Materials from 2019 (Fall)

Welcome to the Biol 416 Web Page for Fall 2019

The ecosystem approach to ecology treats organisms and the physical aspects of their environment as components of a single integrated system. Terrestrial ecosystem functioning is governed by interactions amongst animals, plants, and soil organisms, as well as exchanges of energy and resources with the atmosphere, soils, rocks, and aquatic environments. This advanced undergraduate level ecology course is focused on plant-soil interactions as being a fundamental determinant of the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems around the world. As a group, we will attempt to synthesize recent advances arising from the ecosystem approach with established ecological theory to describe and explain ecosystem-level patterns and processes in the terrestrial environment.

The course content for the Fall 2019 iteration will be centered on identifying, critiquing, and applying terrestrial ecosystem ecological concepts to address the following thematic question:  What specific terrestrial ecosystem-level ecology concepts would be most beneficial to meeting global food demands in 2050, while also addressing industrial agriculture’s deleterious impacts on soil, air, and human well-being?

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course, the student should be able to:

  1. Explain and evaluate the major concepts underlying terrestrial ecosystem ecology that distinguish it from lower hierarchical levels such as community and population ecology
  2. Describe and contrast the major processes and features that distinguish local terrestrial ecosystems, especially in the context of how soil-plant relationships influence farmers’ crop-type choices
  3. Formulate clear, original, challenging, and concise thematic questions from study reading material that are likely to lead to focussed and intellectually probing seminar group discussions, student-led seminar topics or short essay writing pieces
  4. Explain the concept of food insecurity as it applies at both local (Kingston) and global scales
  5. Synthesize, evaluate, and critique the potential solutions to meeting future local and global food demands
  6. Present a stimulating, informative and creative seminar on a fundamental issue connecting agroecosystem ecology and global food supply/demand
  7. Develop an original, cohesive, synthesis essay on the distinctive concepts of ecosystem-level ecology that would be most useful in developing and expanding sustainable farming practices.

Professor: Paul Grogan

Lecture times: Mondays 08.30-10.00; Thursdays 10.00-11.30
Lab/field trip times: Mondays: 2.30-5.30; Overnight field trip in October
Lab Instructor: Meghan Hamp (E-mail:; Office: Room 2507)
Location: Room 3110, (Labs 3312) Biosciences building


15% Participation in seminar discussions
15% Seminar questions
25% Seminar
15% Field trip discussion participation
30% Final essay

Required textbook: Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology. 2011. 2nd edition. Chapin, F.S. III, Matson, P.A. and Vitousek, P. Springer.

Schedule (to be updated throughout the course): Lecture/Seminar sessions are 80 minutes; Labs up to 3 hours.

Week Beginning Day and time Convenor Topic Reading
  Thursday, 10.00  Paul 

Introduction to the course 

9 Sept Monday, 08.30  Paul  The Ecosystem Concept  Chapin et al, Chapter 1: 1-12,17-22. 
  Monday, 2.30 - LAB  

Discussion: The Future of Global Agriculture.

Field trip to Bellevue House Kitchen Gardens

Paper: Foley, J et al. (2011). Solutions for a cultivated planet. Nature. 478: 337–342.
Video: Foley, J. The Other Inconvenient Truth
Video: Food Inc. (accessible via Queen’s library video collection entitled Criterion on Demand 
  Thursday, 10.00  Paul  The Ecosystem Concept (contd.) and the State Factor Framework for understanding Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology Chapin et al, Chapter 1: 13-17; Chapter 2: 23-26, 38-41, 50-61 
16 Sept

Monday, 08.30 

Paul  State Factors to understand Soil Development Chapter 3: 63-69.
  Monday, 2.30 - LAB  Mara Shaw (Exec. Director - Loving Spoonful) Local Food Security, Food Waste, Food Education & Political Action Loving Spoonful
Cost of Healthy Eating in Kingston (2018) 

Thursday, 10.00 

Paul  Anthropogenic impacts on Soils Chapter 3: 78-82.
23 Sept Monday, 08.30  Paul  Soil-types, Transformations, and Physical Properties 

Chapin et al, Chapter 3: 73-78, 82-85.

  Monday, 2.30 - LAB    

Lab tour, and visit to Miller Geological Museum

  Thursday, 10.00 


Soil Chemical Properties 

Chapin et al, Ch. 3: 86-89; Ch. 7: 204-206; Ch. 9: 287-290; 293-296.

