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FOR 332 Forest Ecology
Course Syllabus


Ruth Yanai, Associate Professor, office hours: Friday 10:00 a.m. – 11:00, or by appointment. tel: 470-6955, e-mail:

Kimberly Bohn, Visiting Instructor, office hours: Monday 2:00 p.m. -3:00 p.m., Thursday 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m., or by appointment.

tel: 470-4877, e-mail:


This is a 3-credit course, with 2 hours of classroom instruction and 1 lab per week.  We will meet in the classroom on Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30 – 10:50 a.m. in 319 Marshall Hall. We will use the first part of each class meeting time for formal instruction including lectures, discussion and class activities. You can use the remaining time to work on class assignments in your groups or interact with the instructors.  A brief quiz on the assigned reading will be given and discussed at the start of each class. 

Labs are scheduled for Friday afternoon from 2 – 5 p.m. (meet at Stadium Place for field labs).  Labs will alternate between ‘observation’ days when the professor and students discuss the landscape in context to the reading material for the week and ‘field measurements’ days when experiments are performed. You will work in small groups for the laboratory portion of the course.  On the Tuesday that precedes each lab measurement period, you will pose hypotheses and select methods for testing them.  On the Tuesday following, you will present your results, and we will collectively interpret and critically analyze them.

Two instructors share responsibility for this course.  Kimberly Bohn will lead the formal instruction in the classroom and the field instruction on  ‘observation’ days.  Ruth Yanai will facilitate your development of field investigations and your lab reports.


FOR 332 Forest Ecology Reader  (available in the Rotunda in the basement of Bray Hall)


We use e-mail to communicate about assignments and we will have a webpage for this course. You are expected to check your e-mail every day and to check in on the web 2-3 times a week. If you do not use your account, have your e-mail forwarded to your active account. Go to and fill out the “Change your account form.”  You will need your username and password.  If you do not know your username contact the Computing and Media Services Information Center at 116 Hinds Hall (phone: 443-2677, email:  If you know your username, but forgot your password, you can reset it at or at 116 Hinds Hall.

Objectives and Goals

Students who successfully complete this course will have a command of the following key ecological concepts and proficiency in the following skills:


  • Plant responses to the environment
  • Demographic processes: Recruitment, Growth, Mortality
  • Life History Characteristics
  • Disturbance
  • Succession
  • Nutrient and carbon cycling
  • Diversity
  • Ecological applications in varying landscapes


  • Observing the forested landscape
  • Posing hypotheses
  • Devising tests
  • Analyzing data
  • Critiquing
  • Synthesizing
  • Communicating
  • Reading and interpreting scientific literature

These concepts and processes can be explored in a variety of contexts. Examples include forests native to our region, plantations and urban forests in our region, and forests in other biomes such as the tropical and boreal forests.

Evaluation and Performance Requirements

Assignment % of Final grade
Objectives and Methods (First Drafts) 2
Complete Lab reports (6 labs), shared grade for your group 22
Individual response to group reports (6 labs) 10
“Observation in the field” reports 2
Quizzes and feedback on class presentations 8
Present and critique a journal article 10
Three 1-hour mid-term exams 30
2-hour final exam  16
Total 100


Grade Point range
F <60.0
D 60.0 - 69.9 
C- 70.0 - 72.9
C 73.0 - 76.9
C+ 77.0 - 79.9
B- 80.0 - 82.9
B 83.0 - 86.9
B+ 87.0 - 89.9
A- 90.0 - 92.9
A 93.0 - 96.9
A+ 97.0 - 99.9


At the very minimum, the student is expected to attend class, complete all assignments on time, and understand (be able to define) the key concepts of forest ecology in lab reports, exams, and presentations.  Improvements in grades can be obtained by successfully demonstrating applications of the key concepts in known contexts as well as in unfamiliar contexts. The highest grades will be awarded to those who demonstrate critical thinking and problem solving skills. 

Grading of written and oral assignments will reward clarity, organization, and brevity.  Grading rubrics that detail the criteria used to assign grades are available on the class website.  Studying these criteria will help you improve your performance.

