paradox of the plankton paper and Wilson’s follow up papers from 1990 (http://www.newzealandecology.org/nzje/free_issues/NZJEcol13_17.pdf) and 2011 (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1654-1103.2010.01226.x/abstract) amongst others. I added your ideas (your TREE paper in IDH and related blog posts) for a few reasons. (1) It’s a good example for students of how not everyone agrees with things we find in text books (and I like your ‘zombie idea’ post on the oikos blog). (2) I wanted my students to see some online academic debate about a theoretical concept. (3) I wanted students to think more deeply about the IDH and related ideas, but I think that some of your blogs explain the ideas in a way that is more accessible to undergrads than the TREE paper. Your ‘instructional posts’ on environmental fluctuations and coexistence are great.

    • Thanks Hannah! I saw that you were one of the instructors for the Lincoln course and figured it was probably you who was sending the students to DE. I thought about emailing you, but then I decided to turn that email into a blog post. “Thinking of ideas for quick and easy posts” is a critical survival skill for a blogger. 🙂

      I know of at least one other person who uses the zombie ideas post much as you do–as an illustration to students that they need to think critically about what they’re learning, and that they shouldn’t assume everything in the textbook is the gospel truth.

      Glad to hear that you’ve found the instructional posts on environmental fluctuations and coexistence useful as well.

      I do wish there was some systematic, reliable way to find out just how widely our posts are used in courses. But until there is, hopefully folks will keep the anecdotes rolling in! 🙂

      • Hi Jeremy,

        I’m one of Hannah’s students and I’ve been using some or your blogs to help with exam preparation for this paper. The exam consists of a number of “critically discuss” essays on theoretical ecology. You’re posts have been really useful for getting down to the real nuts and bolts of many ecological processes and interactions.

        Thanks for your in depth knowledge and critical analysis.



  4. Via email, Sean Connolly says:

    “I am suggesting your posts 1 and 2 on fluctuation-mediated coexistence as supplementary readings this year.

    Will ask at end of semester to see if anyone has read it and/or found it a useful complement to the way I explain it in class.”

    (quote provided with Sean’s permission)

  5. I asked students to read Gould & Lewontin’s “Spandrels of San Marco” paper, along with your blog post (Why “The Spandrels of San Marco” isn’t a good paper). Made for a great discussion-based class.

    • Cool. I was wondering if anyone used that old “spandrels” post in class!

      Curious to hear more about the class and the discussion. Was it an evolution class? What sort of points came up in the discussion?

      • It was actually a third year population/community ecology class, but this particular discussion took place when we were discussing adaptation & evolution at the beginning of the course. One point I was trying to make to my students is that science is a work in progress, and that they should think critically about everything they read, including textbooks (say what?), primary literature, blog posts, etc. I’ll look back through my notes as to the main points that came up in the discussion.

  6. For the record: we’re getting some visitors from a course website at University of Victoria (coursespace id 989, it looks like), which I assume means one or more posts of ours is somehow involved in the course.

  7. Good morning- are you really reading site hits at 4 AM?
    It’s not 4am here although I must confess to having stayed up to watch the Russian olympics closing ceremony. I am such an ECOL300 (mature age top up degree) student, so follow up on the lecturer’s links and hope to read some stuff on site. Did a post at UNE after seeing your sexy fox picture. Post was re evolution of superpredator in Australia i.e. could it be the fox, cat, dog or dingo that ends up being the Lion of Australia? The niche is wide open with a (heading to literally) trillion feral herbivorous prey runnng all over the place with only the dingo eating horses on one island, so far as I know. Because we have disturbed the planet so badly, new evolutionary opportunities arise, and in Australia that no doubt means superpredator(s). Pity I won’t be around long enough to see that in fruition, but maybe youngsters these days will when they are old. Glad to see you put links to Darwin too, as there seems to be an emphasis on management that forgets evolution e.g. there are ridiculous plans to thin trees in national parks here- as though Nature cannot take care of this by competition, fire, disease etc.. Humans seem to be on a control trip, whereas my guess is we are a long way off controlling anything, especially the runaway climate.
    Meantime as new to the site I don’t know its content yet, but if you are going to have such beautiful carnivore pictures, why not get someone from the UN Feliforms or UN Caniforms groups,or someone else to chip in with predator stuff. And tell them to expect a new big predator in Australia one day!

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