Course code:



MA - Intermediate/Advanced

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • QR - Quantitative Reasoning
  • ES - Environmental Science

Typically offered:

Once every three years

Ecology, in the narrowest sense, is the study of the distribution and abundance of organisms on the earth. This class focuses on ecology as a science, and particularly the intellectual tradition within ecology that has sought to develop simple mathematical descriptions of complex phenomena. Population ecology studies the growth and decline of populations (i.e., groups of organisms of the same species), while community ecology studies the interactions among populations. We will study classic models in population and community ecology, developing the models from first principles, applying them to real data, and critically examining the shortcomings of the modeling approach. Concepts to be covered in the class include exponential vs. logistic population growth, competition, predator-prey interactions, metapopulation dynamics, stochastic vs. deterministic processes, optimal foraging theory, succession, and behavioral ecology.This course will be useful for students who are considering graduate school in ecology and related disciplines, and it is open to anyone with relevant background knowledge and curiosity. Students will be evaluated based on participation in class discussions, a series of problem sets, and a final paper.

Knowledge of algebra is necessary, along with a willingness to grapple with mathematical thinking. Knowledge of calculus and linear algebra is helpful but is not required.


At least one intermediate course in ecology and a knowledge of algebra; permission of instructor. 

Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.