Late assignments will lose value at the rate of 10% per day (weekend days count too!).

Excuses for late work and absences—excuses related to illness or family problems must go through Mr. Slocum in ESF student services. The instructors must approve planned absences for field labs (which are difficult to make up) or other assignments.

Kimberly in Red

Ruth in Green


Date Activities Reading Assignments due
Tuesday 30 Aug Introduction - what is forest ecology?  Outline of subject, prior knowledge test, introduction to concepts   Prior knowledge test, survey for assignment to groups (ungraded)
Thursday 1 Sept Discussion: Environmental gradients Perry –“ Local Variation in Community Type”  
Friday 2 Sept Field Observation - forest variation along an environmental gradient   Observation Field Sheet
Tuesday 6 Sep

Discussion: Tree growth – carbon allocation, response to stress.

Analyze field observations,

Plan Lab I

Waring and Schlesinger ”Carbon balance of tree”  
Thursday 8 Sep

Discussion: Tree growth – overview of physiology.

Data Analysis exercise.

Guidelines for lab reports

(meet in Baker Comp. Cluster)

Brayton “The Growing Tree" Introduction, objectives, and methods for Lab I
Friday 9 Sep Lab I - forest variation along an environmental gradient, including forest growth/tree physiology    
Thursday 15 Sep

Discussion: Life history strategies- reproduction

Feedback for improvement

Barnes “Regeneration Ecology” Group reports due for Lab I
Friday 16 Sep Lab Observation - red pine demography   Observation Field Sheet
Tuesday 20 Sep First Exam    
Thursday 22 Sep

Discuss journal article

Analyze field observations, Plan Lab II

Journal article: Yanai (mixed species plantations)  
Friday 23 Sep Lab II - red pine demography   Introduction, objectives, and methods for Lab II
Tuesday 27 Sep

Discussion: Population Dynamics

Present Lab II results

Barbour Ch 4 “Population structure”  
Thursday 29 Sep

Discuss journal article Plan Lab III

Journal article: Loewenstein et al. (oaks) Group reports due for Lab II
Friday 30 Sep Lab III- tree demography computer simulation exercise (Baker Lab)   Introduction, objectives, and methods for Lab III
Thursday 6 Oct

Discussion:, Succession

Present Lab III results

Kimmens “Ecological Succession” Individual reports due for Lab II
Friday 7 Oct Lab Observation - quarry   Observation Field Sheet
Tuesday 11 Oct

Discussion: Stand Dynamics

Plan Lab IV

Oliver and Larson “For. Stand Dynamics” and

Bormann and Likens   article

Individual Reports due for Lab III
Thursday 13 Oct NO CLASS- University Holiday    
Friday 14 Oct

Computer lab: observe Hubbard Brook web site,

Evaluating and critiquing scientific articles – introduction (including databases searches)

Tuesday 25 Oct SECOND EXAM   Individual Reports due for Labs IV

Thursday 27 Oct

Discuss journal article

Plan Lab V


Journal article: Hornbeck et al

Introduction, objectives, and methods for Lab V

Friday 28 Oct

LAB V - Construct nutrient cycling budgets





Tuesday 1 Nov

Discussion: Disturbance (wind, fire, pathogens, , etc);

Present Lab V results

Waring and Scheslinger Ch 9; Perry Ch 7



Thursday 3 Nov

Discuss: Disturbance; journal article.

