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by Jason Kreitler last modified 2008-02-28 15:10

working draft of the syllabus

Readings for each lecture are linked, and should open in an Adobe window or download to your local computer. Lecture power points will be linked as well, but not necessarily before class. The recored lectures will be posted after class for members who can't make the live webcast.

Meetings W=week

W1A (Jan 23) ELSA - Global environmental change, what are plant community responses? Intro lecture on exciting topics in plant functional ecology. Why we need functional groups (community ecology is too complicated). Application to restoration/conservation. Introduce website, get students to sign on and put info up.

W1B EVERYBODY - Intro lecture about NCEAS/informatics. What is the DGS, good data management/stewardship, synthesis etc. (Local, send out power point to everyone) - Using Morpho (short lecture plus “lab” where students enter a dataset)

W2A (Jan 30) STEVE – Why we need functional groups revisited. How to make functional groups, what traits are important – which traits are correlated? Categorical versus continuous traits. Are there natural groups?

W2B DAN (Feb1?) - Learning R – Dan Bunker’s R tutorial. Regression, plotting.   

W3A (Feb 6) SCOTT - Niche versus neutral? Deterministic versus stochastic dynamics – disentangling the two aspects of Hubbell’s theory. Plasticity/microevolutionary change/species turnover as responses to environmental changes? Community reordering, dominance? Space for time substitution. Are traits a good way to predict how communities are assembled? Functional/phylogenetic/species diversity – how to measure? What are the properties of the measures? When do they diverge, when do they agree? Niche space – how is it divided up? Niche breadth.

W3B Nathan's tutorial, put it into R, data discovery, scatterplots, means, standard deviations etc.     

W4A (Feb 13) DAVID- Assembly rules, e.g. limiting similarity during community assembly, old versus new models, over/under dispersion. Phylogenetic methods.

W4B – DAVID/DAN null models, limiting similarity, ecological filters, VEGAN calculate multiple metrics of functional & species diversity (Material covered by tutorial)
W5A (Feb 20) KATIE - Ecological convergence versus divergence – priority/threshold effects.

W5B – KATIE(Stan) Community similarity, distance metrics, mantel tests, “bootstrapping”

W6A (Feb 27) TIFFANY - Ecosystem context. Response versus effect traits e.g., regeneration traits can be important to predicting response to environmental change, but not the effect on ecosystem function.


  • Two hour time block, twice per week – watch one hour lecture, one hour of discussion or activity Wed 10:45 - 12:00 Pacific Time, with a second meeting scheduled separately at each institution for computing lab.
  • 4 day Capstone Synthesis meeting - Arrive in SB in time to work Thursday March 27th, depart Tuesday the evening of the 31st or 1st.  2 students plus 1 faculty leader from each institution will attend

Other potential topics to cover if there is time/interest

  • Multivariate stats –open-source/R techniques
  • Trait datasets that exist.
  • Give everyone the same dataset and question but not method, how many answers do you get?

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