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Why would I need so much knowledge for a general ecology course?

  1. Mar 10, 2013 #1
    So I would like to do an ecology course somewhen during my undergrad, but the requisites for a General Ecology are just too big:

    -1 year in Zoology and Botany
    -1 year in General Biology (in order to get the Zoology and Botany)

    I have studied myself the Smith ecology book and don't find that much knowledge of Zoology and Botany necessary. I think that 1 semester of each would be enough for the course. Could someone explain me why would it be that required?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2013 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    The department and sometimes the instructor, set up the curriculum. Part of the curriculum is defining what course(s) are needed to take another non-introductory course.

    As a guess, I would say that the book you reviewed was Ecology for non-majors, and the Ecology class you want to take requires a broad basic background because it is for Biology majors.
  4. Mar 10, 2013 #3
    Well, it's one of the books recommended for that course (which is a requisite for biology majors), that's why my doubt exists.
  5. Mar 14, 2013 #4
    yeah it's weird that some of the more liberal oriented universities will focus on zoology and botany ecology. They really should add more human anatomy, pathology / histology and physiology to these curriculums.
  6. Mar 21, 2013 #5


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    When I took botany in college, we start at the cellular level, moved up to the level of one plant, and then finally got to "plant communities". That took one year.

    "Ecology" is far more complex than "plant communities". It involves EVERYTHING in the environment, and how they are interacting with each other. Think multivariate calculus.

    Without a solid foundation in the basics of plant AND animal life (as well as, perhaps, a lot of knowledge about humanity and some mathematics/statistics), there will be entire studies in ecology that will be beyond your ability to parse.

    So basically, I am not surprised at these pre-requisites. Some fields cannot be made simpler than they are, no matter how much people would like them to be. Ecology and climate science and meteorology are examples of very complex fields.
  7. Mar 23, 2013 #6
    Yeah I agree, all these fields should be stand alone majors and not be so jam packed into a single course for a typical biology major. Most people who are pursuing a more reductionist biology career will probably take a course like ecology and then discarded at the end of the semester
  8. Mar 23, 2013 #7


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    I am a computer scientist now working (for the past several years) with algae scientists (basically a sub-specialty of botany). I've found biology to be surprisingly more complex and difficult than pure technology, because it is impossible to factor in all the things that matter in any "study". So I feel a little humbled. Some of the paleolimnologists (algae scientists who study microscopic organisms in, say, mud cores from the bottom of lakes) do "climate studies". I heard several of their talks, and the complexity of the science never ceases to amaze me. And yet, I was convinced (after following at great and painful length through their arguments) about the negative impacts human presence is having on the environment.

    Trying to distill all the knowledge they need into a semester or two of "ecology" would be pretty much impossible. What especially surprised me is how much statistics biologists do. Just about everything they do has as much mathematics in it as physics or any other field of science--and that on top of all the biology, chemistry, ecology, etc. It's intimidating, but don't tell young people that who want to study biology. Encourage them instead!
  9. Mar 23, 2013 #8
    Yeah, I'm quite amazed by the complexity of ecology too (physics student), and of course you can't get all the ecology in a single semester, that's why there are more courses like Coastal Ecology or Forest Ecology, but a single introductory ecology course (major-type) with a so simple syllabus shouldn't require you to get all the flora and fauna explained the way it's explained in biology major zoology&botany courses.
  10. Mar 31, 2013 #9
    It's not why you would need so much it's why you would ask that? the more you know the better off you are. Don't limit what you know you never know what it is you will need to know until its to late and your laid off and cant get food or the rent.
  11. Mar 31, 2013 #10
    I'm not limiting myself, I would major in biology (have studied Zoology 1 and 2 myself and love the topic), but I'm asking for the curriculum and syllabus of the course, so I wouldn't need THAT much time invested in order to minor in biology instead of doing the whole major, ofc somebody likes zoology that person would study it even by itself.
  12. Apr 1, 2013 #11
    It's funny that I am do a lot of work with modeling systems (mostly molecular level not nature macro), and I am having to increase my computer science skills by learning all these programming languages because the commercial programs just dont do the job or are too expensive sometimes. We should talk more.
  13. Apr 1, 2013 #12
    Hey Rono here is the thing with biology, you can either go into macroscopic worldly level or microscopic molecular level. They both overlap of course, but the things you deal with are different. If you want to study entire species you go with the macro level. If you want to work in a lab and cure cancer you are stuck with more the chemistry and physics aspects of biology. It's important to choose one or the other early so you can have a solid fundation for later. You can still do both but you must decide to one after the other, and not both at the same time at your point in life. Do not try to learn the biology, chemistry and physics at the same time because it will drain your brain quickly.
  14. Apr 1, 2013 #13


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    If you are a biologist, you should concentrate on learning R above all. It is the free programming platform with strong statistical capabilities that appears to be ascendant at the moment. Oddly enough, most of the R books do not appear in the programming areas of the bookstores, but rather in the biology sections, though its application is mathematical and statistical first and foremost.

    Lastly, the biologists I work with are all very comfortable with "data", be it in a spreadsheet or Access database, or huge data sets in text files. So yes, there is a lot of programming to be done in the world of biology. In my case, they've had to tutor me in the biology, sometimes, so that I could write code for them.
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