Practice critical review

Journal article:  Canham

Group reports de for Lab V

Friday  4  Nov

NO LAB- University Holiday



Tuesday 8 Nov

Discuss: Urban forest ecology

Practice critical review

Journal article:


Individual  reports due for Lab V

Thursday 10 Nov

Discussion: Measuring diversity

Plan Lab VI

 Kimmens “Biological diversity” and Barbour “Biodiversity”

 Introduction, objectives, and methods for Lab VI

Friday 11 Nov

LabVI – Disturbance in Urban




Tuesday 15 Nov

Discussion: Tropical Forests

Present Lab VI results

Murphy and Lugo “Ecol. of Trop. Dry For.” (


Thursday 17 Nov

Discussion: Boreal Forests

JBonan and Shugart “”Env. Factors in Boreal

Group reports due for Lab VI

Friday 18 Nov

Student critiques of reviewed articles  (Topics TBA)

student-selected articles

Reviews of student critiques of articles

Tuesday 22 Nov

Student critiques of reviewed articles  (Topics TBA)

student-selected articles

Reviews of student critiques of articles;

Individual  Reports due for Lab VI

Thursday 24Nov




Friday 25 Nov





Tuesday 29 Nov

Student critiques of reviewed articles (Topics TBA)

student-selected articles

Reviews of student critiques of articles

Thursday 1 Dec





Friday 2 Dec




Tuesday 6 Dec

Subject matter review (revisit prior knowledge test)



Thursday 8 Dec

Review, continued (including journal article critique)



Friday 9 Dec

No class!


FINAL EXAM: Be prepared to critque a journal article


You will be assigned to a team in which you will plan, implement, analyze and report your field measurements.  We will compose teams of members with a variety of skills.  You might want to rotate roles within your teams, such as leadership, data manipulation, interpretation, and writing.  Each report will be evaluated and a single grade will be assigned to the team.


We will be taking field trips for a number of the labs.  Dress appropriately.  Long pants, boots, and a hard hat must be worn at all field labs.  Be prepared for inclement weather, bee stings (if you are allergic), etc.  Bring any materials that you own that will help your group test your hypothesis (compass, diameter tape, etc.).


The purpose of the lab exercises is to gain experience with the concepts and processes important to this course.  The lab report should document your progress in mastering them. The lab reports will be evaluated (graded) but we will also give you feedback for improvement that you can use to improve your next performance.

Write your report for an audience of strangers, although your classmates will be the primary beneficiaries.  Your report must be neat and professional (12 point font, 1-inch margins, and double-spaced) and submitted electronically, so that it can be distributed over the internet. Communicating is one of the processes to be mastered in this course, and effective written communication depends on spelling, grammar, clarity, and professional presentation, as well as content. Use Elements of Style or the University of Chicago Style Manual.  Look at a forest ecology journal for format of citations.

A grading rubric detailing the requirements of the above sections is available on the class website. The early sections of the report (introduction, objectives, and methods) should be prepared in advance of the lab session.  They will be assessed on Thursday or Friday (prior to the lab), so that you will have an opportunity to revise them based on the feedback you receive. Lab results are due by 8:00  am Tuesday so that they can be posted on the web in advance of our class meeting.  Students should also bring an alternate means of displaying results to class (on paper or disk) as a back-up.  Results (either a table or figures) should be pasted into a Word Document, along with a brief description of your experiment and hypothesis above the results.  Full lab reports are due electronically on Thursday morning.  It is critical that all lab groups submit an electronic report since the entire class will use each of the group reports in synthesizing an individual response to the group reports. 

Send your results and reports to Carolyn Griffin at and cc’ed to Ruth Yanai at Paper copies of the full report are due the same day in class.


The purpose of this assignment is to integrate the group reports that are presented on Tuesday, which will cover a range of subjects.  The individual response allows you to use information generated by other groups in order to address the ecological concept under investigation.  It also will help you to practice defining concepts and applying them. 


The purpose of critiquing a journal article is to learn about a topic in forest ecology, to study the scientific process in the reported study, and to practice the processes of critical analysis and communicating to your peers.  Periodic review of journal articles during the semester will provide guidance in identifying key components of journal articles, as well as identifying strengths and weaknesses of a report.  These skills will be demonstrated in individual student presentations (oral and written) of a selected journal article.


All students are expected to abide by the Student Code of Conduct which is described in the Student Handbook.  In addition, plagiarism is taken very seriously at this institution, and can result in failure of this course and possibly dismissal from the college.  If you are unclear about what constitutes an act of plagiarism, please refer to the student handbook or contact one of your instructors.