This course is intended to teach students both a basic understanding of the ecological processes that determine the structure and dynamics of populations and communities in coastal marine ecosystems, and how to conduct ecological research to reveal such processes. When students leave this course, they should know how to: (1) look for, identify and describe patterns in nature, (2) develop testable alternative hypotheses for the causes of observed patterns, and (3) design and carry out appropriate empirical tests of the predictions of hypotheses to explain observed patterns. The structure of the course reflects these goals. We will first discuss the process of doing science, then use classic papers in marine ecology as the framework for understanding the process of doing sound ecological research. Many of the papers presented in lecture are central or seminal papers for paradigms in marine ecology.
Discussions are based upon the idea that one way to learn to do good science is to evaluate the work of others. For this purpose, small groups of students are responsible for leading discussions of papers subsequent to, and that compliment, studies presented in lectures.