30 Sept  Monday, 08.30  Paul  The Biology of Soils I Chapin et al, Chapter 7: 183-190; 243-244; Chapter 9: 271-280 (overview).
  Monday, 2.30 - LAB    Compost and soil biology investigations  

Thursday, 10.00 


The Biology of Soils II

Chapin et al, Chapter 7: 190-194; Chapter 11: 321-324; 333-335.
5 October


  Field trip Forman Farm with Charlie Forman, Ironwood Organics Farm with Chris Wooding, and QUBS Bracken Tract
7 October Monday, 08.30  Harris Ivens Connecting plants to soil - As above, so below?; An agriculture-less future?  
  Monday, 2.30 - LAB Dr. Christian Seiler, Research Scientist, Environment and Climate Change Canada. Climate and terrestrial ecosystem modelling Bonan, G. 2018. Climate Change and Terrestrial Ecosystem Modeling. Chapter 1, especially section 1.7.
  Thursday, 10.00  Paul  Decomposition, and Plant-Soil interactions Chapin et al, Chapter 7: 194-204; Chapter 8: 229-233, 238-241, 253-255.
14 October Monday, 08.30    No class - Thanksgiving holiday  
  Thursday, 10.00   Paul Do the concepts of terrestrial ecosystem ecology that apply to agriculture differ in relative importance between the temperate zone and the tropics? - Case studies from India and Guatemala Grogan, P., Lalnunmawia, F., and Tripathi, S. K.  2012 Shifting cultivation in steeply sloped regions: A review of management options and research priorities for Mizoram state, Northeast India. Agroforestry Systems 84: 163-177.
20 October Sunday   Field trip Ravensfield Farm with Titia Posthuma
21 October Monday, 08.30 No class – seminar preparation time    

Thursday, 10.00 

  No class - Fall term Reading Break  
28 October Monday, 08.30  Ellie Hamburger and Samantha Peacock Food losses and food waste: What practical changes can you make on a day-to-day basis to be less part of the problem and more part of the solution? Gustavsson J. et al. 2011. Global food losses and food waste. Report. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
  Thursday, 10.00  Amber Guidice and Olivia Marshall Will current soil amendments be able to remediate our arable land in order to sustain projected global food demands? Kammann, C.I. et al. 2015. Plant growth improvement mediated by nitrate capture in co-composted biochar. Scientific Reports 5:11080
4 November Monday, 08.30  Nandaraye Choi and Tristan Setoyama With increasing population and decreasing reservoirs of fertile land, how can urban infrastructure  incorporate hydrocultural technology for more sustainable food production in the future? Martellozzo et al, 2014. Urban agriculture: a global analysis of the space constraint to meet urban vegetable demand. Environmental Research Letters, 9, 064025.
  Monday 2.30 Paul Essay brainstorming session European earthworms demo.
  Thursday, 10.00  Mike Hann and Thalib Nowshir The yield gap between organic and conventional agriculture: is polyculture the best solution? Ponisio, L et al. 2014. Diversification practices reduce organic to conventional yield gap. Proceedings of the Royal Society B (282):20141396.
11 November Monday, 08.30  Jillian Campbell and Tavleen Matharu Jillian Campbell and Tavleen Matharu Barbosa, G et al, 2015. Comparison of Land, Water, and Energy Requirements of Lettuce Grown using Hydroponic vs. Conventional Agricultural Methods.  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 12:6879-6891.
  Thursday, 10.00  Ellie Meldrum and Silvi Raud

What would it take to make permaculture part of the solution to our global food crisis?

(Essay outline due)

Hirschfeld S, and Van Acker R
2019. Permaculture farmers consistently cultivate perennials, crop diversity, landscape heterogeneity and nature conservation. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 1–10.
18 November Monday, 08.30  Andrew Kusnierczyk and Jeffrey So How can the often-demonized GMOs be a significant part of the sustainable solution to feeding our predicted global population in 2050? Brookes G & Barfoot P. 2013. Key environmental impacts of global genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996–2011. GM Crops & Food 4(2):109-119.
  Thursday, 10.00  Andrew Clifford and Gerard Manella How can maintaining soil biodiversity within agro-ecosystems aid civilization in feeding 9 billion people by the year 2050?  Brussaard, L. et al. 2007. Soil biodiversity for agricultural sustainability. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 121:233–244.
25 November Monday, 08.30  Meghan and Paul 

Meghan: How some of the concepts in this course underly my M.Sc. thesis research

Paul: Sustaining socio-ecological systems

Chapin et al, Chapter 15, 423-446. 
  Thursday, 10.00  Paul



Blackboard of course topics and themes Initial brain-storming blackboard session on the course theme and its relationship to the contents of Jonathan Foley's Nature paper entitled 'Solutions for a Cultivated Planet' and the Food Inc. video documentary   

Class of Fall 2019!   Back row: Ellie Hamburger, Andrew Kusnierczyk, Mike Hann, Andrew Clifford, Amber Guidice, Gerard Mannella, Thalib Nowshir, and you know who. Middle row (left side): Silvi Raud, Ellie Meldrum, Samantha Peacock, Tavleen Matharu. Front row: Meghan Hamp, Olivia Marshall, Jillian Campbell, Tristan Setoyama, Jeffrey So, and Nandaraye Choi.   See other lab and field trip photos.

Click here to see the course structure and topics addressed in previous years (2007 and 20082010201420162019winter)

Last update: 21 November 2019