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ZO5304: POPULATION ECOLOGY (2016-2017)

Last modified: 28 Jun 2018 10:27

Course Overview


The course is structured as a series of weekly themes, which each reflect areas of current research in animal ecology. The content of the course is research-based, drawing on case studies from research-active staff within the School of Biological Sciences. The topics cover a range of ecological and spatial scales: from single species’ population dynamics to community dynamics, and from local to macro-scale processes, with a focus on the application of current ecological knowledge and theory.

Course Details

Study Type Postgraduate Level 5
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
  • Dr Justin Travis

Qualification Prerequisites


What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Either Any Postgraduate Programme (Studied) or BI4015 Grant Proposal (Passed)
  • One of MRes Ecology & Environmental Sustainability or MRes Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology or MSc Ecology & Environmental Sustainability or MSc Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology or Master Of Science In Ecology & Conservation or MSci Biological Sciences

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?

  • (Studied)

Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description


This course will explore current understanding based on theoretical and empirical studies of processes operating in populations of organisms. It will start by developing an understanding of the dynamics of simple non-spatial and discrete-generation populations. This will include concepts related to density and environment dependence and will consider cyclic and chaotic population dynamics. The course will then progress by introducing different forms of realism and complexity. Stage and sex-structured population dynamics will be considered. The role of spatial structure with local populations linked by the movement of individuals will be addressed. Finally, we will also introduce some trophic interactions, including predator prey, parasite host and plant herbivores as well as species embedded in more complex set of trophic interactions, including apparent competition. Throughout the course, we will focus on relatively simple discrete time models and students will be taught how to develop these using R and to use them to explore and describe emergent behaviours. We will also introduce a state-of-the-art population modelling software (called RangeShifter), recently developed at Aberdeen, and the students will be provided the opportunity to use this software to simulate how species are likely to change their biogeographic distributions under climate and/or land use change.

Further Information & Notes


The course employs a mixed teaching style, incorporating traditional lectures with guided modelling sessions, discussion and debate sessions, and critical analysis and presentation of published topics. The principal themes are: populations in time, structured population dynamics, populations in space and the role of disease and predation in driving population dynamics. The course also has a strong focus on application of population ecology in conservation and spatial management. Students will also learn oral presentation skills, particularly focusing on the ability to present a short conference-style talk.

Degree Programmes for which this Course is Prescribed

  • MRes Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology
  • MRes Ecology & Environmental Sustainability
  • MSc Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology
  • MSc Ecology & Environmental Sustainability
  • Master Of Science In Ecology & Conservation

Contact Teaching Time

126 hours

This is the total time spent in lectures, tutorials and other class teaching.

Teaching Breakdown


50% is based on an oral presentation in the style of a conference presentation. 50% is based on a written exercise where students report the design of one applied and one theoretical population model.

Formative Assessment




Feedback is provided within a week for the oral assessments. This feedback is from two markers and two peers (i.e. peer to peer feedback). Feedback on the written assessment is provided within three weeks of the deadline.

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