23 June, 2009

Semester 2, 2009

Classes has ended for Semester 1. Contrary to expectation, Human Ecology was my weakness with its utter boredom and Vegetation Ecology was my strength.
Marks will be released in 2 weeks

Classes for Semester 2, 2009.

Australian Vertebrates
: An overview of diversity and supposedly highlighting recent research on Australian Vertebrates. I do hope a significant part of it is marsupials.
This course involves:
*evolutionary history

I am interested in all of these, but I primarily wish to focus on ecology, behaviour, conservation and evolutionary history.
Evolutionary history should be very useful for next year.

Evolution of Biodiversity:
This one will be significantly useful for next year as it focusses on biodiversity and loss over time.

1. Explain the primary mechanisms of biodiversity generation and loss over macroevolutionary time.
2. Describe the distributional patterns of biodiversity at community to global scales and explain how these patterns are assembled.
3. Understand phylogenies and how they are used to interpret macroevolution and document the diversity of life.
4. Apply critical skills in hypothesis testing using a range of types of information, including palaeontology, systematics, developmental biology, and molecular data.
5. Interpret a scientific paper on any of a range of topics in evolution and present a critical analysis of competing views either orally or in a short essay.

There is no exam, instead I will have 4 in-class tests, a worksheet and a paper review + essay.

Human Society as an Animal Society: I chose this class for lack of anything else suitable available. Apparently it is taught by David Attenborough's son, so I have high expectations. I also expect it to be interesting.

Primate Ecology and Behaviour: I have been warned that this class is hardcore and I have acquired the 2007 reading brick. Nethertheless, it seems interesting and involves at least one trip to the zoo.

While neither of the BIAN courses are essential to me 2010 studies, I expect they will be interesting.

The two BIOL courses will be most useful as preliminary info for my 2010 special topics course which will involve "...scoring characters for one or maybe two extinct marsupials (e.g Marsupial lion or Diprotodon), adding these to an existing dataset and using some new methods to infer its (their) placement in the phylogenetic tree..."

This is a kind of "independent project" I have discussed with a supervisor. I am looking forward to it.

07 March, 2009

Basis of Human Ecology (Lesson summary)

"...principles of evolutionary biology and ecosystems analysis to the study of the human environment."
• The significance and function of ecosystems
• How humans affect them and are affected themselves.

The question posed to invoke thought was; "Why is it a rational choice for British prawns to go to China to be shelled, only to be shipped back and sold. How does the energy content of a prawn vs. the energy to catch, ship, shell, ship and sell justify this and is it sustainable?"

Everything comes back to sustainability - can we use it in the long run continuously?

A brief overview was also mentioned on the human habitat (modified, hugely artificial/man-made), the feedback this causes on the environment, the ecosystem and ourselves.
I found the quote on human ecology mentioned during the lecture summed it up appropriately (I'm fond of quotes):

‘Our prime focus is upon the interactions between human groups and their habitats, upon the processes that occur in the course of that interaction and upon the consequences. Our second focus is on what we might now do about the problems we have created’
- Ian Hughes

So, to simplify it by this quote, human ecology is;
• Interactions between humans and habitats (man-made, environment, ecosystems)
• The consequences of the interactions (Is it sustainable? Positive/negative for us?)
• The problems that arise from these interactions.

Our interactions are normally due to common, normal human behaviour. Such as driving a car, having a shower, watering the garden etc. We need to consider the ecological consequences for these normal behaviours. Is it sustainable? Can we continue this? What might we need to change?

One thing I'm getting from this course is; question everything. The most simplest thing can have a local or global result, especially when you take into consideration that it's not just you, but everyone else who is doing it as well.
I now sound like a hippy, but it is true. "No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood"

Socio-metabolic regimes: a constant balance of interactions between society and the environment, generally characterised by typical patterns of metabolic profiles (material and energy flows)

Socio-metabolic regimes affect our socio-economic growth which changes due to our ecological source preferences

The lecture ended on the note of "problematique". The word problematique was coined for human ecology as 'problems' did not hold enough weight or represent the scale the problems reach across.
Problematique relies on the high levels of mutual interdependence (many disciplines and views) and how long it often takes for the impact of a reaction to our interaction becomes visible. It relies on the act of one problem spreading across many scales. i.e. The oft mentioned "flap of a butterfly wing causes a hurrican on the other side of the world", or an oil spill locally results in a global climate change.

Summary points to remember from the lecture:
• Focus is on human beings, and so is concerned with human values and decisions and their environmental consequences
• How a situation is understood influences what is seen as “a problem”, and similarly, what actions count as “solutions”
• There is a real world that limits human behaviour – however, there are many different ways it is understood and valued.
• These are commonly disputed within the discipline
• We need to complex human-environment interactions at a holistic* level (hence, “systems approaches”).
• Discipline-based knowledge is unavoidable. However, integrating knowledge from different disciplines is necessary and a major challenge.

Holistic: Everything is interconnected. For Human Ecology it tries to include as many different views as possible. Sociological, biological, physical, economical, general etc.

21 February, 2009


Classes start next week. It's a horrible mesh of clashes, but I think I have at least worked out my Practicals and Tutorials so they don't clash with each other.
For the lectures...I'm thinking a rotation plan where I switch in between each class. With two lectures for each course a week, I can attend at least one lecture for each class a week. Except Genetics, as it has a third, not-clashing lecture.

The classes look to be challenging, with Human Ecology looking to be very involved and Vegetation Ecology being my weakness. There is also a substantial flora amount in population ecology.

