Ecology and Environmental Biology

Theme group advisor:  Dr. Gail Davoren
W361 Duff Roblin Building

Theme course requirements can be found in the Ecology and Environmental Biology Theme Charts calendar entry.

About Ecology and Environmental Biology

In a society concerned with climate change, overpopulation, and extinction, ecology provides a scientific link to the living world. Ecologists study the lives of many species including animals, plants, fungi, and microorganisms. Interactions among these organisms are investigated at many scales ranging from the microscopic to the global.

  • At the individual level, ecology investigates the impact of environmental factors on organisms through their physiology and behaviour. Ultimately, ecologists link these factors to survival and reproduction in variable environments.
  • Ecologists study populations of a species to determine the causes of fluctuations in numbers and changes in distribution. This type of work is the focus of agencies concerned with exploitation, extinction, and rehabilitation of both commercially and esthetically important species.
  • Studies at the community level deal with many coexisting species. They examine the interactions between species within the communities (competition, predation, etc.) as well as broader investigations of community structure and composition.

Methods used in these three approaches are diverse, but are generally concerned with data collection, analysis, and interpretation. Data collection includes: extensive observation of organisms in their natural settings, field and laboratory experimentation involving deliberate manipulation, and monitoring natural or human disturbances. Analytical tools include state-of-the-art physiological (biochemical), genetic/genomic (DNA), and statistical methods. In addition, mathematical modeling via computer simulation is often useful in uniting field observations with current ecological theories. Ultimately, ecologists must interpret their results in relation to the questions originally proposed (hypotheses) and the findings of others. This philosophy of study is developed in through the core ecology courses that are taken by all students in the program.

Your future in Ecology and Environmental Biology

Students pursuing Ecology and Environmental Biology can follow one of three paths, depending on their personal goals:

  • Those who are interested in future academic work (e.g. graduate school possibly leading to a research or faculty position) are encouraged to enter the Honours program.
  • The Major Program may be better suited to students interested in working in ecology outside of academia (e.g. private consulting or government positions), or to students who are interested in future academic work but who have significant time commitments beyond their university studies.
  • Finally, students who want to gain direct work experience during their education have the option of entering the Major or Honours Co-op program. In the Co-op Program students are employed for three work terms, each of four months duration. Students receive academic credit toward their degree for the work terms, gain valuable job-related experience, and establish contacts with potential employers. The co-op option requires an extra year of study in the program. Further details are available from the Co-op office.