WILD 6900 Ecological Dynamics and Forecasting

Instructor Dr. Peter Adler
Office Location QL 302D
Email peter.adler@usu.edu
Office Hours Wednesday 1:30-3

Teaching assistant Michael Stemkovski
Office Location Quinney Library 2nd floor lobby
Email m.stemkovski@gmail.com
Office Hours Mondays 3:30PM-5:00PM & Wednesdays 10:00AM-12:00AM

Times and Locations

Tuesday and Thursday, 10:30 - 11:45, BNR 112A

Course Objectives

The goal of this class is to provide students a basic understanding of how populations, communities, and ecosystems change through time and to provide fundamental concepts of how to forecast those changes. By the end of the semester, students will:

  1. Have an appreciation of the dynamics of species, communities and ecosystem processes and the models used to represent those dynamics.

  2. Understand the basic concepts of forecasting that apply across fields along with the particular challenges within ecology.

  3. Have a basic understanding of working with time series data.

Course Structure and Expectations

This course will be primarily hands-on experience working with data and models, with some discussion of the primary literature mixed in. In addition to traditional discussions of papers assigned to everyone, students will take turns presenting readings NOT assigned to the whole class, allowing us to survey more of the literature without requiring everyone to read many papers. Most class meetings will feature computer labs involving analysis of data I provide. The second half of the course is intentionally open, so we can choose forecasting projects based on the interests of students in the class.

Course Materials

1) The free online text book Forecasting: Principles and Practice will be used for some class activities, but is not required

2) Also recommended is Mike Dietze’s excellent textbook Ecological Forecasting.

3) Almost all reading materials will be made available through the course website. I will occasionally post a less public document on the course Canvas page.

4) Online repository of educational resources for ecological forecasting

5) Laptops: On class activity days, laptops will be required for class.

6) These videos by Morgan Ernest and Ethan White may be a helpful supplement to my materials:


60% of your grade will be based on class participation, which includes presenting 1-2 papers during the semester. 40% will be based on the computer lab exercises. Grades at the end of the course will be assigned as: A (93 to 100% of total possible points); A- (90 to 92.9%); B+ (87 to 89.9%); B (83 to 86.9%); B- (80 to 82.9%); C+ (77 to 79.9%); C (73 to 76.9%); C- (70 to 72.9%); D (60 to 69.9%); and F (<59.9%). The official USU policy is, “For work in graded courses, A shall denote exceptional performance, B above average performance, C satisfactory performance, D poor performance, and F failing performance.” (http://www.usu.edu/policies/pdf/Grading.pdf).

Attendance Policy

Two days can be missed with no impact on your grade (no need to submit make-up work), though I recommend that students attempt any missed class activities on their own time because subsequent class activities or discussions may rely on that knowledge.

If you miss additional days, you will need to submit make-up work. Class activities can be made-up on the student’s time within a week by doing the activity and submitting the code/data for instructor evaluation. If a student anticipates missing more than 6 class days (i.e. 3 weeks of classes), you must talk to me beforehand.

Late policy

Unless you arrange for an extension ahead of time, you will lose 10% of the assignment’s total points for each day the assignment is late.

USU policies

  • The schedule of topics, assignments, and all other details in this syllabus are subject to change with fair warning.
  • ADA compliance: Students with physical, sensory, emotional or medical impairments may be eligible for reasonable accommodations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. All accommodations are coordinated through the Disability Resource Center in Room 101 of the University Inn, 797-2444 voice, 797-0740 TTY, or toll free at 1-800-259-2966. Please contact the DRC as early in the semester as possible. Alternate format materials (Braille, large print or digital) are available with advance notice.
  • Sexual harassment is defined by the Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as any “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” If you feel you are a victim of sexual harassment, you may talk to or file a complaint with the Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity Office located in Old Main, Room 161, or call the AA/EEO Office at 797-1266.
  • Students whose religious activities conflict with the class schedule should contact me at the beginning of the semester to make alternative arrangements.
  • Cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty are listed in The Code of Policies and Procedures for Students at Utah State University (revised September 2009), Article VI, Section 1. If you are found to be engaged in academic misconduct, at a minimum you will receive no credit for that exam or assignment. Repeat or serious offenders can expect more serious consequences.

Course Schedule

The detailed course schedule is here.

Disclaimer: This schedule represents my current plans and objectives. As we go through the semester, you should expect these plans to change. I will do my best to clearly communicate those changes.