Human Ecology: "principles of evolutionary biology and ecosystems analysis to the study of the human environment". The significance and functions of ecosystems and how humans have affected them in the past and now are listed as the major focus. It appears to branch off into system processes and how ecosystems have affected the human condition.
We are expected to bring our individual thoughts and processes to the course, and there are quite a few suggested readings that I will hopefully not procrastinate on.

There is also a field trip to the Snowy Mountains. It shall be cold.

Vegetation Ecology:
Vegetation Ecology of Australia is an important basis for conservation and sustainable management of our forests and woodlands. A necessary course that will prove to be interesting, even if I'm personally not interested or thrilled about plants.
Classification, geomorphological distribution, reproduction, growth, adaptation, their relationship with with biodiversity and the "taxonomy and biogeography focusing on the major taxa of Corymbia, Symphymyrtus and Monocalyptus".

I should set up a word document for each of these "study sections" so I don't mix anything up incorrectly.

There appears to be one field trip to Kioloa and various field work at Canberra Nature Parks, Namadgi National Park, and the Murramarang National Park. I am currently not aware of how closes these are to Canberra and if they are a day trip or a field trip.

Genetics, an Introduction:
This will be just as tricky as the others. The main point is for me to be taught the "fundamentals of genetics, emphasising the area of population genetics which is central to understanding the evolutionary process." We will also "explore the application of population genetic theory to human forensics and conservation biology."
This class is a prerequisite to some of my later classes and is pretty much necessary to understand my future ecology, behaviour and disease courses.
Genetics is also interesting and useful in it's own right.

As with human ecology, there is a lot of suggested reading but no required books. Looks like I'm free from purchasing more expensive books.

Lastly, Population Ecology: Spoke too soon. I need to purchase M. Begon's Ecology 4th Edition for this course.
There's little information up except for what we will be marked on (3 exams and an essay). All I know is from what is mentioned on the course information page. It's essentially about organism populations and the ways they change over time including species interaction, disease, predation...
It says an important part of the class is "the quantitative methods and approaches used in population ecology to determine the status of populations and predict population behaviour.", however I will wait until more course information is revealed at the first lecture (which I will attend since unlike the other's, the lecturer informed me that it's pretty important and I need to be there to sign up to classes).

Eep, stats.

05 February, 2009

Academic Skills

One of my very weak spots in university is that I am not up to the Distinction* standard of exams or essays. There could be many reasons for this, yet I suspect it has something to do with only one lesson on writing an essay that I can recall. Taught to me in 2003, once, and never had any following lessons or corrections. Reports were never covered and I fuddle my way through exams by trying to put down as much correct information as possible.
This is no longer acceptable for me.

Here I shall list some sites recommended by the ANU and a few other sites I have browsed.

Preparing for Exams:
A page on preparing for exams. This site is highly annoying and changes around a lot, so I hope they don't delete and move this page elsewhere again.

Online Resources in general: The main page for the Academic skills centre. Sadly, a lot of it leads to dead ends or errors.

Courses: Information on courses for helping a person, alas most of the undergraduate ones again lead to dead ends. Hopefully this site will be up and working by the first week of the semester.

This site promises to be very useful. I found the old version to be of great help. I do hope they can finish fixing it up and put all their information up...at least their contact details so I can get into contact about the courses!

UniLearning: This site has the basics on writing essays, reports, effective writing, note taking and a few other helpful titbits. It breaks down the structure of the essays and reports, then explains why each part is needed. An example is the Structure of a Scientific Report.

Past Exam Papers: This is only accessible to members and students of ANU, but it is a collection of past exam papers so that students can get an idea of the type of questions.
Annoyingly, last year none of my classes has past exam papers for us to learn off. Hopefully this year will be different as I find them very useful for practice questions.

Alliance: This is a useful program for very large collaborations between students who may not be able to meet weekly/daily.

Study Guides and Study strategies:
Information on useful study methods, note taking and memory tests.

Harvard Referencing: A site quick listing all that is needed to be known about referencing the Harvard way. Note to self: Different lecturers/tutors live different styles...but mainly they want you to be consistent.

*Distinction: The second highest mark available at ANU. Other marks, in order from lowest to highest are; Pass, Credit, Distinction, High Distinction

I am a credit average, but to be a honours student in 2011 I either need to be a Distinction average, or for the honours supervisor to believe I am suitable and enthusiastic for one of their topics (dasyurid marsupials and ecology!).

26 January, 2009


The purpose of this blog is to encourage me to be more studious in my courses and to properly read, observe and query life.

The new year of study doesn't start for another month just yet, but there is no harm in learning in advance. Indeed, it could quite possibly prove beneficial to me as I have not quite yet mastered how to appropriately write essays and pass exams.
I'll happily admit I'm a bit behind some people in the literacy area, but I make up for it with enthusiasm.

To elaborate on myself, I am studying with the aim to become an Ecology and Evolution major, and a Natural Management major. Hopefully after I graduate I can continue on to become an honours student of this amazing man.
As it is, my first semester shall be filled with Population Ecology, Human Ecology, Vegetation Ecology and genetics. All of which sounds very fascinating to me.

Personal information on myself is that I like to draw, sell my products on SouthernArts, I have long hair and I like taking photos.

The blog will of course be punctuated with the occasional photo of my three gorgeous lagomorphs.

Back to front: Sasha the deaf, vision impaired dwarf lop. Coffee, the American Sable. Komi, the (False) Netherland Dwarf with inefficient calcium tolerance via sludge