Courses taught by the Community Ecology group

Plant Ecology Seminar (1.5 hour seminar, all semesters)

Members of the Plant Ecology and Community Ecology groups, their collaborators and guests present their latest research or discuss their ideas for future research in plant ecology. Topics covered include biodiversity-ecosystem functioning, coexistence and community assembly, plant-animal interactions, global environmental change, conservation and evolutionary ecology. A great opportunity for students to hear research talks, participate in scientific discussions and to learn about the questions and methods used in our groups.
Learning outcomes: Students are able to critically evaluate research talks. They are able to participate in scientific discussions on a wide range of topics in plant ecology and will learn about ongoing research in the plant ecology section and how science is communicated. They are able to write essays summarising research findings and discussing and critiquing them.

Journal Club in Plant Diversity (1 hour Seminar, all semesters)

This is a master course on the causes and consequences of plant biodiversity. The course covers all aspects of biodiversity, including genetic, species, phylogenetic and functional diversity. Short lectures will give introductions to the different topics. For the major part, students will have to read, present and discuss the literature, which includes book chapters, classical papers as well as examples from the recent literature. These papers cover conceptual or theoretical approaches to the study of biodiversity, reviews of existing knowledge, famous experiments, or novel and innovative methodologies. We read and discuss at least two papers related to sustainability (ecosystem services / global change) per semester.

Learning outcomes: Students are able to critically evaluate scientific papers. They are able to summarise and explain research findings, to discuss them and to debate scientific controversies with PhD students and postdocs. They will read classic and recent papers on biodiversity-ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services and sustainability, coexistence, population ecology, evolutionary ecology and conservation.

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (2 hour lecture course, autumn semester)

This lecture course focuses on the causes and consequences of biodiversity change. It begins with the factors maintaining biodiversity in communities (coexistence, competition and the role of herbivores) before moving on to the influence of global change on biodiversity. The lectures also cover the functional consequences of biodiversity change: biodiversity-ecosystem functioning experiments, ecosystem stability and resilience. In the final part the course examines the linkages between biodiversity and ecosystem services and the importance of biodiversity for sustainable ecosystem management.

Learning outcomes: Students are able to identify the drivers of biodiversity in plant communities and its effects on ecosystem function. They are able to summarise coexistence theory and how human caused environmental change affects biodiversity. They are able to evaluate the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning and stability in experimental systems and the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem service delivery in natural systems.

The Importance of Biodiversity for Sustainability (3 hour proseminar, spring semester every two years)

This seminar course introduces students to biodiversity research relevant for sustainability. Topics covered include biodiversity-ecosystem service relationships, global change, conservation biology and ecosystem stability. We discuss the importance of biodiversity for sustainable agriculture and forestry, the importance of biodiversity in delivering services like disease regulation and pollination, how to test for biodiversity effects and debate topics such as the economic valuation of biodiversity and land sparing vs. land sharing.

Learning outcomes: the students learn about the latest research on biodiversity and ecosystem services and biodiversity and global change. The students are able to read critically evaluate scientific papers and to present and discuss their contents, take part in scientific debates and see how experimental biodiversity research is conducted.

Plants in their Environment (1 hour proseminar, autumn semester, also with Prof. Matthias Erb, Prof. Willy Tinner and Prof. Markus Fischer)

This course introduces students to the study of plants at different levels of biological organization. We discuss topics in plant-environment interactions, plant-plant interactions and plant-herbivore interactions and look at each at the scale of individual plants, plant populations, plant communities and ecosystems. We read and discuss a scientific paper on these topics each week.

Learning outcomes: students are introduced to the breadth of plant science and to how the same question is addressed at different scales and with different approaches. Students learn to read and critique primary scientific literature and how to write critically about papers.

Independent work in plant ecology

The aim is that, after consultation with the lecturer in choosing a suitable topic, the student can go in depth into an area of Plant or Vegetation Ecology which particularly interests him or her. Most time on the student’s side will be spent in reading, and then preparing an essay.

Learning outcomes: Students are able to summarize and conclude the key concepts and issues (from theories/research papers) of a topic in Plant or Vegetation Ecology in an essay.

Research practical in plant diversity

Research practical in plant diversity with bachelor work

Individuelle Forschungsarbeit Nachhaltige Entwicklung

For all these courses students carry out a small project, such as running a greenhouse or field experiment or collecting observational data. See the student projects page for some ideas and if you have ideas of your own you are very welcome to discuss them with Eric Allan.

Advanced Plant Biology: community ecology

This advanced course will teach students about key current topics in plant community ecology. Topics covered in depth include plant competition and facilitation, coexistence and niche theory, functional trait approaches, impacts of herbivores and pathogens on plant communities and biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships. Students will also learn about some key techniques in plant community ecology, including how to measure functional traits, how to design experiments, how to parameterise coexistence models and estimate coexistence mechanisms between species and how to statistically analyse data from biodiversity experiments. The course is a mix of lectures, group discussions and practicals.

Learning outcomes: students will learn about foundational topics in community ecology, some of the key theory and some of the most important current issues. They will also learn: how to discuss and debate controversial topics, how to design and critique experiments, some key ecological techniques and will be introduced to coexistence theory and models.