Ecology and the Environment

BIOL 111/3.0

Introduces the basic concepts of ecology and shows how they relate to environmental issues such as population growth, resource management, biodiversity, agriculture, air and water pollution, energy, and climate change, and to solutions leading to a sustainable environment.


In this course, we’ll be delving into the latest literature on ecology and the environment. To start, you should pick up a copy of the book “Living in the Environment” (2011, 17th edition) by G.T. Miller and S.E. Spoolman. This textbook is a great introduction to the basic concepts in ecology and environmental science. Armed with this background, you’ll be well-­‐‑equipped to tackle more advanced readings in the scientific literature and in the popular media, which will be provided over Moodle.

Each week, you’ll also have assignments to complete on Moodle, including quizzes and discussion activities. The quizzes will involve multiple choice and short answer questions, and they are designed to get you thinking more deeply about key concepts in the readings. Other activities will involve sharing observations and opinions with other students online.

Instead of having exams, you will complete two major projects in this course where you will be asked to apply your knowledge and interpret some of the data we collect as a class. Each project will involve producing a written report (~1000 words). These projects will draw on your knowledge as well as your research and writing skills. My hope is that by sharing our observations from across the country, we’ll start to see how remarkable Canada’s ecosystems are, and perhaps gain new insights into the environmental problems we are faced with around the world today.


Students who are currently taking or have previously taken BIOL 302/3.0 or BIOL 303/3.0 may not take BIOL 111/3.0 for credit.

10 online quizzees @ 2% each20%
6 discussion activities @ 5% each30%
2 projects @ 25% each50%


We will have 10 online, open-book quizzes on Moodle, covering the material in the readings. Quizzes may include multiple choice and short answer questions. Each quiz will be worth 2% of your final grade.

Unlike traditional quizzes, the aim here is not to test your ability to memorize the material, but rather to get you to think more deeply about it. Thus, you are free to consult any sources you like during these quizzes. Each quiz will be due on a Sunday. You may complete a quiz any time before the deadline, but quizzes will close at 11:00 pm on the day they are due.

Activities and Projects

This course includes 6 discussion activities, each worth 5% of your final grade. In these activities, you will be asked to collect observations (e.g., find an example of greenwashing), share your work with the class, and discuss the results. Evaluation will be based on participation and the quality of your contributions to online discussion forums (~100 words each).

The 2 projects in this course will involve written reports of ~1000 words each. These reports will be based on data collected by the class during weekly activities.

Due Dates

Deadlines in this course are final. Projects and activities must be uploaded to Moodle by 11:00 pm on the day they are due, and late work will not be accepted. If you think you have a legitimate reason for an extension, please contact the instructor with documentation well in advance of the due date.


Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Explain the major processes influencing biodiversity in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems;
  2. Define basic principles of ecology including population growth, ecological interactions, succession, and evolutionary change, and make predictions based on these principles;
  3. Identify current threats to the environment caused by overpopulation, habitat loss, pollution, resource consumption, and climate change;
  4. Demonstrate a basic understanding of strategies for preserving biodiversity and discuss how these relate to principles of ecology;
  5. Discuss political and economic challenges to environmental sustainability;
  6. Evaluate potential solutions using scientific reasoning and ecological principles.


I am an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Queen's University (Kingston, Canada). I have a BSc in Biology from the University of Toronto (1990) and an MSc in Zoology from the University of British Columbia My PhD in Biology is from Queen’s University. Postdoctoral work has been conducted at Carleton University (2008-2011), and at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (2007). I was a faculty member in the Forest Sciences Department at the University of British Columbia (1997-2000).

My research focuses on the role of natural selection during the process of adaptation in wild populations of animals. My current research model uses natural populations of Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) and ectoparasitic aquatic mites. I use a combination of field observations, experimentation, and the use of molecular markers to address research questions.

Time Commitment

To complete the readings, assignments, and course activities, students can expect to spend, on average, about 6 hours per week on the course.

Course Resources


SOLUS is Queen’s Student On-Line University System. You’ll have access to a SOLUS account once you become a Queen’s student. You’ll use SOLUS to register for courses, add and drop courses, update your contact information, view financial and academic information, and pay your tuition.


Moodle is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into Moodle to access your course. All materials related to your course—notes, readings, videos, recordings, discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, groupwork, tutorials, and help—will be on the Moodle site.

About Credit Units

Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

To take an online course, you’ll need a good-quality computer (Windows XP/Vista/7, Pentium III, or Mac OS X 10.5, G4 or G5 processor, 256 MB RAM) with a high-speed internet connection, soundcard, speakers, and microphone, and up-to-date versions of free software (Explorer/Firefox, Java, Flash, Adobe Reader). See also Preparing For Your Course.


The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are in our Dates and Deadlines section.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for 2014-15 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Canadian students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $605.31; for a 6.0-unit course, $1210.62. See also Tuition and Payment.

Grading Scheme

The information below is intended for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Academic Regulations in other Faculties may differ.

Letter Grade Grade Point

GPA Calculators
Have your SOLUS grade report handy and then follow the link to the Arts and Science GPA calculators.

How does this affect my academics?
See the GPA and Academic Standing page.

Follow the link above for an explanation of how the GPA system affects such things as the Dean’s Honour List, requirements to graduate, and academic progression.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Grading Scheme
Please follow this link to the FAQ's

Campus Bookstore

All textbooks can be purchased at Queen’s Campus Bookstore.

Non-Queen’s Students

All Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are open to students at other universities. Before applying as a visiting student, request a Letter of Permission from your home university that states that you have permission to take the course and apply it to your degree. See also Apply.

Academic Integrity

Please see Queen’s policy statement on academic integrity for information on how to complete an online course honestly.