ENVT5512 Ecosystem Biogeochemistry

Credit
6 points
Offering
(see Timetable)
AvailabilityLocationMode
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Content
This unit focus on students developing a mechanistic understanding of the hydrologic and carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems as a basis for developing solutions to fundamental questions in ecology and environmental science. For example, how do we predict what happens to rates of nitrogen transformation as climate changes? How do plant communities respond to alterations in groundwater distribution and availability? What role do termites and ants play in driving nutrient cycles? How do we determine impacts of catchment land use on estuarine food webs? Lectures are complemented by a series of problem-based laboratories where students have the opportunity to learn cutting-edge techniques, in particular the application of stable isotopes to ecological studies. There is also an opportunity to get involved in a variety of field-based research projects to gain experience in field sampling methodologies. The unit poses as many questions as it provides answers. The idea is that, by trying to answer these questions, students develop a mechanistic understanding of biogeochemical cycles and develop the skills to apply this knowledge to real-world problems. A core theme for the unit is the way stable isotopes are used as a tool for developing both fundamental and applied understanding of the functioning of ecosystems.
Outcomes
Students are able to (1) grasp the fundamental concepts of nutrient, carbon and water cycling and the linkages among plants, microbes and their environments that underpin ecosystem functioning; (2) understand the relative sizes of the pools of C, N and P (as well as an overview for other elements) in the atmosphere, vegetation, soil, water and rocks and outline the major fluxes of C, N and P in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems; (3) describe the major biological and biogeochemical processes that drive nutrient cycles; (4) understand the factors that are likely to limit or stimulate those fluxes and processes in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems; and (5) approach problem solving based on first principles.
Assessment
Typically this unit is assessed in the following ways: (1) paper reviews and presentations to class on specialist topics (30 per cent); (2) a paper presenting findings from a small research project (30 per cent); and (3) problem-solving tasks (40 per cent). Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Pauline Grierson
Unit rules
Prerequisites:
enrolment in the Master of Biological Science (72520)
or
the Master of Biotechnology (71580)
or
the Master of Science (70630)
or
the Master of Agricultural Science (72510)
or
Bachelor of Science (Honours) (BH004)
or
Master of Hydrogeology (72540).
Advisable prior study:
ENVT3363 Ecological Processes
or
PLNT2201 Plants in Action
Incompatibility:
ENVT3305 Ecosystem Biogeochemistry, ENVT8305 Ecosystem Biogeochemistry
Contact hours
one full day per week for six consecutive weeks (the total workload for the unit is 150 hours)
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
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  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available at the University Co-operative Bookshop (from early January) and appropriate administrative offices for students to consult. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.